Tuesday, March 25, 2014

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” ― Maria Montessori

I was one of those gifted college students who squeezed the four years of getting a degree into seven.  I had a one year vacation for blowing up a commode in our dorm (who knew it would be that loud and land a chunk of porcelain in the dean’s home) and another year for academic punishment—I walked out on five classes in business three weeks before finals and failed every course, but I had some great experiences at rock concerts and anti-war protests.  Finally, when they let me back in, I asked what major would get me out of college the fastest.  It turned out to be elementary education which had been my wife’s major, and it turned out that I loved teaching little children.  When I finally graduated in 1970, we moved from Texas to Los Angeles where we were both teachers (Karen—kindergarten, me—second grade) in all black schools in the ghetto.  We had a three-year-old son and enrolled him in a local Montessori school where he stayed until the fourth grade.  We were both in love with the method and with t.he joy that it brought our son.  We could never have guessed that when Karen was seventy years old, she would be introducing the Montessori method to the five preschools in our Methodist churches here (there are already Montessori schools all over Tanzania, just none north of Mwanza on our side of the country).  Karen has already trained the teachers (and some parents) in three of the schools and will train the teachers from the other two schools beginning on April 1st for three days.  In the picture at the right you see a young girl using pattern blocks (an activity that she selected) on her own mat (and a special thanks to those who mailed us the blocks).  We are supposed to be getting real internet tomorrow and if we do, I will post many pictures of the kids and their learning environment.  For now, though, it is enough to see and hear the joy and excitement of both the teachers and the kids.  For the teachers, this makes them feel very special indeed as it sets them apart from the others and gives them something good for their resume.  Maria Montessori died in 1952, but the method she began in the 1907 for the children of Italy is alive and thriving here near the Serengeti.  I think she would be pleased.
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