Practical Life Lessons
Starting out in a Montessori classroom as a young, eager intern back in September 1994, I really had no bias toward other approaches to education, except that of my own experience as a child — both parochial and public. My undergrad degree was not even in education. Montessori training wasn’t something I knew about until after I graduated with a Humanities/Social Science Degree. My very first day of training, I was a blank canvas. The Montessori method was all I knew or was about to know.
I vividly remember thinking I was lucky. There were a number of other teacher trainees who were coming from years of experience in various early childhood settings. They were somewhat skeptical of the lessons and aims, especially of those that promoted independence. “A three year old WANTING to sweep the floor…and LEARNING through a chore-like experience..come on!” or “No Way!” were doubts that they would mutter during Practical Life training week. But I somehow got it right away, and it seemed so sensible. Children of that age, after all, are seeking to be independent. They actually WANT to do for themselves because for the first time, they really CAN do what only others consistently did for them up until this point. And the learning aims? Well those made sense as well. For the work of the child in a process such as sweeping is to (1) prepare for the task, (2) follow a sequential process to have a desired outcome, and (3) experience satisfaction with a completed job done with care. Those aims are fundamental in all future learning experiences, so why shouldn’t they be invaluable to the youngest of learners?
Taking it all in during the summer training experience and then seeing it in action during my classroom practicum, my belief in this pedagogy was regularly validated. I saw then and continue to see now the youngest of students — 2 and 3 year olds — participate in their developing independence with such intention. The practical skills they will apply throughout their lives is the very cornerstone of our curriculum. They observe, they do, they repeat. And during this process, they gain concentration, independence, coordination, and order — all necessary to be in place in order to learn. Walk into any of our Primary classrooms and you will see activities such as pouring, washing, and sweeping set out intentionally as such learning activities. The young children take such great pride and care, knowing that they are trusted as capable beings and invited to do what feels naturally fulfilling. And all the while, they are preparing themselves for all academic experiences still to come in life.
-Lynn Shevory, Admissions Director