Outdoor Shoes


One of the many things I love about Montessori education is how the framework honors the learning process. It is a busy world and the days pass too quickly. In that rush, we often focus too much on just getting things done and arriving at our destinations. I know as a parent (a Montessori-educator parent!), I often caught myself doing things for my girls that they could absolutely do for themselves. Why? Because in those moments, I was forgetting how important process and time are for children. The Montessori environment reminds us everyday to slow down, to observe and to let the process unfold.


I’ve got two favorite parts of my day to share with you that hopefully will illustrate the importance of time and appreciating process.The first favorite part of my day is welcoming the children to school and observing them prepare to enter their classrooms. Teachers are consistently reminded how capable our youngest learners are with the joyful refrain, “I can do it myself!” And they can. And they do. All it takes is time, space and respect for the process. The child exits the car, walks into the building, hangs the backpack in the cubby and changes from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes. This is HUGE for a child!  Teachers support and guide, asking questions and allowing the child to experience the process and truly prepare for what’s next. This kind of time and space give way to pride and anticipation of the great day ahead.


The next favorite part of my day is Recess – all of it, from the first moments of changing shoes to last moment of hearing the bell ring. Changing shoes in not just a physical act, it is also a cognitive shift from the classroom to the outdoor space. You can just see the pride and anticipation emerge as the children change their shoes. It is fantastic! So much so that I became envious after the first few days of school. What did I do with all that envy? I bought myself a pair of outdoor shoes, of course. Here is a snippet of a conversation I enjoyed with a Primary friend a few days ago:


(Primary friend sitting on curb by the blacktop play area)

Me: Hi there, can I join you? I need to change my shoes.

Primary Friend (nods): You are supposed to do that inside.

Me: I know. Next time I will. These are my new sneakers.

Primary Friend: I like them. Mine are new too, pink with Frozen, Elsa and Anna (pointing at the characters and sparkles)

Me: They are beautiful! Are they comfy?

Primary Friend: Yes. I love them. (I am tying my laces at this point) My Daddy ties his shoes like that, but I don’t (demonstrates the velcro closure)

Me: You did that so well. Someday you’ll tie shoes like your Daddy.

Primary Friend: I know.


We sat there for a few more moments admiring our shoes, and then got up and took a few laps around the circle.


~ Grace Yannakakis, Assistant Head of School


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