“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori
What do you want for your child’s future?
The other day I took a call from a prospective parent. I had not given her tour, and she was calling to talk to the director and ask a few questions. She wanted to know if I knew the national average ACT or SAT scores for Montessori alumni. I had to admit that I don’t, and I am not aware of anyone who has narrowed down that population for that sort of study. I asked her what she was looking for in that question. She told me that what she really wanted was for her daughter to be happy.
Ah. Now that I can address.
I told her my current favorite alumna story. A few years ago, a young woman visited the office. She had been an early student at Campbell, and in my early years as an assistant, I had sat with her in the classroom, chased her around the playground, and put her down for nap. She went on to become one of our first elementary students. Now, she was a couple years out of high school, and she told me this story. She had left Campbell and attended the local public schools – a very ordinary sort of thing to do. She graduated and enrolled in the local community college – again, a very ordinary sort of thing to do. She told me that when she was about half-way through the first semester she realized she wasn’t happy. And then, she said this extraordinary thing: “I knew if I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t going to learn anything.” So she pulled herself together, transferred to a four-year college at the semester, moved out of her parents’ house, and was working hard in pursuit a double major – and she was quite happy.
Who would be disappointed in that? What parent would be disappointed in an eighteen-year-old child who could perform that kind of assessment of her situation and have the wherewithal to get up and change it? In a time when we hear more and more stories of kids ‘returning to the nest’, isn’t that what we want for our children? Self-awareness and self-knowledge, confidence in the face of uncertainty, courage enough to make necessary changes – these are signs of strong character and a productive life. These are characteristics school can and should support. These are goals we should have for our children.
Montessori schools often focus (and with good reason) on the famous Montessori alumni – people like Julia Child, the co-founders of Google, Amazon, and Wikipedia, and so on – people who live extraordinary lives. But it isn’t always about living an extraordinary life. Sometimes it’s about living an ordinary life extraordinarily well.