Recently I have been questioned regarding the process driven nature of Montessori classrooms. By this I mean that how, when, why and to what end are important questions guiding the child, classroom, and directress in a Montessori environment. The lack of testing and arbitrarily value based (A, B, C,) assessments in the class can be frightening to some who are used to the extreme emphasis schools place on quantitating a child’s progress. My way of thinking about it is the tests are like digging up a seed to see if it is growing. You tear out precious root hairs, take away from absorption of nutrients, and shock the developing plant. My deepest question is what will be important when the child reaches adulthood. That is the test to which I instruct.
There has been a fundamental change in the purpose of the mass education of children. The first “common schools” were developed to bring children into a common knowledge that would allow them to work effectively in factories. Its job was to teach what to think not how to think. We are no longer in the industrial age; we are in the knowledge age.
A century ago, most jobs required rote learning and rote work – in factories. Today it is a far, far different story. More than ever, working individuals need to be highly motivated and capable learners, able to find out what they need to know and figure out what to do with that information. They need to be able to think well and to judge complex situations using the latest technology. And they need to interact with people all over the world in the vast global markets. The fundamental ways of doing business – what a business is, produces, and needs has changed to its core.
When fortune 500 companies were polled as to what qualities they need in an employee in 2006:
1. Communication skills (written and verbal)
2. Honesty and integrity
3. Teamwork (formation and cooperation)
4. Strong work ethic
5. Analytical skills
6. Flexibility and adaptability
7. Interpersonal skills
8. Motivation and initiative
9. Detail-oriented skills
10. Organizational skills
11. Leadership skills
12. Self confidentNational Association of Colleges and Employers Survey of the Most Desirable Qualities in Prospective Employees
The Montessori classroom exists to be in service to the child. The ultimate service to the child is to educate the child to be confident in life as an adult. The skills Montessori directresses encourage are the ones listed on the list. In my case I pray for the child, develop an environment, and nurture these “job” skills because I believe they are truly life skills.
The expectation is that high levels of cognitive skills (not memorization), problem solving and analytical skills, creativity, team work, grace and courtesy coupled with forgiveness, and reflective thinking will occur in the child exposed to a good Montessori elementary program.