I know I’ve spoken of the array of Montessori experiences in a variety of settings before. If my time in Montessori these 30+ years is anything, it has been revelatory in the knowledge that this pedagogy thrives in such a wide spectrum of environments. A hardy plant that grows where planted indeed. Rural, urban, affluent, struggling, religiously-based, humanistic-themed. That I have been afforded opportunities to teach in an airport hangar classroom in Haiti, a public school program in Seoul, a Christian-themed school in Indonesia, with a Muslim-owned Montessori materials company in the States, a village-school in Ghana, etc…. is such a gift. And this Fall, a conservative Judaic-based school in Maryland.
In a small town just west of Baltimore is a small but growing Montessori school named Darchei Noam, which translates literally as “pathways of pleasantness”. This academic year, two new elementary classrooms have been launched by Head of School, Brocha Baum. To say Brocha is a dynamo, a mere creator of energy, is to undersell the term. She creates, harnesses, takes on too much, and gets it done anyway. Have you encountered these people before in your lives? Cindy Swenson with Project Okurase, Ladene Conroy in Charleston come to mind. Montessorians that are tireless in their efforts towards a constantly evolving and expanding goal. Anyway, after a summer session of teacher-training, we’re a few webinars into the school year, and it feels like I’m reading, for me, a new chapter in Montessori. The differences are not small. The classrooms are gender segregated, a boys class of 18 and a girls class of 14. Judaic studies is an additional component of the curriculum. In February, I’ll be able to observe the classrooms in action, and I’m really looking forward to the experience. But the discussions with the teachers echo a hundred conversations I’ve had with new teachers over the years. “How do I engage the children in new work?” “What do I do with a child that won’t settle during the work period?” “How many presentations should I be giving a day?”
I’m confident this program will succeed. The teachers are “on board” with the pedagogy and with the mission of the school. And besides, Brocha will not allow anything less!