Friday, February 27, 2009

Montessori Parent / Teacher Communication and Collaboration: An Education for Life

NAMC montessori parent teacher communication education children dissect leaves
I recently participated in a parent conference where a parent argued that a teacher’s purpose is to educate his child, not to teach the child to be responsible. I was quite taken aback! After all, one of the basic tenets of Montessori education is to “foster competent, responsible, adaptive citizens who are lifelong learners and problem solvers”. (American Montessori Society)

For me, it was a difficult moment. As a Montessori teacher, I am dedicated to my commitment of the education of the whole child. This tenet goes beyond the idea that the curriculum in my Montessori manuals is the only thing to be taught in the classroom. Indeed, so significant is the well-being of each child, that my preparation of our Montessori environment takes into consideration the development of social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination, as well as cognitive preparation of each child on a daily basis.

I somehow had to relay to this parent that although it was true enough that his child was here to acquire knowledge in the general curriculum areas, the responsibility to learn and do the work lies with the child. If we take this away from his child, and place the responsibility on the parent, what life skill is the child learning?

Montessori Parent / Teacher Communication and Collaboration: An Education for Life

Would this lead to the happy, [emotionally] healthy, and productive adult we want this child to be? What the father was proposing was a short-term goal, a bandage, if you will, to a long-term process. The father wanted immediate results and was not focused on the lifelong learning goal of developing inner discipline.

As I shifted the focus to the adult values we wanted to see his child develop, this parent became more amenable to our discussion. He shared with me that he, too, wanted to see his child become a responsible, confident, capable, and independent adult. He began to understand that we needed to work together, and that the classroom was indeed a place to learn these life skills.

As the tension cleared, we were able to reach a compromise. My student will now come to me after school two days a week. During this time, I will have an increased opportunity to check in with him about his progress in a safe and supportive way, away from his peers. He will then use this extra time to complete lessons and work that were not completed during the day. At home, the parents will continue to monitor his planner on a daily basis. Together, we will use this planner as a means of open communication about their son’s progress.

I left the conference with a sense of peace. Without compromising values or the integrity of the Montessori philosophy, we were able to reach an agreement where the needs of the child were the focus and purpose.

A quality Montessori classroom has a busy, productive atmosphere where joy and respect abound. Within such an enriched environment, freedom, responsibility, and social and intellectual development spontaneously flourish! (NAMC)

Further insight and guidance with respect to the Montessori philosophy, methodology, and cooperative planning with parents are provided in the NAMC Classroom Guides.
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, February 27, 2009.

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