2020. A year of much learning for everyone. 

The impact of the pandemic has taught us to examine many dimensions of our lives, as well as that of others. At ILM, it was hardest for teachers. To imagine the effect it was going to have on their teaching, which is not limited to teaching concepts …. but a way of life. As one of the teachers, Sujata feared, “Online classes would just be a gimmick”.

Afterall an ILM Montessori child is used to learning in a rich environment that: 

– provides a learning experience with every turn

allows her to navigate through concepts at her own pace 

– plants seeds of thought and imagination through conversations with perceptive teachers;

That very child is now plonked in front of a screen that cannot meet these needs. Roald Dahl shares our concern in his poem Television. The anxiety of the teachers was very valid. But, there was little choice, because the children had to continue learning.

Time-tables underwent innumerable changes to accommodate each one’s needs. Siblings who had to share a device, teachers who had many classes to teach, entry of new teachers and so on. Things were moving fast and getting real; since then there has been no looking back. Teachers had to now throw away the tried and tested methods, and figure out things from scratch. For some it had to start with learning how to operate a laptop. 

What they did not throw away was their conviction. 

Now was the time for teachers to revisit the materials from their scientific point of view. Some materials were replicated, printed material was sent in their monthly kits. Some were explained to parents in detail to add to the child’s mini work-shelves at home. After several touch-point meetings, everyone was beginning to get the hang of it. 

The teachers were very clear about their priority. It was the child and not the curriculum. At school, the children work with materials at a time that is conducive for them. Their learning happens while :

Working with peers,

Interacting with the teacher on a one-on-one basis,

And above all, in that moment of self-discovery that Montessori aspires for. 

All of these were being compromised in the online mode. 

So what’s the best thing to do ?

Staunch believers in the Montessori method, the teachers thought it was best to revisit familiar topics. Instead of introducing anything new. Technology has lent its helping hand and we have most joyfully taken it. Teachers revelled in the ability to share some wonderful resources available online. In the process, they became quite tech-savvy to their own surprise.

The initial days were not at all easy. Everyone had their own struggles and so did the children. But, they too have risen to the challenge. From being unable to sit in front of the screen for even 15 minutes, they have come a long way now.  They helped the teachers too. To navigate the tech-world, share their infectious energy and give honest feedback. 

This year would have been impossible but for parents.

If you are a parent and reading this, please know that you’ve played a key-role in making this year a successful one.

It is amazing how the parents have managed to :

sit through classes patiently

cajoled their child to come out of the blanket

prepared for classes with required materials and 

sought innovation at every step in creating new materials. 

At all times, encouraging not only the child to persevere but also the teachers for their efforts. We can’t be entirely sure that they aren’t trained in wizardry. 

Here is a peep into their creativity !

Our small-big wins this year

Follow-up work” is a consolidation of material based activities. It concretizes the abstract concept. The efficacy of ‘Follow-up work’ was ever more evident this year. 

Due to limited interaction with teachers and limited understanding of parents about the methods, children became more proactive in their learning. They sought clarification on their own accord. And in that process engaged in a self-evaluation of their own learning. Since the children were also involved in creating the materials from scratch, it gave them a more complete understanding of the concepts.

Teacher, Child and Parents have an equally important role to play in the Montessori method. Frequent interactions with the parents and their earnest engagement has enabled a better understanding of the Montessori philosophy

If you ask the lower elementary children, they are sure to vote the telling of Great Story as the most memorable time of the year.  Great story is a way of inviting children to the enigmatic truths about our universe. There are 5 stories offered to the children every year. These stories are the seeds from which the curriculum sprouts. This year Preeti took the children through the Story of the Universe with materials, experiments and drama conjured up in partnership with parents left children with a capacious appetite for the Great Story classes on Thursdays.

Children learning about the birth of a star

Children learn best by doing.

It is best to let the child be. Understanding that each child is different and resisting the urge to compare one child with another. Wouldn’t it be great if  we also make the child understand the need to be independent and responsible ? A little something they imbibe at school quite naturally.

Learning is not limited to working with Montessori materials. Doing chores around the house in their capacity adds to their learning. Sweeping a small part of the house, watering plants, cutting vegetables, folding towels, making a fruit salad etc. are valuable aspects of learning. Concepts and values in these work may not be obvious to us unless we go looking for them. 

To sum it up,

Education is not preparation for life ; education is life itself.

– John Dewey