The Montessori Way – From Knowing to Doing

Daniel Pink, author of the hugely popular best seller, A Whole New Mind, and Drive , boldly states, “Gone is the age of ‘left-brain’ dominance. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers—creative and empathic ‘right-brain’ thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

In a world of instant content and rapidly changing information, the confines of discreet subject matter are blurred and lateral and integral knowledge is needed. It no longer matters what you know, what matters is what you do with what you know. The model for success in the 21st century is an aware global citizen, with good people skills, but most importantly, one who is able to manage new sources of information well to find the answers.

Have technological changes altered the intrinsic nature of the child? Who are today’s children? They are the one’s coming of age who have made the adaptation to the information and communication technology world of today. They have already made the shift from the one-way broadcast media that you and I grew up with (print, radio, television) that reflect the values of the producer to a new age interactive media that gives control to all users, and that is the very heart of the new generation.

Our kids have grown up with the internet. They spend time online, not as passive watchers but active participators. Whether its gaming, social networking or texting they are a generation who watches less television then their parents, treating it more like background, while simultaneously interacting through several different devices, listening to music, virtual chatting, doing homework, eating, and looking at a graphic novel. With their reflexes tuned to speed and in personal control they are right at home with the brisk and accelerated pace of technological change. From this platform they are in a unique position to impact modern society, replacing a culture of conformity with a culture of innovation.

The Montessori Way has always avoided the one-size-fits-all Industrial Age model. While core subjects at most schools in the United States continue to emphasize the memorization of large amounts of discrete and often isolated information, the Montessori Way has always stressed interdisciplinary study that connects content and consciously identifies the relationships between subject matter.

Emphasis on isolated and limited subject matter has long been driven by the emphasis on testing to determine performance. It is far easier to test what you know than what you create. A more authentic and personalized assessment in the Montessori classroom broadens students choices in the projects they pursue and the ways they demonstrate their learning. The emphasis in evaluation is on what you do.

Today’s schools are still severely limited in the response modes for the students. They are defined by structured classroom discussion, specific assignments, and tests based on content and not discovery. The Montessori Way allows students to take control of the decisions in how learning takes place. There are varied pathways to instructional goals. These new routes are intended to be more efficient and avoid barriers to success. The Montessori Way uses specially designed, concrete materials to constantly engage the children in their own learning, allowing each to learn — and to understand — by doing.

Even in the best schools knowledge is defined on learning objectives that only allow the use of pre-set methods and materials. These may be realized in a syllabus, a textbook, curriculum guides, or increasingly, online learning modules. In The Montessori Way, learning takes place by an original and personal process of discovery. Children are able to choose their own work, direct their own progress, set their own learning pace to internalize information, and seek help from other children and adults when they need it.

Education for a new world can ironically be found in an innovative education approach invented by Maria Montessori in the 20th century. It’s a school where kids know what to work on and kids are showing kids how to master difficult skills. It’s a place where instruction, both individual and group, is personalized to each student’s learning style. It’s a place where satisfaction comes from doing, and doing is learning. It’s a place where teacher is more mentor and guide then “sage on the stage”. It’s our place, a Montessori School.

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