Alumni Spotlight: Mason Harrell

By shannon NEufeld, Communication Coordinator
From the September 10, 2010 edition of The Weekly POst

Mason Harrell.

Mason Harrell just began his junior year at Southern Methodist University. He is a talented tennis player majoring in business and advertising. But it’s not a stretch for him to remember back to his days in Mirani Smith’s Primary class.

“I could talk about Mirani for hours,” Mason reflected during an interview this summer. “It’s all good. I got a great start in her class. I didn’t always like it because she was firm, but she is an amazing teacher. She knows exactly what she has to do…And now she’s a great friend.”

Mason reminisced about the butterfly garden where Mirani would work with the children. That butterfly garden is still in use at Post Oak today, and the children now think it’s just as fun as Mason and others did. “I played some basketball with her, too,” said Mason. “On the playground—she would come out and play with us every now and then. It was when the Rockets were winning their championships and it was just fun for everyone.”

Mason started at Post Oak in Infant Community and attended through grade five. “I had a lot of fun with friends in every grade,” says Mason. “We always had fun together. Even though we were in class and focused on our work, we were around each other and were able to socialize. We had to get our work done, obviously, but I enjoyed being with them and being free to move around. It was nice.”

Mason out on the court.

When asked if he noticed a difference in his Montessori education compared to friends outside of school, he said there was one thing that is easy to notice: manners. He said he always felt confident in how to behave. “I was always confident when I went over to somebody’s house and asked for something. I knew exactly what to say, and I was always polite. I just had really good training I guess. I think it’s something that a lot of kids don’t get. I think there’s a difference because [at Post Oak] they teach you that from the very beginning.”

Parents occasionally worry that when their children leave Montessori school, they won’t be ready for school in a traditional setting. Mason said that was not the case for him when he went to Bellaire High School. “I was confident going in,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about grades or anything like that. They teach good time management here [at Post Oak] … Time management is something that I definitely learned from Montessori, especially as I got older.”

And Mason needed time management particularly when it came to incorporating sports into life. He started playing basketball at Post Oak with Mark Tucker (and with Mirani on occasion) and later started playing tennis at the same time. Eventually, he had to choose between them, and tennis won out. In addition to tennis, Mason tutored young Post Oak children in reading and writing during his senior year at Bellaire. Mason continues to play tennis at SMU.  

In comparing his educational experience in traditional school vs. Montessori school, Mason spoke about independent thinking. Mason said because Montessori students are able to explore freely, he feels that they probably learn more academically than in traditional schools. “I think it would be easier to learn [in Montessori] because you’re not as boxed in as you are in traditional schools,” he said. “You’re not just reading from a book and listening to the teacher all the time. You’re thinking about more. In high school [at Bellaire], we just read from books and it was much more boring. And if it’s boring, then you don’t want to learn it. If you have more freedom and a wider range of what you’re learning from, you’ll want to learn more. I think public school parents should be talking about that.”