Success at school:
When I was at school, my teachers, parents, and peers focused on academics as the key to success in life. It was a given that doing well in academic disciplines more or less guaranteed a successful career, a meaningful place in society, and a rewarding adulthood.
Words for non-academic skills
But educators are beginning to realize that being brainy isn’t all that’s needed. People have tried to articulate these less-easily measured (but just as important) non-academic skills. So what do we call them? Martin West, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggests “non-cognitive skills,” although he admits that is not entirely satisfactory. Broadly speaking, we could refer to this nebulous concept as “character.” In turn, character is determined by “soft skills” or “21st-century skills” or even “grit.”
An article about success on the NPR website discusses these and other terms. It wrestles with the various concepts. The final paragraph suggests that, “Maybe one day there will be a pithy acronym or portmanteau to wrap all these skills up with a bow. SES? SEL? N-COG? Gri-Grow-Sess?” Forget such cumbersome constructions. We have a simple answer. We call it “Montessori.”
The Key to Success
Maria Montessori realized that success in academics was just one factor for a student’s success in life. For her, education was a means to cultivate a successful human being. But our modern society has lost sight of that goal. Instead, success at education has become a goal in and of itself.
Montessori pioneered the development of character, personality, and leadership as integral to the education process. We see this philosophy in the day-to-day practices implemented in the Montessori classroom. For example, children are encouraged to explore the classroom environment, learning at their own pace. The curriculum is multidisciplinary, with cross-cutting concepts to motivate them to work from their own interest and abilities.
Student classes comprise cohorts of three-year age groups. The mixed ages allow the teacher, students, and parents to develop supportive and trusting relationships, while the students mentor and collaborate with others of varying ages. Numerous other strategies comprising the Montessori approach develop the character that contributes to one’s fulfillment as a human being.
“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man’s future. For what is the use of transmitting knowledge if the individual’s total development lags behind?”
~ Maria Montessori