In April, the Elementary program opened up for full time in-person learning. This opportunity brought the majority of the Sweet Gum children back into the classroom every day. Together, we acclimated to a new schedule, procedures, and routines for the umpteenth time in this year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent spring weather and new routines invited a spirit of reflection in our community as we looked back on the past year and all the ways we have carried out the theory and practice of Montessori education.
In recent weeks, our collective reflections have taken us on a journey to consider what are the purposes of school in modern society. This huge question is the perfect one for Upper Elementary children, who flex their imaginations and abstract reasoning skills every day, imagining the distant past and the unknowable future, key characteristics of the second plane child.
We began our journey by comparing the benefits and drawbacks of online learning and in-person learning. The children noted several benefits of in-person learning, highlighting the social connections (no surprise!), the shared memories, the prepared environment, class and school experiences, the refreshing lack of tech issues, and the fact that parents and guardians can go to work while their children are at school. A notable drawback was the concern about germ spread. Benefits of online learning included having more time for various activities and interests, developing tech skills, having time for family bonding, and safety and health benefits evidenced by not needing to wear masks or clean high-touch surfaces at home. A notable drawback to online learning was the lag time in getting questions answered and needs met online.
Next, we turned our attention to anecdotal quotes and interviews from leaders in education and social reform, like Maria Montessori herself, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mike Rose, and John Dewey. We read a story about the former Montessori student, teacher, parent and now famous author, Rebecca Makkai. We looked at Aidan Montessori School’s own mission statement and the children drafted and discussed their own. They drew pictures of fantasy schools and listed out the qualities of a strong school community (a community garden, an inspiring mosaic, access to nature, and an advanced aeronautical space program were among the ideas drawn and listed).
The Sweet Gum children are now in another phase of reflection together: making a bold claim about the purpose of school in society, beyond the walls of Aidan and Washington, D.C. In the June installment of School Notes, look out for the student’s very own opinion piece.
It’s been quite a year, offering us a brilliant opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we want to go next.
Many thanks to Emily Navarro, our Literacy Specialist, who has joined many of these class discussions and offered her expertise to the process of developing a strong argument and completing the collective writing process.
Julia Isaza, Sweet Gum Teacher