Mainstream schooling has changed considerably over the past decade. Teachers are working harder than ever to try to help their students understand more and more content. The national curriculum that has been rolled out around Australia is packed with content and moves very quickly. Primary school teachers are left to highlight key concepts and skills and then find time to teach these thoroughly to their students. To briefly describe the situation, early childhood teachers are now given less time to focus on the basics and, at the same time, are expected to help their children achieve increasingly higher literacy and numeracy results. To make it more stressful for teachers, poor student results are often shown in the media to be a result of “poor teaching and poor teachers” (instead of questioning the curriculum and re-examining the process of delivering this curriculum).
I believe children in mainstream schools would benefit incredibly by having access to the full Montessori philosophy. Where this is not possible, I believe children would still benefit from being able to use the carefully designed Montessori materials.
Teachers are required to follow the National Curriculum. In Queensland, many schools use the “Curriculum to Classroom” material. These documents are lesson and unit plans based on the National Curriculum that outline what teachers should be teaching each day. The documents are complete to the point of detailing which questions teachers should ask their class and videos they should show the children. Often teachers feel they have to use more worksheets in the classroom so that they have written ‘evidence’ to support the “data” that many teachers are asked to produce at the end of each unit plan. Perhaps early childhood teachers need to become more creative in how they record evidence. Videos of children using concrete materials perhaps is a place to start?
Many early childhood teachers still try to implement as many concrete learning experiences as they can for their students. Concrete materials are those that children can hold, manipulate and touch; real objects to help develop real concepts. Many teachers re-make these at home, in their own time each year or each term dependent on the needs of the children in their classes. I would have loved to have known about the Montessori math and language materials earlier in my teaching career, as these would have benefited my students so much! The control of error in each material promotes self-correcting and problem solving. The carefully built and designed materials are mathematically accurate and reinforce the base ten system. Children enjoy the sensorial, tactile experience of touching sandpaper, sand, chalk, wood and other interesting materials.
Note from Rebecca: There is no reason Montessori streams cannot be implemented into State Schools if the Principal and School Community want it. This direction has been given by the Head of Government in Queensland. If you would love to see your local school implement Montessori, contact your Principal or even us at I AM Montessori if you would like some help!