By Sze Wong - MontessoriPod Founder
My mom retired as a kindergarten administrator after 50 plus years as a front-line educator. In 1965, one of her friends asked her to accompany her to an interview for a kindergarten teacher position. Her intention was only to keep her friend company. In the end, they both got the job. Mom had been teaching even since.Mom loved her profession.
My Dad joked that she could never stop thinking about teaching. In the 80s she started to introduce elements of Montessori education into the kindergarten curriculum. While most other kindergarteners in Hong Kong were still sitting in rows, she introduced groups to her classroom and allowed students to have self-guided activities. Mom embodied what it means to be a life-long learner. Although she was never able to go to college after high school, she continued to study. She finally was able to get into college and received her higher education certificate when she was over 50 years old. When she retired, the little school house that she started her career with had grown to over 1000 students.
My mom was able to achieve so much because she was allowed to shine. She was supported by her boss and colleagues. Year after year, she would learn about new teaching methods and would start experimenting within her school. She was respected in the community and she was well paid. She was extremely lucky.
Many other teachers were not - and still are not - as lucky as my mom. I have met many great teachers who eventually left the teaching profession because of frustration. They’re frustrated because the system is too rigid. Frustrated because they were not allowed to teach the way they see fit. Frustrated because they were forced to “teach to the test.” Frustrated because they were not being paid enough. Frustrated because they were not able to afford to teach.
I want to change that. I want to give the kind of support that my mom received to other teachers. I want teachers to shine as much as my mom did. I want to let teachers teach.
Any parent will say they want the best for their children. Yet, somehow we don’t treat the people who have the biggest impact on us - teachers - with the support and respect they deserve… we give them the leftovers instead of the best of the best.
I envision a world where teachers are just as respected as lawyers and doctors. I see a world where teachers are paid as well as software engineers and architects. I see a world where the best and the brightest young people are eager to go into the teaching professions.
Not to get dramatic or space-agey, but, the statement in the title isn't that far off.
AI and robotics have changed the landscape of the world as we know it. Today, various professions - from healthcare to food production and beyond - utilize new technologies to increase efficiency and accuracy. Positions that are available to professionals today look very different from even 10-20 years ago.
This trend is set to continue as technology continues to expand.
This means the positions available to your child in 20 years may be things we've never even heard of today.
If we continue to teach them what we were taught, in the manner in which we were taught, will they be prepared for this new world? The simple answer is: probably not.
But, How Do We Teach What We Don't Know?
In short, we cannot teach specific tactics and techniques and expect them to be useful in the future. Instead, we must rely on instilling the importance of continued learning, and garnering passion and excitement for it. We must teach skills that will never lessen in importance: leadership, inclusivity, perseverance, and more.
Which brings us to where we are today.
We believe that the methods employed by Montessori, from the start, are a critical building block for developing tomorrow's leaders. We believe that encouraging exploration, allowing questions, and focusing on individual passions and strengths are integral for developing future professionals who are able to think outside the box and do big things.
Along with this, while we may not know exactly what technologies will be prominent a decade or two from now, we do know that establishing key STEM concepts along with robotics, will help students begin to "think" with a different mindset - one that prepares them to adapt when technologies shift, instead of having to start from scratch.
Parents who recognize this shift today, and take the steps necessary to ensure their children are prepared - even from a very young age - and who are willing to look at education through a different lens, will notice pay offs down the road, whether they're clear today or not.
Interested in learning about alternative options for early elementary school? Contact us today. We can't wait to share more about what sets MontessoriPod's Montessori+ curriculum apart.
When you think of your own school experience, what comes to mind?
Great teachers? Of course.
Amazing field trips? Maybe.
But, what about the skills and lessons that were taught along the way? What about your actual learning experience? How can you say that has influenced who you are, how you work, and how you learn, today?
Those answers might take a little longer to come up with, especially if you were educated in a standard school environment, outside of the Montessori method.
It Comes Down to Approach
Throughout history, "traditional" education has changed very little. Teachers share information. Students take in that information (though the method of presentation may look different today than say, 50 years ago). Then, the students are tested on the information, either through actual tests, presentations, or reports. The students receive a grade. Then, the class - all together - moves on to the next lesson.
Yes, there are exceptions, and certain students may receive extra help, or supplemental learning opportunities. But, for the most part, this is the standard.
As the process repeats, information learned in earlier units is replaced with new information and - often - forgotten.
Additionally, students are "judged" or "ranked" based on how well they're able to recite back the information that has been presented to them, in the manner that best suits the teacher's needs.
The same goes with projects. Specific rubrics and steps to follow are provided, offering little room for individuality. Final projects may look different, but they're all graded according to the same - often very specific - rubric.
The students who try something different, or express different views? Well, they're often graded under standard for taking the risks. So, risk taking decreases.
The students who struggle to learn according to the single standard the teacher is expecting? They're graded poorly. So, they begin to think they're "below" their classmates in ability.
Standardization is rewarded. Difference is penalized. Students fall in line until graduation.
What happens next? The system continues through college. Rhetoric may be encouraged more, but the hard-fought lessons of elementary and high school remain: Fall. In. Line.
Next up comes the real world. The students move forward into their brand new shiny jobs, just like you and I did. And, even though graduation is in the distant past, the innate process remains the same: meet expectations. Don't make waves. Follow the pack.
For some individuals, maybe this is okay. But, we're guessing maybe, as a parent, you want more for your child. So do we.
Starting Early is Essential
Here's the thing: if you want your child to take away more from their education than the things you think of when you look back at your own, those lessons must be instilled early, from the very start.
If a school doesn't focus on individual learning styles, on fostering leadership, on setting high expectations and letting students figure out how to meet them, on individual schedule and task management, on asking questions, mostly, on learning to learn, then why would the end result be any different? Why would those highly-sought-after qualities develop at all?
Changing the future and instilling a love of learning starts with the expectations and environments you set before your child at the start of their educational experience. The change starts with the decision you make as to where and how your child will be educated. It's a simple choice but it could make a world of difference for the future.
What are your expectations for your child's learning experience? Are you ready to consider an alternative option? We'd love to talk, in fact, these are questions we hope to be able to answer and problems we will solve with our unique, Montessori pod approach. Contact us today to learn more.