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Why We Are Post Oak Parents

A Montessori Moment: Laura Citardi

Published September 14, 2012 in The Weekly Post

Below is the speech presented by Post Oak Parents' Association Co-Chair Laura Citardi at the POPA Dinner on September 11, 2012.

Thank you, Jenny and Nikayla, and thanks for putting together such a fantastic and elegant evening for us. I’d like to welcome everyone here tonight, our wonderful teachers and staff, and of course all our parents. I want to extend a special welcome to all of our new parents, and this includes, for the first time, the parents of our very first Post Oak High School students! What a perfect way to start the new year, to see the dream become a reality.

It has been an honor and a privilege this past year to serve as your Post Oak Parent Association Co-Chair with Whitney Walsh. Whitney has been a dream to work with. She is so full of great ideas, is such an enthusiastic supporter of Post Oak and Montessori philosophy, she is a gifted public speaker, and most importantly, she is probably the nicest person I have ever met. Whitney and I are so excited to now have a third POPA Co-Chair this year, Jessica Gregg. She’s a great addition to the team and brings her many Post Oak leadership skills with her.... Jessica has been the Book Fair Chair twice, a room parent several times, and has volunteered in just about every event sponsored by the school. She’ll be well prepared to take over as the lead POPA Chair next year.

When my husband Martin and I decided to apply to Post Oak, we were living in Cleveland, Ohio and our children were only two and three years old. I was sold on a Montessori school mainly because my husband went to one when he was little and he told me what a profound and lasting effect it had on him. I thought, well, he turned out pretty good, so there must be something to it. We were moving to Houston, so I went online and searched for schools that would be in the area where we were going to live, and I found The Post Oak School. I thought, they have a nice website so they must be good! (Thank you, Lana Rigsby.) I was so naïve about the competitive school situation here in Houston, but I started to wonder when we were told that Martin would have to come in for an interview before they would even give him an application. Fortunately he passed and fortunately our kids got in. It didn’t take me too long to figure out though, that I had stumbled onto something so much bigger than I had ever expected. There is not a day that goes by that I am not thankful that my children are being educated in such an exceptional environment.

I have no doubt that they are not only getting the best education academically, but that they are doing so in an environment that inspires them to be comfortable with who they are, to respect and appreciate our differences, to reach for their full potential by working independently and in cooperation with others, and to think outside and beyond “the box”.

I think that belief in the “something above and beyond” is the essence of what binds us together, and why there is a different attitude at Post Oak. We are all here, taking this leap of faith together, in the belief that our children are getting something extra special besides a great education, something that is more intangible and harder to measure, something that they will be able to take through their lives, to make them stable, secure, and productive adults.

We see it in the way they confidently conduct themselves with other children.

We feel it when we talk to other parents.

We see it in their budding entrepreneurship and creativity, like when my children spent two days this summer at Grandma and Grandpa’s house making an origami product line and setting up “The All Store” in my old bedroom. (They gave us a discount.)

We see it when we read about Post Oak alumni or hear them speak, for example at Alumni Night or later this evening, and the way they conduct themselves in such a mature, confident way, something that I’m sure some of us didn’t achieve until much later.

We feel it when we hear about all of the “Montessori Moments” which we all love to share.

This is why we are Post Oak Parents.

I’d like to share one last story with you. My point is not to criticize another school or teacher, but to illustrate the Montessori difference. I call this a “What Should Have Been a Montessori Moment.”

A good friend of mine in St. Louis has a darling little boy named Chris who aspires to be the next Steven Spielberg. He has been acting and singing since he was very small and is fascinated with movies and movie scripts.

When her little boy was in second grade, his teacher called my friend and was very upset with her son’s behavior. The teacher told her that he was not doing his work correctly, he wouldn’t finish his work, and that all of the other students had finished their assignment in a timely manner and had moved on to other work. She insisted that my friend come in for a special conference. Of course my friend was very alarmed and couldn’t imagine what was going on. She met with the teacher who explained that all the children were given a creative writing assignment and the other students had no trouble at all finishing it. She showed her some examples of the other students’ work, which ended up being two or three nice pages of work. My friend told the teacher that she didn’t understand, her son should have had no problem at all finishing such a simple assignment. So the teacher showed her what she was so upset about. Chris’ “unfinished” work . . . it was a 60 page, single-spaced movie script titled “The Birdinator,” which apparently was about a giant superhero bird.

Something similar happened in my daughter’s class last year, but had quite a different ending. Little Lucia, also in second grade at the time, was so impressed with the King Tut exhibit at the Art Museum after going there on a field trip, decided to write a play about ancient Egypt. She spent weeks writing the play after she had finished her homework each night. When it was ready, she brought it to class, discussed her play with the students, and was apparently assigning parts to her classmates when Maya Pinto noticed all of the clandestine activity. She asked what was going on and was told by the students that Lucia had written a play and they were all going to be in it. Wow, this was music to Mrs. Pinto’s ears. She embraced Lucia’s work enthusiastically, helped Lucia edit the play and assign parts to each student, and created costumes. And for Mother’s Day last spring, the moms in Maya Pinto’s class were treated to an outstanding performance by the entire class. We were blown away as usual.

And this is the Post Oak Montessori difference. Thank you and have a wonderful evening!