Kaylee Jones is one of our favorite types of Montessorians. She discovered it, the way it discovered her. Which is to say, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher, to help children learn, but there was something about the traditional system of education that didn’t resonate with her intuitions of the way she hoped things could be.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
A: I was born in Nebraska, Go Huskers!, and I’m a pretty typical Midwesterner. My contribution to every potluck is either my grandmother’s cheesy potatoes or tator tot hotdish. After getting my degree in Early Childhood Education and working a bit in a traditional school setting as well as a daycare, I knew I had to find something different. Baan Dek was the answer, and I’ve been here for over a year now.
Q: Things have really changed since you first started at Baan Dek! You were hired as a rover, of sorts, and now you are an assistant while training to become a Primary Guide.
A: Yes, this is actually the third position I’ve held! I knew nothing about Montessori coming in. It started out with the comment, “Hey, Baan Dek is hiring” from my roommate Sarah Skaff. I came into my first position working in after-care with the attitude of, maybe I’ll like it, maybe not. By the end of the first week I figured out that this whole Montessori thing is so different from anything I’ve ever been around. These people are crazy, and it works! There are 18 children eating at the same table, and everyone is so happy!
This first position was just dipping my toes into the Montessori world. I’ve been around kids all my life, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I remember being in the classroom and seeing a 3 year old doing these amazing things! We have such low expectations, but I’m blown away every day by the children’s capabilities.
Transitioning from after care to the toddler room was also a big change. When we first started, the biggest work of the day for some of our 18 month olds was getting their shoes on by themselves. Then all of a sudden there was this explosion of knowledge! It was incredible.
Q: Are you one of the crazy ones now?
A: Yes! I’m crazy for Montessori.
Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from working at Baan Dek?
A: Baan Dek is not a school. It’s more than academics, we’re living life together. We’re all coming into this community, a hodge podge assortment of people, a group of misfits. We’re all the misfits thrown together, and we work! We work and grow together, with no judgements happening. We just help each other. It oozes into the environment and I think, into the children. We’re all here to do this together!
Q: That reminds us of one of our favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes! It begins: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…”
Q: Did you have a Montessori moment?
I’ve had so many Montessori moments! Not necessarily one big one, but definitely many small ones. One moment that is a continual “Montessori moment” is the idea of freedom in the prepared environment. As Montessori explains, it’s not total all-out freedom. Instead, it’s freedom with discipline. Children will earn their freedom by showing they can handle it and are capable of bearing the responsibility that comes along with it. This concept was a big eye-opener for me, when first starting out, and continuing now while in training.
Another thing I see in the children that absolutely blows me away is the amount of effort they put forth in their work. For example, a child working with bead stringing who is putting every ounce of their effort into stringing one bead. I don’t put that amount of effort into anything, EVER! Can you imagine what I could do if I put that amount of effort into something!?
Q: You would be living on the moon by now!
A: No kidding! I think training was probably when I realized that Maria Montessori as a human being was so radical. She had an “I’m going to do whatever I want!” kind of attitude. For example, she was the first woman physician in Italy, which is not a small accomplishment. She never really stopped being different. She kept changing, from working in the slums of Rome to working with the mentally handicapped, she was constantly moving and improving. Even after she became established, she was still observing and traveling to study children. While in her 80’s, she traveled to Africa!
Q: Such clarity of vision! To relate it to our world, she would still be exploring the next frontier, like technology. Speaking of exploring, we know you love to travel. What are your next top destinations to visit?
A: Travel?! I LOVE to travel. My top picks would be…
Africa, because my brother and sister in-law are interested in working there. California and the west coast in general. I’m thinking San Francisco. China, and anywhere different. I like different things. I’ve been to Europe, and I loved it, but I’d like to travel more out of the box. Australia, for the kangaroos.
Q: Is this sense of adventure what drew you to Montessori?
A: It’s weird because I’m sometimes a reserved and anxious person, but when I start traveling or learning new things, I get so excited! For example, going to St. Louis this summer for training gave me a real feeling of possibility. Not only did I get to live in a new city for the summer, but I also got to learn how to do this Montessori thing! Not just observe, actually participate in the process of giving presentations, and delve deeper into the theory behind Montessori.
Q: Did your previous experience at Baan Dek help with training?
A: Definitely. There were a few members of our training group who had no experience in the Montessori classroom. I think it would be so confusing to start from scratch! There’s a lot to learn.
My advice to someone thinking about receiving their Montessori certification is this: If it’s something you want to do, then do it! Even if you haven’t done enough research, or don’t have enough real world experience, don’t let it stop you from starting.
Q: What happens if Montessori becomes the status quo, what place will you have?
A: I don’t know. Part of the reason I left the public school is because it was too mainstream. It’s all so standard. Not because I wanted to be on the edge, or be different, but because it never fit. If Montessori is what the mainstream is, would I still want to have my different thing? I’d probably want to take it to the edge, take it to places it doesn’t exist. Like to different countries or cultures.
Q: Wow! Very inspiring! Ok, now for a change of pace. What’s your favorite color?
A: Blue. Hands down.
Q: We know you went to Scotland last year, do you have a favorite memory from that trip?
Besides the postcard of London I sent to Baan Dek? I remember my sister’s birthday, we were planning on doing something special. We went to a soccer game in Glasgow, and then instead of continuing to celebrate her special day, she gave me a birthday present instead! She took me on a Harry Potter tour!! It was a complete surprise. She isn’t interested in HP, but she went along with me on the group tour, and it was very special.
Q: What about a favorite Montessori material?
A: Trinomial Cube. But during training this summer I fell in love with Washing Hands, so it might be a toss up.
Q: What treats do you always say yes to?
A: Chocolate, anything with chocolate.
Q: What is your favorite type of restaurant to frequent?
A: Coffee shop/bistro. In Sioux Falls my favorite is Coffea!
Q: You have 15 minutes of free time, what do you do with it?
A: Surf Pinterest or Instagram.
Q: What is your favorite Starbucks drink?
A: Java Chip Frappuccino, it’s like a chocolate chip shake!
Q: What was your favorite childhood book or movie?
A: “Beauty and the Beast”, because of the library and the talking cutlery.