Welcome back! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving Break. Mine was delightful, but I’m always excited to get back into the classroom after a break.
As I mentioned, I’m shifting my focus a bit closer to home as I profile each of the classrooms at my wonderful home away from home, The Montessori School of Ojai. Along with photographs of each classroom, the students in action, and a peep into the daily schedule of each of class, you’ll also be treated to a brief Q&A with the head teacher. Today is part one of Room 9–the Middle School Room. Why two parts? Because the Middle School has two wonderful teachers, Kirsten Dalto and Libby Hawkins. I’m pleased to introduce one of them today–please welcome Kirsten Dalto!
Welcome, Kirsten and Room 9!
What does the school day look like in Room 9?
Room 9 is unique because we are the only classroom with two head teachers which really allows Libby and I to teach our strengths. Also, our work this year on MMUN gives our writing and cultural studies a much more concentrated focus. There is a lot of movement in our classroom and also a lot of concentrated effort. There might be a group of two students working on a writing assignment next to a someone reading silently. We try to incorporate technology into our school day, because it is a relevant part of daily life but we also teach more simple skills like organization and preparedness. On my teaching days, we do a lot of writing and literature, but we also take time to help in other classrooms and work together to maintain a clean learning environment in our own classroom.
Describe your classroom in six (or seven!) words:
Creative, fun, energetic, controlled, happy, and focused.
What’s your favorite area of your classroom?
I love the reading “nook” that is set up at the back of the classroom. It is anchored by a charcoal grey rug and has two bungee chairs with a small tea table in between. It’s a great place to sit back and view the happenings in the room and be a bit removed at the same time. You can read, observe the other students, look at the picture posters of our beginning of the year camping trip or just relax. The most recent additions to that space, though, are the strains of origami cranes that the students have been making with the goal to reach 1,000. It’s a tranquil space.
I would probably start with an inset. It’s a work that is relaxing as well as focusing and I think it would be a great way to begin my work period. It’s creative but the expectations are clear, so I wouldn’t spend too much time planning it out.
What do you find gives your students the most internal satisfaction? When they complete a specific task? When they help others? When they do their classroom job?
I find that our students crave the satisfaction that comes from completing “adult” projects. When they come up with an idea, ask permission, and then complete the task, they really shine. It’s exciting to see them breaching the walls of maturity and adulthood one simple step at a time.
What do you bring to your classroom? Your enthusiasm? Your love of learning? Your large heart?
I bring my desire for self improvement and helping others to improve themselves. Learning is a lifelong process which I relish. I really enjoy learning a new skill that I can pass onto my students.
What about the Montessori teaching philosophy most speaks to you as a teacher?
I love Montessori! It was like a whole new world was opened to me when I realized what Montessori education really is. For me, Dr. Montessori’s treatment of children as whole and complete beings, really strikes a chord. We don’t candy coat ideas or dumb down language for our students because we recognize that children have the desire and the ability to learn. So instead, we guide them in their learning and come along side them and support them.
What is the most important thing for parents to understand about Montessori schools?
This really is a different philosophy on learning and education. For most children, going to school is a chore. For Montessori children, learning is joy and creativity and excitement. Children thrive in Montessori schools, not just get by.
If money, time and energy were no object, what would you want most for your classroom and your students? The school?
I would love to take our students on cultural learning trips! It would be amazing to be able to teach a lesson on Shakespeare, for example, and then be able to experience it first hand at the Globe Theater in London. That is one of the many reasons I’m so excited about the MMUN program here. We learn and study and prepare and then the students are able to put all that work into practice at the MMUN conference in New York City. It’s an incredible culmination.
What are your goals as a educator? (These can be long-term or short-term.)
My long term goal, as an educator, is to fan the spark each child has within. To see my students’ excitement when they master a Limerick or write an essay about their favorite animal, is priceless. I want them to move on from Montessori with a deep love of learning and the confidence in themselves to thrive.
Stay tuned for more classroom profiles, especially Kirsten’s other half, Libby Hawkins!