I learn a lot from visiting Montessori schools and observing in the classroom. I get a couple of great ideas that I take away and apply in my practice, whether its a new activity, a piece of furniture, or classroom management. When I got a chance to travel to Hongkong last July 2018, I made sure to visit Infinity Children School Montessori. Why that school? I read an article about how important for parents to understand deeply the essence of Montessori. It was written by Daisy Lau (Chairperson, Hong Kong Montessori Research and Development Association (HKMRDA) and Ralph Lau (Founding Member, Montessori Asia).
When a family adapts Montessori, it is not just a method of education they are embracing rather a way of life. It is hard to coincide, Montessori, when you only rely on the use of materials in the classroom. Montessori when understood deeply there's a flow from home to school and vice versa. Parents are not just "paying clients" rather a partner in their child's education. Greater benefits will follow suit, and that resonated greatly with me from the article written by Daisy and Ralph.
I was astounded that they require parents to attend 8 hours of parent education classes before enrolling their children at their school. Wow. That is an amazing commitment from parents. Imagine, parents have an in-depth understanding of Montessori before the child starts attending the school! I needed to visit the school. I wasn't disappointed. I was so mesmerized I have forgotten to take photos!
When I arrived around 9am, children are starting to pour in with their parents or caregivers. Children have to take their shoes off. Not one adult helped their child to take their shoes off and have asked them to hurry. Not one.
I first observed in a Toddler class. There were 8 children and 3 teachers. The adults have to stay in the premises. They can choose to stay in the classroom provided that they won't be interrupting the class. Children were working independently and quietly. Each child has put the activity back on the correct shelf! By 9:30am there were 10 toddlers and it was super quiet. Adults are speaking to children in a quiet voice. All toddlers were engaged in their chosen activity.
By 9:40 they were 12 children. It started to create a buzz in the classroom. Adults in the classroom who were waiting were reading books and not interacting with children. Some children have noticed me sitting quietly in one corner, they smiled and graciously continued with their work.
After an hour, I went to observe the 3-6 class. 2 classrooms and a total of 56 children and 11 Teachers! They have a dedicated music room and art room. I remember there were 5 children in the kitchen making something for lunch. I just can't remember what they were cooking!
I was introduced to the English Teacher (I can't remember her name!). She showed me the Language shelves specifically for learning Mandarin. There were sandpaper letters in Mandarin! She gave me a brief introduction about how the sandpaper letters/Chinese characters were taught. I wish I can stay for a lesson or two! Children learn both in English and Mandarin.
I sat there in awe, watching each child engaged in an activity. It was a *normalized classroom, considering it's only a few days before the school year is over and the start of their summer vacation.
I left with such pride, any Montessori schools in the world will always offer the same satisfaction to an observer (whether you know Montessori or just new want to learn about it). It is an environment for children carefully (meticulously) prepared by the Teachers where everything in it has given so much thought and consideration for the little people.
*Normalization in the Montessori classroom refers to the focus, concentration, and independence of the children, by their own choice. It means they have acquired the internal freedom to initiate work, be independent, and adhere (by choice) to the rules of the environment