A couple of weeks into the school year, this article will reach you right after two events that keep me grounded in the work that I do. These two dates on the calendar fill me with gratitude and passion about the work that our fantastic Post Oak teachers and staff do for the benefit of your wonderful children—Dr. Maria Montessori’s birthday (August 31) and the United Nations’ International Day of Peace (September 21).
Post Oak is first and foremost a Montessori environment, and each August 31 I am so grateful that Dr. Montessori was born and grateful for her work that gave Post Oak its roots. (Her life story is interesting and was recently featured on the Great Lives series, which includes input from Lynn Lawrence, executive director of the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). It is worth the 30-minute investment.) One hundred and twelve years ago, Dr. Montessori began her experiment to create a new experience for children. In the beginning, her main focus was the environment. Her starting point was to change the space and the atmosphere in which children lived and learned.
What most of you do not see in the weeks before the new school year begins is the immense care the staff puts into preparing the environment for your children. This is more than arranging things (although they spend plenty of time doing that). It is more than identifying and organizing curriculum. It is more than finalizing the class schedule. Each of them is also arranging their minds and hearts to get ready to build a community.
A great deal of their work is focused on this, and it begins with connecting the students to the work, the excitement of learning, and the wonder of the world. Connecting students to the work connects them to the environment. Connecting them to the environment connects them to each other—through the ritual of eating lunch or snack together, cleaning up their work getting it ready for the next person, writing a report together, holding a community meeting, planning a project, organizing a trip, engaging in community service as a team, or living together for five days on the Odyssey trip—the students know they are part of something bigger. They feel the interconnectedness of the group and know they are supported. That community connection is what makes them love coming to school; it frees them to invest their whole being in the learning process and allows them to see their contribution as a member of this society.
As Dr. Montessori continued her work, she began to see the human child transformed by the environment. She saw what others called “a new child,” and it gave her hope. Her life’s work was disrupted by two world wars, during which she watched nations try to destroy each other. These nations were run by adults who had lost their way and completely failed to see the interconnectedness of humanity. In her later years, as she watched the children in her schools continue to thrive in her children’s houses, she recognized that peace for the planet would only come through the children. Dr. Montessori spoke passionately about this and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice.
This brings me to the second event. At Post Oak, we use the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, or Peace Day, as we call it, to bring all the students from both campuses together to take our all-school photo and share our messages and wishes for peace. This year,Tropical Storm Imelda made us readjust this annual tradition, but in the meantime, we go about our everyday work here together as a community, celebrating our Post Oak environment and the students who will help us to create a better, more peaceful world.
But why should the children have all the fun? At Post Oak, we prepare the environment for you too. The first months of school are accompanied by a calendar full of opportunities to be a part of the Post Oak family to ensure that you are included. The community of a Post Oak classroom is key to the success of the children, but those environments depend on the interconnection of the community of Post Oak parents.
We encourage all of you to get involved, enjoy our community events, and put yourselves out there! This will enrich your experience and your child’s experience.