Field Notes #5: Generosity

by Pat Yonka

An example of generosity:  Two of La’Angum’s students from the elementary level came to Langbinsi bearing gifts: pigeons. Alice looked inside the bag and then gave the boys directions in Mampruli.  After they left she explained that the pigeons were alive and her instructions to the boys were to return after they had killed, gutted, and de-feathered these unfortunate birds. Had I seen them I probably would have become attached and, thus, unable to eat!

classroom1During our first workshop with the elementary level teachers I explained my reconstruction of the classroom in which we met. Instead of rows of tables with benches, all facing the front of the room, I organized the tables into configurations that encouraged work groups but allowed for open floor space for materials presentations as well as individual and group work. The benches were placed around the perimeter of the room. The Montessori materials were arranged on open shelves, all of which had been thoroughly cleaned prior to the workshop.

The workshop began with a comparison of Montessori education to traditional education. As most La”Angum teachers, college-educated, had experienced and replicated traditional methods – teacher at the front of a class with a pointer and a chalk board and students seated on benches at long tables, facing the teacher, my request that they gather on a rug on the floor with me was a bit of a surprise. Some chose to sit at a table but most joined me on the rug.

Then I discussed some of the key points of the Montessori approach to education: child-centered (Montessori’s charge to “follow the child” ), classes organized in age groups- 3 to 6, 6 to 9, and 9 to 12, “freedom within limits”- children may choose work that reflects their interests but  must show respect for the materials (exhibited by the care each child demonstrates when using them) and for each other and their teachers, and the dictum that 10% of what a student hears is remembered while 90% of what a student does is learned!

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