Welcome back for another MSO classroom profile! If you’re just tuning in, these posts are giving me a chance to shift the focus of the blog 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 the second part 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 the second one today–please welcome Libby Hawkins!
Welcome, Libby and Room 9!
What does the school day look like in Room 9?
There’s no typical day in Room 9. The schedule is different every day. Things come up–field trips and specialists–and we build our daily plan around those. Long work periods are ideal for getting the maximum amount of work done. I’m focusing on teaching math and we’re also working on the history and geography of Nicaragua for the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN). Each of the students has an individualized math curriculum and our small class size allows me to work closely with them. This individualization allows us to explore topics as deeply as we like.
Describe your classroom in six (or seven!) words:
individualized, energetic, opinionated, enthusiastic, happy and creative.
What’s your favorite area of your classroom?
The reading closet! It’s a space where the students can center themselves if they need to. It’s also a good place for them to take a break from the rest of the class or to focus on their work.
If you were a student, which work would you choose first?
I love Algebra! It’s like a puzzle and there’s only one way it fits together.
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 think that our students find the most satisfaction when they complete a specific task, like a math assignment. I think they also get satisfaction out of helping others because they feel like they’ve done something for others–and themselves, too!
What do you bring to your classroom? Your enthusiasm? Your love of learning? Your large heart?
I bring a love of math! It’s usually a disliked–hated–subject at this age. I think I can show them that it can be fun and interesting and that there are a myriad of practical ways to use it. I also bring a maternal energy–a nurturing spirit. They seem to respond really well to that. They feel safe.
What about the Montessori teaching philosophy most speaks to you as a teacher?
To me, the individualized approach is the most important aspect of Montessori eduction. The fact that I can teach each child differently at the same time is amazing. It’s something you couldn’t see in a traditional classroom. Also, our ability to bring in other educational tools and philosophies to enrich our programs even more–like council, drama, MMUN–is invaluable. It’s what makes our school so amazing.
What is the most important thing for parents to understand about Montessori schools?
Both as an educator and as a parent, I think it’s important for parents to realize that our Montessori school teaches not only to each individual child, but to the whole child. Not only do our students learn academics, but they also learn practical life skills, social-emotional skills and communication skills–even children as young as a year.
If money, time and energy were no object, what would you want most for your classroom and your students? The school?
For my class, I’d love to expand our use of technology. It would be amazing to have an iPad for every student, the resources for every student to safely access the internet and type their work, to stream information from teacher to student (and vice versa), to Skype with authors or politicians and other leaders, to learn formatting and photo editing skills… The list is endless! For the school, I’d like to continue to make the most of our amazing piece of property, with a treehouse or more animals or an Edible Schoolyard.
What are your goals as a educator? (These can be long-term or short-term.)
I’d like to be more technologically savvy since I’d like to know more about how to integrate technology and education. I think it’s an important part of sustainable education for Middle School. I would also like to continue to educate myself as to how the Montessori philosophy is implemented in Middle School, either through online programs or by visiting other Middle Schools across the country.