The Special Ingredients

The Special Ingredients
Maura Joyce, Head of School
two elementary students work with their teacher in a Montessori classroom

This fall we were able to start free of Covid-19 restrictions. In addition to students and staff enjoying more of the activities and rituals that social distancing prevented, the halls at both campuses were filled with visitors. Whether it is prospective families visiting for the first time, current parents observing in classrooms, or the large group of grandparents and special friends on our campuses just before Thanksgiving, visiting Post Oak and a Montessori school is a bit different than conventional schools.

The magic at Post Oak is in the everyday activity of the students and their teachers inside the classrooms. The magic at Post Oak is watching the hum and flow of a couple of dozen children working, collaborating, sharing, and playing like a choreographed dance. It is students helping other students and children proudly showing their work to each other that highlights what we are all about.

When you step foot into The Post Oak School, you notice something very specific is going on. If your knowledge and experience are with more conventional education, there are four differences that you are going to see in a Montessori classroom.

Environment

The classrooms you enter have been curated and prepared, set up and maintained to a level of precision and care that is unmatched in all of education. Everything in the classroom is there for the activity of the children. Every table and chair has been selected to the right height of the children. Every item is there for the use of the children. You will see materials for learning math and science and language and history, but you will also see sinks, glasses, plates, napkins, brooms, and dust rags, just as you would at home because this is the children’s house. This is their second home. They live here for hours during the day and care for it as if it were their own.

Active Learning

The second thing that you will see is active learning. Growing up, I went to a traditional school. Each class had a set time. The teacher was the one to start the lesson (turn to page 41—learning starts now) and end the lesson (you can close your books now; you can stop learning now).

Here at Post Oak, you will see something different. Students dive into an activity of their choice. Students use their hands and fingers to manipulate materials, explore and discover; they talk and collaborate and really concentrate on the task at hand. They get to work with an activity until they master it and are able to show another child in the classroom that same lesson. Students take ownership of their education, they are invested in their learning, and all that activity makes school fun. And shouldn’t school be fun?

Educating for their future

Another difference is that we are educating them for their future, not our past. The world has changed so very much since you and I were in school, and it continues to change. There have been mixed reviews on our ability to predict how the world will change and what the future will look like. When I was a child, the prediction was flying cars and jet packs, but I don’t remember anyone talking about something called the internet. The truth is we don’t know all the challenges and opportunities the children at Post Oak today are going to face. And if we don’t know, how do we determine what is important for them to learn? That’s next.

Learning how to learn

The last difference is what I call the biggest gift of a Post Oak education: our students are learning how to learn. Our students are working with their hands and their minds, making choices, finding success, experiencing failure, trying something new, challenging themselves, asking for help, collaborating with others, and learning how to learn. They will face the future with the skills of adaptability, resilience, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and tenacity. They will be ready, capable, and self-confident.

Putting it all together

These four differences are the special ingredients that make Post Oak unique: our community. Our students know what it means to be a citizen of the classroom, a member of our family, a good human. Maria Montessori engaged in this work of education specifically for peace. She was even nominated for a Nobel Peace prize. Our students experience what really brings about peace: thousands and thousands of tiny acts of kindness. Recognition of the beauty and goodness in each person, reaching out with empathy, and calling out moments of joy bring us closer, help us all to understand we are one human species, and give us faith in each other.

However you celebrate or spend the winter break, I hope it will be peaceful.

—Maura

PS  Don’t forget to RSVP for our annual Alumni Voices event in January to hear firsthand from our alums about their experiences in college and life after Post Oak.

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