Friday, December 10, 2010
we want to be engaged
James Moudry and I just visited two Montessori high schools, Compass Montessori High School in Golden, Colorado and Grove Montessori High School in Redlands, California. Both are public charter schools and both have ten years experience with high school students in Montessori schools.
In each school we sat down with a dozen randomly recruited students to talk about their school experience. We asked, "How is the Montessori high school different from the conventional schools you attended previously, or that your friends attend now?”
Students spoke about academic content as well as the architecture of learning and how that impacts their personal development. They spoke about personal responsibility and freedom of inquiry. They spoke about the quality of experience as a learner. They spoke about the sense of community: the accepting relationship with their peers and the supportive relationship with their teachers.
Here are some of their comments verbatim:
Montessori school challenges us more.
I know everyone in the school, all the students and all the teachers.
We’re like a big family. We hate each other & love each other.
The geeks are the jocks.
Here you can be yourself.
People accept each other & their differences.
It’s a very accepting environment.
We’re all geeks and nerds here and proud of it.
We want to be engaged.
There are no cliques; we’re open to each other.
I like coming to school in the morning. My previous school was all about conformity. Here you can be yourself.
What makes your high school a Montessori school?
•There is a balance of self- directed work & teacher assigned work.
•The freedom let's people grow more than rigid structure of traditional schools.
•Working with hands-on materials. Learning is not just abstract.
•Montessori kids learn to ask why.
•We learn to see things in a different way, from different perspectives.
•We learn to use tools...practical life lessons.
•Our relationship with the teachers...trust. We’re on a first-name basis. The teachers know our strengths and disabilities. Their trust in us is inspiring.
•Trust among the students very high. (One student’s senior project is to serve as a study hall tutor. Another student said of him, “We respect him as a peer and as a teacher.”)
•We’re able to find our own talents. (One student has been working for 4yrs rebuilding a tractor owned by the school. Other students spoke about the variety of senior projects, many of which involved service to the school, all of which involved a gift of their personal talents.)
•We're not taught WHAT to think...but are encouraged to think independently.
•This is the kind of school where everyone wants to sit in the front of the class. There are no “cool guys” sitting in the back of the room doing their thing.