Privy to the Magic

By Lisa Bohn, Office Manager

Before I started working at MCS in September, I was somewhat familiar with Maria Montessori and her teachings but had never been in a Montessori classroom myself. I was a relative “outsider” when it came to what was happening in the classrooms at MCS but quickly fell in love with the students, the campus, the teachers and staff…all of it.

After not-quite six months as part of the MCS family, indulge me as I share my reflections on the magic of what I see happening here on a daily basis:

  • Fostering independent learners: It is incredible to go into classrooms, from toddlers to adolescents, and see the degree to which the students are taking charge of their own learning! Choosing a work, taking it to a space, settling in to learn, and cleaning up afterwards—all with a healthy amount of autonomy. I love watching how the older children in each room help teach the younger ones. Not only are lifelong learners being fostered, so are lifelong teachers. I love seeing students in a lesson and then helping a younger student with that lesson later. This sense of independence must certainly come in handy as they get older and need to be self-starting and motivated.
  • Cultivating stewardship of the earth: I love it when I have an errand to run on campus—deliver a lunch, ask a question, drop off a package, etc.—because it means I get to walk around the beautiful MCS campus! These strolls reveal flower gardens, vegetables, bird feeders, butterflies and birds, wetlands, grass and trees…What a gift for these kids, to learn in the midst of nature. And what a gift to nature, that these kids will go out into the post-MCS world with a better understanding and appreciation of their relationship to the earth. This stewardship extends into the classrooms—they have work about nature, ecosystems, and our tenuous relationship with them, as well as composting and recycling. I feel hopeful about the future of our planet knowing that MCS students will make changes for the better.
  • Nurturing a sense of community: Within a classroom, older students guide younger until those older students become the younger ones the next level up. This develops a healthy vulnerability—the recognition that we all rely on each other, that we need each other to learn, to play, and to venture out in the world. I enjoy watching students working with a partner—the way they feel comfortable asking each other questions, bouncing ideas off one another, etc. One of my first days subbing was in the Adolescent Community, right after the community lunch. What a lovely practice—to take turns making lunch for each other and sharing a meal together.
  • Strengthening bonds with the self: Mindfulness and confidence are fostered at MCS starting in the toddler classroom. Gentle meditation chimes are used to signal transitions from one activity to another. Some classrooms start the day with a quiet moment, setting intentions for the day. And a Montessori classroom infuses all learning with a sense of mindfulness—where is your body in space? Where can you find room to work? Focus on one work at a time, careful attention to detail, etc. The independence that is fostered leads to greater confidence and freedom of self-expression. Students are given a safe space to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from them. Toddlers carry a work to a table that has a small pitcher of water…does the water spill? Sure. Often. But then they are learning that it’s okay to make mistakes, that cleaning up is no big deal, and that life goes on. That level of comfort when taking risks is invaluable as they get older.

I am a curious person by nature, and a teacher to my core—both my parents are educators, and they instilled in me a love of learning from an early age. When I am subbing in the classrooms, I can’t help but ask lots of questions: “What’s the reason for ____________?” “How do you handle it when ___________________?” etc. Basically, I want to know the magic behind it all. Thank you all for sharing your world with me, for sharing your magic, for welcoming me to the MCS family.