We witnessed one of the most amazing interactions today. We wanted to share some of the details with you. We actually managed to capture some of it on camera. In so many respects, it is these singular moments, which we will share with you, that express the spirit of Montessori for us. In our opinion, this is exactly what "school" should be: a place to discover, explore and realize your interests, without judgement or competition, but with support and encouragement.
Here's what happened:
One of our four-year-old students, who had already mastered the 'pouring water in the funnel activity', which sounds like a secret Kung Fu move, was approached by a younger, three-year-old student. Without hesitation, embarrassment or any sense of apprehension, the three-year-old politely asked: "Can you show me how to do this activity?" "Sure", said the four-year-old. "I haven't done it in a while, but I can show you how to use it."
Thus started the lesson.
After the two friends had found a suitable table, where the light was just right and there were exactly two chairs, the older student carefully explained the activity. In remarkable detail, he pointed out the pitfalls and joys, walking his classmate and peer through the exercise. "You want to hold your hand like this...well, it's probably best if I just show you," he said.
And, that's exactly what he did. He demonstrated the activity with care, precision and a remarkable sense of compassion. The type of compassion that only a "true teacher" has mastered: comprised of patience, determination, and a shared sense of excitement. After all, he said to his young friend, "I just learned this last year."
As they both gazed at the water, it slowly trickled through the funnel. We couldn't help but think that we were witnessing something special. These two young students were engaged in a moment. They were sharing in the magic of the science, relishing the same sense of awe and wonder, but each was drawing something completely unique from the experience. One had become a teacher, while the other was preparing to teach himself, with the guidance of his trusted and respected friend.
"Now it's my turn", the three-year-old exclaimed. "I think I can do it."
"Oh, you can do it", confided the four-year old. " I know you can."
As the older student methodically watched his apprentice tackle the activity, he was instantly filled with delight and a certain, almost familiar sensation of contentedness. He had helped his friend accomplish a task he had so desired to achieve.
When the exercise was completed, and the work was put away, the four-year-old found us across the room. He said, with a cheerful smile, "I think I forgot how to do that activity, but showing him helped me learn again." We instantly melted. Our hearts were warm. This is it. This is why we do what we do. These moments mean everything,
Everyone thinks that solving the "crisis in education" is an impossible task. We beg to differ. It's easier than we think. It just depends on the assumptions that you have. Here's ours: everyone is born with a natural propensity to learn, we just need to be given the opportunity to explore our interests, at our own pace.