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Defining Success in Montessori


It’s true, there are no “tests” in Montessori. There are no grades or report cards, no “holding back,” no “skipping ahead.” But this doesn’t mean we don’t care about success. In fact, we care deeply about success. The question becomes, how are we defining success in Montessori?

Everyone is right where they belong. Individualized Education means we can give each child just what they need, just when they need it. We achieve this through careful observation, by having the same children in the same classroom with the same teacher for several years, so a relationship is built over time, I know what you’re capable of, where you struggle and where you thrive, you trust me, and we’ll learn more together.

“Everyone is right where they belong.”

Success isn’t an “A” on a paper, or knowing all the multiple choice answers. It’s deeply understanding this information, to the point where it becomes a part of you, to the point where you don’t know where the knowledge comes from, it’s simply There. You’re able to complete an activity with little struggle. You can help someone else with this activity, or even play a role in demonstrating how it works. This activity is part of your repertoire, and it’s a useable skill.

Success is a certain level of mastery. Success is not the absence of mistakes. Mistakes are where we have our deepest learning. Success is knowing where those mistakes lay, and what I need to do to fix it. There are always parts to fine-tune, even for us as adults, so we’re not expecting perfection, whatever that looks like.

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We’re always, only, moving forward, progressing from a place of mastery, a place of success. We’ll spend as much time as you need helping you be successful with every task you undertake, whether that means ten minutes, or ten days, or the better part of a school year. In this sense, we’re not moving on, until you get an “A” on everything! After all, there are going to be things that come more easily, there are going to be things that take a bit more energy, time, and patience. We’re here for all of it.

The joyful part of defining success in this manner is that, this means you can be successful with anything. You can be successful at helping a friend with snack, or with washing dishes, or with multiplication.

There’s a maxim in surgical studies, that is also observed in how we learn everything, as humans, as animals. See one, do one, teach one. This is true for wild animals learning to hunt, and for young children learning to read. We learn through observation, we practice practice practice, then we’re successful, and helping another solidifies our learning.

Success is not a destination, it is a number of steps along the journey. It is the goal for every task we undertake.

Written by:

Charlotte Wood

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