Like many Montessorians around the world, it was motherhood that led me to discover María Montessori, her theories of human development, curriculum and pedagogical practices.
I was immediately impressed by the common sense character of her insights and conclusions. It often takes a true genius to identify what lies hidden behind “accepted wisdom” and the habits of thought that go along with them. As an Anthropologist I was struck by her use of the power of observation in her methodological study children, learning environments and the role of adults in that context.
In 2005 I made the decision to open a small Montessori school in Madrid when what was available did not match with my values. My intention was to offer my daughter (and other children) a humane and nurturing environment that would foster her development until age six. Given that she was 2.5 when I made this decision I did not have time to train or do much research, but I was clear that we would follow the Montessori curriculum and the standards established by AMI (Association Montessori Internationale).
I found myself saying to teachers and families in the school, I would only consider modifying the curriculum if I saw that it did not meet the needs of our children. When we didn’t get the results we hoped for it was a question of reflecting on ourselves and the environment.
However, there was one area that did begin to raise questions that first school year — language. English was the first language of the school and I hired a native speaking guide and a bilingual assistant for the first Children’s House. The majority of children the first year spoke English at home and there were a minority of Spanish speaking children. Unfortunately the Spanish children became ghettoized and did not integrate into the larger group. This did not fit with the respect for diversity that I wanted the school to foster.
So the move into bilingualism in the second school year was a response to the circumstances – the needs of the children. I was lucky to have the advice of a parent who had a Ph.D. in bilingual education and had taught in New York City schools. She suggested a dual language model in which both languages are given equal presence and status and offered a way to educate children to be bilingual, biliterate and appreciative of many cultures.
I am glad that now through webinars and workshops that I am able to share many of the lessons learned and continue to build a network of practitioners so we can continue to learn from each other.
– Marikay McCabe
We have great news for you. A very special series of webinars is coming up, led by Marikay McCabe, and supported by Lead Montessori.
Join us, and let’s set off on a journey towards Multilingual Montessori Schools all over the World!