Dr. Maria Montessori spoke extensively about the importance of choice for young people. This is often misconstrued as students “doing whatever they want.” This is not the case. Rather, we expect students to find a balance between freedom and responsibility. All students are responsible for respecting themselves, each other, and the environment – a foundational philosophy students learn in Primary and carry throughout their years at Escuela.
In Elementary, children are learning how to make choices at a new level. They are establishing a work ethic by learning how to choose work, partners, locations, materials, and projects. They are consciously learning how to manage their freedom and the responsibilities that accompany such freedom. Student responsibility and accountability are essential aspects in a Montessori environment. Each child is accountable to himself and to the community.
When students get to Jr. High, they are responsible for consciously pursuing self-excellence through developmentally appropriate challenges. They are required to show up for lessons prepared, ready to focus, listen and participate fully in discussion and activity. Building on learning from Elementary, Jr. High students are guided to understand how they learn. They develop techniques and tools to maximize their potential through creative problem-solving, role-modeling, public speaking and performance, as well as through individualized focus on respecting and accepting challenges while working together to excel within the group and as individuals. These tools allow them to work responsibly within the framework of the community, which offers a great deal of freedom and student-lead activity.
In our classrooms students are given opportunities to set their own goals, budget their time, and appraise their results with the support and guidance of the teacher. They are self-aware, self-directed learners who work because of interest, enthusiasm, group contribution, and an understanding of their responsibilities. When students move on from Escuela del Sol Montessori, high school teachers, as well as coaches and instructors, generally describe Montessori students as a joy to teach for these very reasons.