Adolescence for many adults is recalled as a period of time in which a lot of change was going on. Social relationships were being formed or broken. There was a growing desire to break away from the control of parents and foster some independence. School was a place you had to go to, but increasingly you were questioning, “Why do I have to learn all this stuff?” Was it going to be any use? Did it have any relevance to what life was throwing at you?
Parents and teachers can all recognise that as children enter adolescence, they change in significant ways, and have specific social and academic needs. Interestingly, conventional methods of education treat students of all ages in remarkably similar ways. Students are largely provided information by the teacher, who stands and delivers the information to the whole group. Students may go off and have some group work with classmates, and there may be some field trips, but the goal remains content delivery. There is no unique approach provided in this model to educate the middle school child.
Montessori education has at its core a belief that there are different stages in child development. It also recognises that children do not always learn at the same pace, have different strengths and weaknesses, and unique interests. Any parent can relate to this: when your child learned to walk, talk, eat solid foods, started reading all varied from his/her peers. Children don’t follow a specific timeline, but fall within a “typical” range of when they learn to do things.
How does all this relate to what school can look like in the Montessori Middle School model of education?
- Grade 7 and 8 students learn together in a mixed age class, and get a clear break from where they have come from in their schooling. They need their own unique space and a chance to have their own identity.
- Students participate in 5 week cycles with a focus on an overarching question to be answered in the cycle. The BC curriculum is covered as a bare minimum, but the learning goes far beyond what is required at this age level.
- At the end of each 5 week cycle there is an “out-week” where students relate what they have been working on in school with real world application.
- The teacher guides the process and provides the safe environment for students to explore and learn in. The teacher gives guidelines on academic standards to be met and appropriate social behaviour, and feedback to students on how they are doing.