Saturday, August 25, 2012

Montessori in public schools

Yesterday I met a friend (who is also a former colleague) for coffee. She recently left the school district and was hired by a Montessori school. I was anxious to hear about her new experiences, which I was certain would be no less than amazing, but I wasn't prepared to be almost in tears by the end of our chat.

In my mind "the Montessori way" was for the younger kids. I went to Montessori, as did my siblings, before starting Kindergarten, and I knew that it was a valuable step in our learning. I knew that there were Montessori schools that catered to upper grades, but I knew they were rare. In my studies I grazed the surface of the Montessori philosophies, and I knew that I agreed with Maria Montessori's ideas about education. But still I didn't think much about Montessori as an upper grade system. It is obvious that I was very wrong. My friend is teaching, actually she is called a "guide", in a 7th-9th grade classroom. There are two other "guides" with 31 total students. And so far she is loving everything about it. Everything is different from most public schools. They garden, they have a full kitchen, and more!

I came home feeling so happy for my friend, a bit envious, and also inspired to find out about implementing Montessori methods in my own classroom. Within minutes of Googling and reading a few blurbs I realized that my philosophies really do reflect Maria Montessori's and that much of what I do as a teacher aligns with her methods.

I believe that students . . .
. . . are responsible for their learning.
. . . should have opportunities to interact with concepts.
. . . need to create in order to gain a deeper understanding.
. . . must work together and learn from each other.
. . . should be taught with minimal whole class direct instruction.
. . . are striving to be responsible and good citizens.
. . . have opportunities to present/publish/share what they know.

Although I would love to have the opportunity to work in a Montessori school, I believe that it is possible to implement much of her teaching philosophies and methods into a public school classroom. I shall be reading more on this and hoping to include any gems that I find. Perhaps I have some readers that are more familiar with Montessori, and with implementing it in a public school classroom. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


  1. My principal just suggested a more "Montessori" look in my public school, 3rd grade classroom. I have no experience with this type of teaching other than the one chapter on Maria Montessori from a college textbook. My kids are having a very difficult time with behavior (staying in their seats, listening, participating, etc). Any ideas?

  2. I too have the same experience...about a chapter from college! I don't really have any advice, except to use trusty Google, but I have some thoughts. Behavior has been a challenge for me, but as my class has had more experience with the change in learning they are getting better at it. After talking to my friend who just started at the Montessori, she said that her middle school students are generally well behaved because they were brought up in Montessori and so had the expectation throughout their education. For those of us in public schools that isn't the case. We have to set clear expectations, model it, model it some more, practice it, and then keep practicing it. Let the kids know what you expect, and explain to them how this is a different way to learn, and that it should be helpful (and fun) for them. And if you do find a strategy that works really well, please let me know!


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