Friday, June 24, 2011

Prove it! - Dr. Stephen Hughes Part 1

There is so much to say about this Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology turned mega Montessori advocate that I needed to make it a multi-part series.  Although it comes as no surprise after years in a Montessori classroom that a pediatric neuropsychologist has become a champion of the Montessori method, it certainly is reassuring to have Dr. Stephen Hughes on board.  His website is a fantastic resource (it's about Montessori kids and it's called 'goodatdoingthings'!) and his talks are required listening for Montessorians. 

In this first introduction I wanted to highlight his insistence on making the value behind a Montessori education more evident to education scholars and parents.  For far too long, Montessori education has held on to a sort of niche status and niche audience and it is time for the offer to become more widespread.  Dr. Hughes calls upon Montessori schools to prove it in a variety of ways.  Keeping alumni records is crucially important (the Montessori Mafia after all, is no fluke), portfolios are key (we use, and some kind of standardized testing that does not involve preparing the students for the actual test can be helpful in making worthwhile comparisons. 

Montessori philosophy and curriculum often focuses on the internal and implicit.  We know that the drive to learn, explore and achieve is inside every one of our students.  Dr. Stephen Hughes highlights that this classroom (teacher) habit has to change when communicating with the outside world about Montessori education.  Our schools need to work at making our incredible achievements explicit, obvious and statistically significant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Montessori Records Express (MRX)

Just talked to Dave Rabkin of Montessori Records Express (MRX).  Hundreds of Montessori classrooms all over the country make their curricula available to the Montessori community in this collaborative project to be able to accurately plan and report the amazing things that happen within the Montessori classroom.  Sequences for every area of study are documented, tracked for every student, and available to parents, administrators and teachers within seconds.  It truly decreases teacher workload by about 50% almost immediately and is a much more accurate and up to date way to keep track of our kids' progress.

An amazing planning tool for teachers (I can instantly check which one of my students needs a lesson and which ones have mastered a concept and are ready to give the lessons).  We love MRX because it gives the curriculum a little more formality and continuity.  It makes end of year meetings about where particular students are in particular areas run much more smoothly.  And it lets us share the work we've done with schools around the country.  Much like blogging, MRX is an incredible way to share with fellow progressive educators and Montessorians. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

World Peace - Our Humanities curriculum

Just discovered this idea worth spreading from great friend and Ixtatan foundation director Beth Neville.  Super Teacher John Hunter in Virginia has developed an application to the 'World Game' or World Peace Game that allows kids to take control of four completely distinct fictional nations as well as international institutions that broker deals between them.  In true Montessori style, he turned the reins of his 4th grade classroom over to the kids and was rightfully blown away by the results.  In the game, students must bring peace and welfare to the world by solving 50 interwoven, real and complex issues.  Global warming, extreme poverty, child soldiers, disease outbreak, you name it, they're solving it.  His TED talk is definitely worth a listen.  You can tell by the passion in his voice that on top of being an innovator and entrepreneur John is a fantastic teacher.  

Now the World Game idea itself was developed 50 years ago by Buckminster Fuller in 1961.  He writes in the preamble to his Planning Document:

All those who have attained high scholarly capability assure us that real education is self-education. They also say that this self-disciplining is most often inspired by great teachers who make it seem apparent that it will be excitingly worthwhile to take the trouble to bring one self to apprehend and then comprehend variously pertinent data, phenomena and derived principles. The intimate manuscript records of many great self-educated individuals show that they discern intuitively when and what it is that they want to learn.

The truth is that 4th grade kids could probably solve a lot more problems than traditional schools usually give them credit for.  We are definitely playing the World Peace game in our Upper Elementary classroom next year.

A movie has also been made about the John and the game.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Montessori Mafia - Continued

The Post Oak school close to Houston, TX has an amazing school website to explore.  Check it out as you refine your own and explore different concepts in Montessori education. 

Among the coolest features is this interactive image of some of the outstanding members of the WSJ coined 'Montessori Mafia'.  Click the image to go to Post Oak's website and learn about what each of these great people have to say about the impact of Montessori education on their careers and legacy.