What I discovered at our school was something that we already knew: Although we are an urban-based public school within a district with issues mirroring the nation, we had little to no annual teacher turnover. Our students return to a stable school every year. During our focus group, we identified that our teaching and learning conditions are reasons why we stay in our classrooms. Although the Montessori philosophy and approach is based on fostering the developmental learning needs of children, it also provides direct, intentional support to the professional and emotional needs of teachers. Although historically viewed as a program reserved for the wealthy, Montessori has successfully entered into the public arena. It is a realistic option for schools seeking to make meaningful and sustainable change in the education of their students and the longevity of their teaching staff.
One focus group participant stated:
“The three-year cycle [of keeping the same students year over year] makes you feel more invested on a personal and professional level. I think it would be easier to break away if I knew I was only with the student for one year. With 3 year(s), I know [where] they are in the process and [what they will] need the next year. Also, we know we are developing them into who they will be as adult[s] so we want to make sure we do all we can.”
Other focus group participants agreed with that statement and added, “Our school is unique. There is a large investment in the Montessori way of teaching. You have a group of experts that can help in the classroom, who have gone through the Montessori [training].” Not every student and every teacher in Arizona has access to Montessori teaching and learning programs and conditions, but honoring the expertise of teachers and providing long term student-teacher relationships are elements that all schools can implement to support teacher retention without additional funding.
Public schools that are looking to compete with private institutions and charters may find a viable route to meeting the needs of their students and community by establishing a public Montessori program or by designing professional development built on Montessori principles within their district. Great places for administrators, teachers, and parents to start learning about Montessori in the public sector, the Montessori philosophy, and training are:
Fade to Black….#RedforED
Arizona teachers began school walkouts on 4/26/2018. Six days later, teachers emerged with a signed promise of a 20% pay increase by 2020. Those six days meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Either way, history was made and an opportunity was created that opened the door to allow teachers to play an influential role in what happens with education…IF we take it. What we do after is just as important as what happened during the move. Find a way to stay active that makes sense to you. Do your research. Prepare for upcoming elections and VOTE! Get creative as we identify solutions. When we feel intimidated and unsure about going beyond our comfort zones, let’s remember: If not now, when? If not you, who?
For an easy way to get involved in local legislature, check out:
photo credit: Bart van de Biezenvia
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