Happy New Year! We are excited to welcome you back after what we hope was a restful and joyous holiday season and school break. The promise of our School continues into 2019, steadfast and dynamic. We look forward to continuing our partnership with each family as your children grow, learn and flourish into this new year! As a school, by definition all of the good work we do is to further our mission to benefit and educate our students and parents.
Much of what we do is quite visible through our programs, meetings, events, presentations, conferences, student work and general connections and communications between and among Staff and families. However, there is significant work that goes on behind the scenes by our Staff, supporting and furthering the quality and integrity of our School. I am delighted to share a peek behind the curtain, just a few details about some of the big work we are engaged in during the second semester of this School year.
As you know, we are deeply committed to the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori and are proud to do the extraordinary work necessary to be an internationally recognized Montessori school. As an established private school, we are also committed to the best practices and high standards of independent school values. We receive and embrace support and guidance from two exceptional governing bodies: Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI).
All independent schools in Connecticut of a certain size and stature seek accreditation by CAIS which holds us and all affiliated schools to exceptional organizational, financial, legal and academic standards. Every 10 years a major re-accreditation process ensues, complete with a visiting committee of colleagues from other CAIS schools and internal committees of our both Board and Staff. Everything, from governance to non-profit financials to safety drills, is assessed, ultimately culminating in a comprehensive report from the visiting committee with specific and detailed accolades and directives for improvement. We are accountable on an annual basis, and are grateful for the professional development opportunities CAIS offers to our Administrators, Teachers and Board Members each year.
As a Montessori school we add another very deep layer to our work. We choose to be an AMI school and adhere to the authentic and intended teachings and practices of Dr. Montessori. Formed nearly 90 years ago by Dr. Montessori, AMI sets and maintains Montessori educational standards that are lofty, challenging, effective and worthy; the pedagogy is deliberate, planned, purposeful -- and proven.
As you may know, Montessori is not a trademarked name and therefore its use does not hold a requirement to follow the rigorous methodology and standards. We are among a unique and relatively small population of schools that can boast that, in addition to other education credentials, all of our classroom Lead Teachers have earned AMI certification.
As quoted from a recent article produced by the Hechinger Report, based at Teachers College, Columbia University, titled Montessori or Non-tessori?
"Out of the more than 4,000 so-called Montessori schools across the country, only about 220 are recognized by AMI."
The AMI consultation process is every three years and focuses on both the details and depth of the school's curricula and culture. This month, the Toddler and Primary levels host visiting AMI Consultants who observe and advise each level, each classroom and each teacher; in March, the Elementary classrooms will have their visiting AMI Consultant. This meticulous, demanding and motivating process assesses everything through a Montessori lens. Combining years of experience with ongoing research, the outcomes validate and improve our School. (For those of you interested in digging into some of the data, click here for a good place to start).
Whether we are in the AMI consultation cycle or CAIS accreditation cycle, every year our Staff's work extends beyond the critical day-to-day education of our students. Additionally, we identify at least one major topic foundational to our work in the classroom and beyond. The topic is rooted in Montessori philosophy with practical and tactical results, and the beneficiaries are always our students. This year, we are putting particular focus on two classic Montessori tenets: Grace & Courtesy and Freedom & Responsibility. These encompass character and executive functioning development of the individual and cultivation of the social classroom community. While these are a newly developing focus for many conventional schools, they are essential requirements in Montessori to be an educated and productive human. Although part of the fabric of a Montessori classroom and the core of our School's philosophy, we never take our eye off this ball. When asked how he defines a "moral school", Professor Tom Lickona, author of Educating for Character: How our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility, responded: "A moral school is a school where people spend a lot of time discussing what a moral school is."
In the fall, we began regular Staff discussions on the above-mentioned topics, and this month are dedicating a full-Staff professional development workshop to Grace & Courtesy, led by the visiting Primary level AMI Consultant. Additionally, in late January, we welcome back educational consultant Jen Cort to our School, to lead workshops with students, Staff, Board and parents on Freedom & Responsibility. Many of you remember Jen from last year when she led presentations and discussions on identity, diversity, inclusion and the challenges of modern parenting. Times have changed, faster and farther than any other point in history; there are massive, insidious cultural shifts (social and other media, changing parenting styles and goals, etc.). This year, we are working with Jen to refine these concepts through the Montessori lens of Freedom & Responsibility. Please save the date -- Jan 31st, 6 PM -- to attend an important parent workshop with Jen!
Every educational system is a construct by human beings; none are divined. Your search for your children and yourselves led you to our School. It is not a common path or sometimes easy to explain to grandma or your neighbor. The shorthand description for conventional schooling is just that; it is conventional (which can mean different things relative to a particular place and/or point in time). At The Montessori School, as Staff and as parents, we have all made a conscious choice to value process on the way to achievement, and to hold our values above all else. As Montessori educators, we do this knowing full well that the best product is born of a thoughtful and carefully tended process. We understand that knowledge, planning and proper implementation lead to success, and we trust and appreciate that many surprises and joys in life, while seeming to happen organically, are actually the net result of hard work, experience, love and faith. This is how we educate each child. We passionately value Montessori pedagogy and philosophy as both steadfast and dynamic, and look forward to 2019 and each new year to continue our powerful and significant work – and of course, enjoy the ride!
Lisa B.A. Potter
Head of School