Greensboro Montessori School partners with the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) to use Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) Growth assessments. MAP Growth is a computer-adaptive test for measuring individual student achievement and growth in math, reading, and language usage.
We've chosen MAP Growth because it is a student-centric approach to standardized testing. Unlike paper and pencil tests, where all students are asked the same questions and spend a fixed amount of time taking the test, MAP Growth is an adaptive test. That means every student gets a unique set of test questions based on responses to previous questions. At the end of each test, teachers are able to determine what individual students know and are ready to learn next.
Unlike traditional standardized tests, MAP Growth testing is administered twice a year, enabling us to measure our students' individual growth over time. Teachers may also use test results to further inform instruction, personalize learning, and monitor student growth.
While we are not a test-driven school, we know test taking is a practical life skill students need in preparation for high school and college. MAP Growth tests are one form of assessment we use, in conjunction with other methodologies of formative and summative assessment given throughout the school year.
About MAP Growth
No. As a computer-adaptive assessment, MAP Growth will provide questions to test the upper limits of your child's skills. Every student will miss questions. The MAP Growth guides suggest that students should expect to miss 40-60% of their questions.
There is no particular score for which students should aim. Instead, your child's individual MAP Growth Report will contain a RIT score. This score represents their achievement level at the time they took the test. As a partner in your child's education, we are less concerned one-time scores and will focus more attention on students' growth measures between assessments.
During MAP Growth
After MAP Growth
Preparing for MAP Growth Assessments
There is nothing families need "to do" in preparation for a MAP Growth test. We encourage families to follow the child – provide the level of support they need to feel successful. This could vary between treating an assessment day like any normal school day to practicing questions on a sample to get comfortable with the format, to talking with your child about the practical life skill of testing (i.e., tests are part of education and you should do your best, and you should not worry or stress over tests).
If you'd like to provide a strong framework for your child before and during a test, we have these tips:
The Night Before
- Relax and have fun.
- Enjoy a healthy snack an hour before bedtime.
- Get a good night's sleep.
The Morning of the Test
- Fill up on healthy, complex carbs and protein.
- Arrive at school on time.
- Connect with a friend or teacher if you have pretest jitters.
During the Test
- Take three deep breaths.
- If you don't know the answer, give your best guess and move on.
Maria Montessori believed that “establishing lasting peace is the work of education...”
While many of us are focused on the end of a school year, on how the pandemic will affect our family and our jobs, and on working to support the emotional needs of our children, as we should be, I felt it appropriate to also take a moment to remind ourselves of what Maria Montessori writes about peace education. For our attention should also be focused on what is happening all around the country and world this week in response to the events in Minnesota.
Greensboro Montessori School welcomes and embraces diversity by providing a safe and supportive environment that is open and inclusive. Our community is enhanced by people from many different cultures, races, nationalities, faiths, learning and physical abilities, political backgrounds, sexual orientations and identities, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and family constellations.
We work together to empower all of our families to share and grow in their confidence and ability to raise responsible young citizens. And, the recent tragic events in Minnesota with the death of George Floyd must serve as a reminder that we still have much work to do. Being non-racist is not the same thing as being anti-racist. As peace educators, we have a responsibility to make sure we are doing our part to foster empathy and kindness in all of our students.
Our school has always proudly had the following policies for admissions and hiring, respectively,
- Greensboro Montessori School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
- Greensboro Montessori School does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, national origin, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status with respect to recruitment, hiring, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
We are proud that we do not discriminate. We are proud that we actively teach our students to be just and inclusive. These are at the heart of the foundations of Maria Montessori’s peace education. And sometimes this is not enough. Sometimes we must move beyond awareness of discrimination, acts of aggression, and bigotry wherever they are and at whomever they are aimed. We must also engage. How we each choose to engage these challenging times and challenging events will vary from home to home, and we all stand together with our shared value and commitment to peace education.
We hope that everyone can engage injustice when we see it, actively see our privilege where it lies, and promote equity and peace with not only our mind, but also our resources and actions. And especially to all our African American students, staff, and community members: you matter. Black Lives Matter. We see you, and we support you.
The president of the board of our accrediting body, the American Montessori Society, recently shared part of this reflection to our 16,000 members:
AMS recognizes that institutional change is required to make an impact in the larger Montessori community. Ensuring environments where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and respected is our most important charge as a membership organization. Serving as the largest Montessori membership organization does not exclude us from the institutional racism that is pervasive in associations, schools, and training programs throughout the United States. We hope that you continue to engage with us as our organization strives to be anti-racist. – Amira Mogaji, President, AMS Board of Directors
We hope that everyone can join us as we work to intentionally move from awareness to engagement.
In peace, and on behalf of the Greensboro Montessori School Team,
Dr. Kevin Navarro
Head of School
As they do every spring, Greensboro Montessori School's Junior High students recently engaged in their final Great Debate of the year in history. Students addressed and argued both sides of two debates. The first questioned whether the purposes of government are best served by an authoritarian approach. The second questioned whether the primary role of a government should be to meet the needs of its people. The debates provide Junior High students the opportunity to argue in a logical and clearly defined manner.
While The Great Debates are usually hosted in the classroom, this year's final debates were argued virtually through Google Hangouts. 57 participants, including students from both Junior High and Upper Elementary, attended the event, deepening their understanding of many forms of government and economic systems, including authoritarian, capitalist, communist, and socialist.
How the Debates Work
Teams of two or three students are given their topic in advance, but they do not learn which side they are on, for or against, until the morning of the debate. As a result, they must analyze and evaluate both sides and research and compile points and examples supporting both arguments. Each student writes two formal position papers, one for each side of the argument. This helps them broaden their thinking and mental flexibility.
The debates follow a modified version of standard debate procedure, with an opening argument, sometimes shared by two teammates; time for preparation of rebuttal; and then closing arguments and rebuttal, by the remaining member of the team. Faculty members observe, discuss and provide extensive oral feedback to the teams about the debate.
How Topics are Selected
The topics of the debates are drawn from subject matter the students have discussed in history classes during the preceding several weeks. Students are encouraged to go beyond the class discussions in gathering information and building their arguments.
The process allows students to go beyond what they have learned and apply it to larger questions, to develop their reasoning and ability to build and support logical arguments, and to gain confidence and develop greater precision in presenting their thoughts persuasively.
How We Learn
As Junior High students move into and through adolescence, it’s imperative they receive authentic support for their burgeoning philosophical questioning, curiosity in the world around them, and deep desire for belonging within their peer group. Greensboro Montessori School honors these needs through the concept of valorization, which is a pillar of our Junior High curriculum.
Valorization is the process of understanding you are a strong and worthy person. It is the process of self-actualization and fulfillment. It is not about surviving hours of arbitrary homework or memorizing facts for the next test. It’s about completing meaningful work, unleashing academic excellence, and solving real-world problems.
The Great Debates are just one example of how Greensboro Montessori School students experience valorization by developing self-worth, skills, and courage through purpose-filled work. Learn more about how we build valorization through our science curriculum in our recent blog about Trout in the (Indoor, Outdoor, and Virtual) Classroom.
If you are interested in learning more about Greensboro Montessori School's student-centered Upper School serving motivated learners in fourth to ninth grades, we encourage you to schedule a virtual information session. We welcome an opportunity to meet you, learn more about your family, and explore Greensboro Montessori School could partner with your family.
Greensboro Montessori School's Junior High students just culminated one of their project based learning assignments – hatching, growing, and releasing brown trout.
Junior High science teacher, Tim Goetz, released the trout in a cold water tributary of the Smith River near Bassett, Virginia. It was a Friday morning in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, our Junior High students would have been stream-side with Tim, and it would have been their job — not their teacher's — to complete the final step of their semester-long project. Instead, students joined Tim virtually to watch the trout meet their natural habitat.
As the trout grow, they will make their way up river into the Smith River. Along the way, they will eat land and water insects, zooplankton, worms and other aquatic creatures. They will also search for hiding places from predators, including birds and other fish. Tim Key, a member of the Nat Green Fly Fishers Club, who was present at the release said "these are some of the best fish I have every seen."
The fish were hatched at Greensboro Montessori School as a part of the nationwide Trout in the Classroom program, with support from the Dan River Basin Association, and Tim Key of the Nat Greene Fly Fishers Club. Over 250 eggs were given to the School on December 5, 2019 and the first hatch was December 10.
The fish were raised in a 45-gallon, cold-water aquarium at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in Greensboro Montessori's Upper School. To quickly prepare the correct growing environment, students mixed five gallons of water from the School's pond with 40 gallons of tap water. Students tended to the fish daily, including feeding, changing water, and water testing. Daily water tests included pH, ammonia, and nitrites with the goal of recreating a natural, cold-water trout habitat. This attention to detail resulted in the science room smelling more like an outdoor classroom next to a river than a traditional classroom.
Eighth grade student, Nina, was the head aquarium tender and her classmate, Ava, provided the backdrop art for the aquarium.
Prior to COVID-19, Junior High students were scheduled to travel to Virginia to release the trout themselves. Their expedition would have been part of their April Land Week, one of several weeks a year when they learn at Greensboro Montessori School's 37-acre satellite campus in Oak Ridge, N.C. With schools throughout the state suspending in-person learning, the students' land week and field trip was cancelled, but not their learning. Students participated in the trout release through a Live Lesson via Google Hangouts. Tim also documented the release on GoPro cameras so he could share the experience with the entire school community, Toddler through Junior High. After all, Greensboro Montessori School students learn everywhere, whether its the indoor, outdoor, or virtual classroom.
Learning through purpose-filled, project-based learning — like hatching, raising, and releasing brown trout into their natural habitat — is not the exception to the rule at Greensboro Montessori School. It is the rule. Our students learn through completing meaningful work, which often results in real-world benefits to the community. Through the multistep process of researching, designing, implementing, refining, analyzing, and presenting their projects, our students gain real-world skills such as resiliency, creativity, curiosity, time management, and public speaking. They also develop a sense of self-worth by understanding the value of their contributions to society and experiencing personal fulfillment.
Click here to read about about another real-world project our Junior High students are leading: inoculating, growing, harvesting, and selling shiitake mushrooms.
In addition to Trout in the Classroom, Dan River Basin Association, and Nat Greene Fly Fishers Club, Greensboro Montessori School would like to thank Oliver Rouch from K2 Productions for lending us GoPro cameras and editing our release footage. We also want to thank Tim Key for his work behind the camera.
Another trip to the restroom. That all-important fourth cup of water. Just one more snack to sustain them until daybreak. Isn’t it amazing how young children become such ardent advocates for self-care as the evening hours roll on? Bedtime struggles are a timeless, and trying, rite of parenthood. Just as we’re ready to wrap up the work of the day and enjoy a fleeting moment of grown-up time, our little ones get a second wind, armed with a million urgent reasons to leave their beds. Are afternoon naps to blame for these late-night revivals?
Toward the end of the first Primary year or middle of the second, some parents begin to wonder if eliminating their child’s naps will ease evening bedtime struggles. In some cases, less sleep during the day can indeed help children nod off earlier at night. However, before dropping naps cold turkey, there are some important factors to consider.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's recommendation that “children 3 to 5 years of age sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” With families’ busy lives, this goal can be difficult to attain without the added rest time an afternoon nap provides. Children who have recurring issues with falling asleep at night may not fill their sleep tanks by the time they need to wake for school the next day, leaving them to navigate their mornings foggy and fatigued. Adjusting this pattern by abruptly eliminating a midday rest may result in emotional and behavioral repercussions later in the day, which can put a real damper on family time.
Napping at Greensboro Montessori School
In the Primary napping room at Greensboro Montessori School, we carefully monitor how long and often children sleep at school. When we notice a child is moving away from napping, we communicate with parents to make a transition plan for gradually eliminating afternoon sleep. Depending on the unique needs of each child, we may begin by abbreviating a child’s nap, waking them after a specified period of time. The duration of sleep is decreased little by little, until the child is ready to forego their snooze altogether. When they wake, we offer quiet, engaging activities until it’s time to transition to the car line or our after-school program. For many children, this opportunity to wake slowly and refresh themselves is much less jarring than an abrupt transition to the active Encore classroom or outdoor play spaces.
In other cases, children may outgrow sleeping on their own, while continuing to benefit from remaining in the nap room for a quiet rest and calming activities such as reading, drawing, or listening to music. When the child shows signs of readiness for more stimulation and movement, we work with the family to plan a transition to our Encore classroom (for first-year Primary students), or for the child to remain in their Primary classroom (second-year year Primary students) through the afternoon.
Is it Time?
If you’re uncertain about whether to begin phasing out your child’s naps, please reach out and let us know. Each child is unique, and requires their own individual approach to this transition. We are happy to keep you posted on your child’s sleeping habits at school, and to partner with you to craft a plan that is responsive to your child’s - and your family’s - needs. We can also provide helpful information on other challenges you may be experiencing while getting your little ones to settle in for the night. Though bedtime battles can seem insurmountable, there are effective strategies for giving and getting the rest we all need. Rest assured that your dreams of bedtime independence will eventually come true, and we are here to help you find your way to a truly good night!
Brooke Juneau is the director of CASA at Greensboro Montessori School. In this role, Brooke oversees the School's before- and after-school programming, along with all summer camps. Brooke first joined Greensboro Montessori School as a Toddler teacher in 2013 and served as an anchor for our Toddler students, families, and faculty for six years. She transitioned into her current role in 2019. Brooke holds her Montessori teaching credential in Infant & Toddler Education. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in education and human development from Hampshire College.
Our adolescent program in Upper Elementary (fourth, fifth, and sixth grades) and Junior High (seventh, eighth, and ninth grades) authentically engages each aspect of our students’ development: physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. We provide students with real-life, hands-on, and meaningful opportunities to learn important skills and lessons. And all their work and lessons are seeped in a commitment to excellence.
As Montessorians, we have clear academic and social objectives for each of our students, and we also believe in following the child as they achieve their objectives. Sometimes following the child means adapting our schedule or plans … and sometimes this means going out in the middle of a snow storm.
This winter, a predicted snow storm prompted Greensboro Montessori School (and all area schools) to dismiss at 12 p.m., ahead of an inclement weather event. Our Junior High students were supposed to have spent the day at The Land, our 37-acre satellite campus in Oak Ridge, N.C. where we use the natural world and our 4,000-square-foot retreat center as a base for community building, personal development, and project-based lessons.
Among other projects, the students are currently working on designing and building an outdoor kitchen and community space at The Land. This sort of project-based learning involves many steps, including complex executive functioning and integrated academic skills. Projects are put together in a real and meaningful way that engages the students’ passion and commitment. Our middle school-aged students actually love to learn, which if you have friends in other middle school programs, you know this is not the norm. A few examples of the learning that have been and may be involved in this particular outdoor kitchen project include:
- Running design charrettes to discuss and prioritize the myriad objectives for the space.
- Learning how to survey and measure the physical land, including distances, areas, and slopes.
- Learning and putting into practice permaculture gardening and design principles.
- Conducting online and primary research about various components that could be part of an outdoor kitchen area.
- Talking to vendors and contractors about ideal types of materials, costs of equipment, and potential obstacles.
- Creating a budget and timeline for the entire scope of the project.
- Petitioning administration with their plans and proposed budget for approval.
- Building and working side-by-side with professional contractors to construct the outdoor kitchen and community space.
- Helping to plan a meal and experience at The Land and new outdoor kitchen space for the entire school.
Our students are committed to learning and are personally invested in their work (just like us adults). So, when the idea of not being able to go to The Land for the day and instead having to go home at 12 p.m. ahead of the storm, a different plan was hatched ...
Rather than dismiss early with the rest of the school, our Junior High students chose to hunker down and spend the night in the retreat center at The Land. Families were consulted, extra fire wood was cut, meals were planned by the students, bags were quickly packed, safety plans were already in place, and all the students headed to The Land in advance of the coming snow.
Over the next 24 hours - when the rest of the school was dismissed home and most every other adolescent child in the Greensboro area was plugged into a device or game system - our Junior High students chose more school. And that’s what they got: more school, working on their outdoor kitchen and other lessons. And along the way, they had a lot of fun, built community, and created memories. They baked bread and prepared delicious meals; they hiked in the snowy woods at night; they squealed with delight as they tried to build snow-people; they frolicked with our resident caretaker’s two dogs and read books with his three daughters; they left their cell phones and devices at home; and they felt safe, secure, and at home with their peers and teachers.
This is what adolescent education should look like.
And we know our approach to adolescent education works:
- Our graduates’ average ACT score of 29 is eight points higher than the national average score of 21.
- 9 out of 10 graduates say they are better prepared for the demands of high school than other students in their high school classes.
- Our graduates' average, unweighted high school GPA is 3.8, compared to the state average of 3.4.
- 97% of our graduates say they are successful adults because of their Montessori education.
- Our graduates enter college with an average of 24 credits earned from AP and IB classes in high school.
Who says learning can’t happen in the middle of a snow storm?
We thought our families might appreciate an inside look at how our team manages decisions about when to adjust our schedule due to inclement weather.
Managing inclement weather and the safety of our community is not a simple task. Safety of our students, of our families, and of our staff is always our top priority. We go through as thorough of a process as we can to make the best possible decision about whether or not to alter our schedule due to inclement weather. And, while I know it is a very serious thing to make the best decision for the School, I don’t mind sharing that it is probably my least favorite duty as your head of school.
Over the years, I have tried unsuccessfully to pass this part of the job on to someone else … I’ve tried to tell our past two board presidents it’s their job - they didn’t buy it. I tried to make Ben, our director of upper school, think it was his job when he was a new employee - he wasn’t that naive. Once in a while I try to make my wife, Jess, decide - she knows to steer herself and the kids clear of me during storm-watch decisions. Our previous director of facilities, Mackie, was the only one who was willing to help make the decision - and his answer was always the same (even without looking at a weather report), “Shut it down.”
First comes the possibility of coming inclement weather. As soon as there is even a hint of anything, everyone makes sure to let me know. Faculty, staff, friends from other schools, and even the students share the news: “Kevin! Kevin! Did you see it might snow in seven days?!? It’s going to be epic.” Sometimes even my mom calls me from St. Louis to let me know weather might be coming our way. Thanks, mom!
Second comes studying the predictions and weather reports. We use websites like NOAA and The Weather Channel, and we tie into reports and weather analyses that the National Weather Service makes specifically for the Piedmont Triad Airport. We continually monitor updates and forecasts. At this point, everyone offers support as a semi-professional weather expert. “Kevin! Kevin! I heard it is going to be four inches this time!” or “Kevin, my knee is swelling up, so it’s definitely going to be a doozy of a storm.” And, again from my mom, “Kevin, don’t forget to get bread and milk for your family on your way home.”
Third has us seeing what other schools do. We pay close attention to the public school systems, even though they have buses and high school students driving that factor into their decisions. All the Triad area heads of school are on an email thread to communicate what we are thinking. For example, this last storm, all the area independent schools closed Friday, except for three of us: GMS, GDS, and Canterbury. I was on a text-message thread with GDS and Canterbury schools’ heads of school throughout the night on Thursday and then starting at 5 a.m, on Friday. It helps us all to see what the other schools are doing.
Another piece involves us getting firsthand information by driving the roads ourselves. For this last storm, we drove the roads at both 10 p.m. Thursday and about 5 a.m. Friday to experience on how the roads and campus were after the snow had stopped.
Additionally, our facilities team salts campus before a weather event, and they are on standby to be ready to plow and shovel campus if needed.
The Last Storm
Here’s our timeline for the most recent storm:
- 5 p.m. | Our administration team met to get organized about the coming storm.
- 8:30 a.m. | Your administration met to discuss the situation and look at it from all angles.
- 9 a.m. | We made the decision to dismiss at 12 p.m. as all the weather reports called for snow around 2 p.m., and we never want to dismiss students in the middle of a weather event. We issue communications on all our channels to notify families and walk through campus talk to support with faculty with the adjusted schedule and dismissal.
- 12 p.m. | We all try to be out and present at dismissal to make sure it goes smoothly and to thank families for coming to pick up early, which we know is in the middle of your many of your work days.
- 6 p.m., 8 p.m., and 10 p.m. | Nancy, our associate of school, and I talk every two hours to assess the situation. Whenever the decision is obvious enough, we like to tell our families the night before. For the last storm, it was not obvious enough to make a decision, so we continue to monitor weather and talk to other area heads of schools into the night and early the next morning.
- Sometime between these calls | As anyone knows, family life still continues while we work. So my three kids someone how cajoled Jess and me to go out for some nighttime sledding and hiking in our woods with the dog – who all need a bath or a book before bed!
- 5:30 a.m. | Nancy and I check in, looking at all our weather predictions and road reports. For this storm, we see all roads are flowing clearly, the Greensboro Police Department have note reported any weather-related incidents, and some of our team is out on the roads to confirm they are dry and do not appear to be slick.
- 5:35 a.m. | I do one final check with GDS and Canterbury.
- 5:45 a.m. | We make the decision for a late start. We push out an email to families, post to Facebook, and update our weather hotline. Internally, we notify all employees, so they are aware of the late start, and Heather, our director of facilities, gets her plan together to have campus ready by 9:30 a. m.
- 9 a.m. | We arrive to open campus and get ready for the day.
- 10 a.m. | Our first students arrive, some fussy with me that I didn’t call a snow day and some still with snow in their hair and boots from their early morning sledding session.
In the End
I know that with one “push of a button,” the decision about adjusting our schedule directly affects over 600 people. Hopefully, this sneak peak of the steps we take to make our decision helps illustrate how seriously we take the process and the decision. I really appreciate everyone’s support, and hopefully you enjoyed a bit of snow play or a beautiful walk in the woods.
P.S. Our Green & White Bash auction is Friday, May 1. I hope you will join us at Summerfield Farms for a fun time and to help raise money for faculty professional development and student financial assistance. Invitations will come out early next month. Among the dozens of amazing experiences and items, we’ll also auction off things like “head of school” for the day. I wonder if my team will let me auction off an item called: “You’re in charge of making the decision for a snow day.” Would you bid on that?
After a long day away from our children, we parents are eager to hear all the details about how they have spent their time. However, so often our queries of “What did you do today?” are met with the same predictable response: “Nothing.” For children, distilling the many details and experiences of a full day at school into an anecdote or two is a tall order. What tools can we use to get them talking about their learning?
Through the Vidigami private photo sharing platform, you get to see moments of your child’s day at school. Viewing photos of your child engaged with Montessori materials can inspire great conversations. Children, especially those younger than five, are not yet able to summarize and describe the many things they experience over the course of a full and stimulating school day. However, photos offer visual cues that trigger a child’s memories and invite them to comment on specific materials and activities. There are many different ways to talk about these photos with your child, and we've provided some suggestions, which focus on your child's intrinsic motivation. Enjoy these special conversations as you allow them to teach you what they are learning at school.
- Ask your child to tell you about the photo. You may learn what they see in the classroom, or what they remember about the moment, and it may be much more than meets the eye.
- Say what you see without judgement. “I notice you are in the classroom.” “Do you know the name of that work?” “There are a lot of colors in your drawing.”
- Speak about their efforts instead of praising their product. “You really look like you are concentrating.” “Is that the first time you have done that work?” “I see your smile. What did you like about that work?” “Are you building with those blocks?”
Listening to your child talk about the photos and speaking without judgement encourages your child's intrinsic motivation – it allows them to continue to work for their own sake, rather than for any praise from adults. As Montessori teachers, we get to witness this intrinsic motivation every day. It looks different at each age grouping and is a critical element to Montessori education. Many elements of the method foster intrinsic motivation without reward and judgement, such as control of error in the materials, allowing for repetition, assessment through observation, and relying on peers as sources of feedback and inspiration. Teachers try never to interrupt a concentrating child or judge their work. Instead, they seek opportunities for meaningful conversations before or after a student's work cycle.
As Montessori observed children, she saw time and time again the intrinsic motivation in the child to work through repetition for long, uninterrupted periods of time. In a book that examines Montessori’s relevance to today’s educational practices, "The Science Behind the Genius," Angeline Lillard refers to several current research studies confirming that rewards and punishments not only negatively impact intrinsic motivation, but also how a student performs on the task. Traditional reward methods used in most schools may actually hinder a child’s performance. Given the opportunity, children are capable of learning to take personal responsibility for their actions.
“Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments … in order to foster in him a spirit of work and of peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts.” – Dr. Maria Montessori
As a Montessori school, we believe deeply in educating the whole child: their academic, psychological, critical-thinking, moral, and social-emotional selves. In addition to the academic lessons and works your children are engaged in daily, our teachers and staff are also guiding your child through other very important lessons to help them with their moral and social-emotional development. For example, teachers give explicit lessons related to grace and courtesy, facilitate discussions at the peace table, and encourage collaborative work and play daily.
And, it turns out, research from our School confirms that we are doing this pretty well …
The Gratitude Project
We recently worked with Professor Jonathan Tudge and his team from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro ("UNCG") to study the development of gratitude as a virtue. As a virtue, gratitude goes beyond a positive feeling when something good happens. Virtuous gratitude is a disposition to act gratefully when someone else does something nice for you. Dr. Tudge explained it to me this way: “Saying 'thank you' is polite, but hardly a virtue. What makes gratitude a virtue is when beneficiaries of good deeds or significant help want to do something back for their benefactor if they have the chance to do so. That first act of generosity, followed by grateful reciprocity, leads to building or strengthening connections among people.”
In previous cross-cultural research, Dr. Tudge and his team found that most children develop this type of gratitude between the ages of 9 and 13, although the age differed depending on the cultural context. In their study, children in the United States developed virtuous gratitude at later ages than other cultures. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Tudge decided to target a new intervention designed to encourage the development of gratitude within adolescents.
Dr. Tudge and his team came to our School to explore this intervention. After working with our Upper School students, they stumbled upon a ‘good’ problem with their research: far more Greensboro Montessori School students exhibited virtuous gratitude than they expected. Our Upper Elementary and Junior High students expressed gratitude at much higher rates (67%) than did children in non-Montessori settings in the United States (46%). In addition, our students were almost twice as likely to express autonomous moral obligation (79%) than were children in non-Montessori schools (44%). Defined originally by Jean Piaget, autonomous moral obligation is a decision-making framework whereby moral decisions are made based on intrinsic motivations to do the right thing.
Dr. Tudge and his team were puzzled by these anomalous findings. Why did our students score higher than other American children, even when compared to other well-regarded private schools in the Greensboro area? And how are these findings related to Montessori pedagogy and culture?
Gratitude in the Montessori Classroom
In our discussions with Dr. Tudge, we discussed the way Montessori teachers prepare the environment to communicate honor, respect, and gratitude to the child. We also described the ways in which our teachers model gratitude and respect when they speak and interact with their students. In time, this becomes our students' definition of "how it's supposed to be.” In addition, we delineated how our grace and courtesy curriculum creates both a framework for community interactions and a schoolwide culture of character.
In collaboration with Dr. Tudge and his team, I presented the results from our Upper School students’ involvement with Dr. Tudge's gratitude study at the Association for Moral Education’s annual conference in Seattle, Washington.
In the presentation, we hypothesized that our students' high rates of gratitude could be due to several specific tenets of Montessori philosophy:
- Specific lessons about grace and courtesy provide explicit guidance on character development from a young age.
- Daily practice of grace and courtesy increase opportunities for proximal processes related to virtue development.
- Mixed age groupings of children may expose younger children to older children are further along in virtue development.
- Peer interactions encouraged from toddlerhood may increase opportunities for the development of mutual respect.
Dr. Tudge and his team also did some work with our Lower Elementary students. Tudge’s team again noted that so many of even these younger children (aged 6 to 9) expressed virtuous gratitude. Dr. Tudge reflected: “We think that this must say something about the character-based focus of the general Montessori curriculum, because a far greater proportion of Greensboro Montessori School children expressed gratitude than elsewhere.”
Character Education at Greensboro Montessori School
Overall, the results suggest that a Montessori environment is conducive to developing virtuous gratitude and autonomous moral obligation. These results – while surprising and interesting to the UNCG team and other researchers and educators at the Association for Moral Education conference – are not really that surprising to us. Focusing on strong character education is a key tenet of Greensboro Montessori School. A deep respect towards classmates and other people is so integral to our culture that it's not that surprising our Elementary and Junior High students authentically take their sense of gratitude to a level beyond just saying “thank you.”
Tell us a little about your family.
My husband, Nate, and I both grew up in this area, and although we went to high school together, we did not know each other well back then. We met again during the planning of our high school reunion, and before I knew it, I was head over heels. We now have two boys, Nolan (6) and Avery (4), who look and act just like Nate. Before I met Nate I graduated with a textile degree from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, worked for Ralph Lauren and then as a buyer for a mail order company out of Charleston, S.C. I now work part time at Nate’s information technology company, Cypress Networks. Nate started the company 17 years ago, and I hope one day one of our boys will take over (because I’m already looking forward to retirement).
What brought you to Greensboro Montessori School?
Taking into account our own dispositions as children and how we were raised, we liked the gentle, respectful approach of Montessori. We took the GMS tour and were amazed by the independence we witnessed in the classrooms. We also loved the amount of time the kids spend outside the classroom, not just playing but learning, and in the gardens working. But one of my favorite Montessori tools is practical life. It has been helpful that some of the skills learned at GMS are used at home as well (not so much the putting their toys away after they’re done playing with them, but we’re working on that).
Tell us how you got involved in the GMS Community Association.
Two years ago I was a room parent in the Half-Day Toddler class, and I made play-dough for Marie and Shannon. I’ve been told I’m famous for that. Last year, I was a room parent for Primary 3 and also the Primary Division Coordinator. When I started attending GMSCA meetings, it opened up an entirely new perspective on the school as a whole. I was getting a glimpse of what was to come for our family, and it was really very exciting to hear about what was going on throughout the school, and not just in our division. This is my first year as lead coordinator, and I’m excited to share my play-dough making knowledge with everyone.
Why do you choose to stay at Greensboro Montessori School?
It’s not just a school anymore. We’ve known a lot of these families since our first year at GMS and it’s really special watching all of our kids grow up together. It is a very unique community, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.