Through my school consulting work, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a number of teachers – better known as Guides or Directors/Directresses – who themselves attended Montessori schools as children. It’s fascinating to hear them describe something I can “know” only intellectually!
When I ask them how they benefitted from their experience, their answers are almost always the same:
- self confidence
- critical thinking skills
- global awareness
I happened to observe an example of “critical thinking” one day at a school in California: while the teacher read a story to the rest of the class, a group of five and six year olds were setting tables for lunch. This included putting out placements, dishes, napkins, etc. and also pouring milk. Apparently, everyone sat in the same seat each day, because one of the “servers” suddenly noticed that milk may have been poured for someone who wasn’t supposed to get milk. The children gathered around to discuss what to do.
Should we pour it out? That would be wasteful!
Do you think he’ll drink it anyway? No! He’s allergic!
Should we offer it to someone else?
On they went, discussing possibilities.
I’m very sorry to say that I do not remember the outcome of the children’s discussion! What impressed me the most was the fact that not once did anyone seek the advice of an adult. By working together, they were able to solve the problem themselves and carry on with their work.
The Montessori Environment provides many opportunities each day for the children to problem-solve, whether it’s one child trying to figure out which cylinder fits into the hole, or a group of children seeking the best solution for an extra glass of milk.