Disclosure: This post was written and sponsored by Montessori School of New Orleans.
How Montessori Middle Schools Honor and Empower Adolescents
“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.”
Dr. Maria Montessori | Education for a New World
Who Do I Want To Be?
When I tell people I work with middle schoolers, they typically respond with something sarcastic like, “I’m so sorry!” or “I’m terrified of my kids getting to that age!” If they hang around to ask me why I like this age group so much, I explain that middle schoolers are figuring out who they want to be. They’re developing political opinions; they are fiercely passionate about justice; they are creative and have the capacity for incredible things. This is the season of life where kids are deciding: Am I smart? Am I important? Do I fit in? Are my ideas worthy of sharing?
Where Do I Fit In?
Traditionally, middle school programs in New Orleans are included at the end of elementary school, or perhaps the start of a high school program. The Montessori School of New Orleans is a program that focuses solely on adolescence, as young people are learning how they fit into the world. Many parents are familiar with Montessori preschool programs, where children choose their work and learn from multi-sensory materials. While the philosophy is the same in subsequent grades, Montessori middle schools are structured in specific ways to honor and empower adolescents.
What Makes a Montessori Middle School Program Unique?
- A supportive, democratic community: Daily community meetings serve as a space for students to make decisions cooperatively, share what is going on in their lives, and solve problems big and small.
- Outdoor education: Whether students are using the local ecosystem for stem activities, taking a trip out of state, or just learning to practice mindfulness under a tree, nature is an extension of the Montessori classroom.
- Service Learning: More than just showing up to do service hours, Montessori middle schoolers spend time in their community, building relationships and addressing the needs of others.
- Parent education: Through book clubs, speakers, and supportive dialogue, MSNO works with parents as a team.
- Multi-age classroom: Multiple grade levels learn in one community, allowing for students to progress at their own pace. Students serve as mentors and leaders.
- Classroom environment: Designed to encourage curiosity, independence, and freedom of movement, environments respond to the developmental needs of the middle school student.
- Non-traditional scheduling: Students have blocks of 2-3 hours every day to do independent work, fostering focus and executive functioning skills. Students work at their own pace in a flexible, homelike environment.
- Thematic Curriculum: Montessori middle school teachers teach all subjects through unifying themes, with a focus on finding patterns and critically analyzing information.
- Personal Reflection: Through daily mindfulness and introspection, adolescents develop a healthy self-image and learn how to cope with challenges.
What About High School?
The Montessori middle school curriculum is a rigorous, high school preparatory curriculum, used throughout the country. Our team has helped hundreds of students successfully matriculate to high school of their choice. Montessori middle school graduates are thriving in public, charter, and private high schools.
Choosing a school community is one of the most important decisions a parent can make, and we would love the opportunity to talk to individuals interested in learning more about the Montessori School of New Orleans. Please visit the website, nolamontessori.org, or email us at [email protected] to schedule a phone call or coffee date to learn more.
Would you like to learn more? Our Open House will be held at Revelator Coffee, on March 18th, located in the American Can shops at 3700 Orleans Avenue starting at 6:30 PM. We hope to see you there!
About the Author
Rachel Cole is a Montessori educator whose passion is middle school. As a young teacher in New Orleans, Rachel quickly realized she was eager to find a model of education that would empower and honor the spirit of her students. This search led her to Montessori. Rachel taught at the Montessori School of Fort Worth, where she established a brand new middle school program. In addition to learning their core subjects, her students spent time starting their own businesses, serving local refugee families, hiking in Jackson Hole, farming in Arkansas, and exploring passions ranging from Mandarin Chinese to meditation to knitting. Rachel is a systems thinker with a natural ability to create a responsive and welcoming school culture. Rachel served as an administrator and instructional coach at Audubon Charter, overseeing grades six through eight. There she lead a team of ten adults and 150 students, redesigning the middle school program to implement Montessori practices in a public setting. Originally from Princeton, NJ, Rachel is a first generation college student, graduating cum laude from Tulane with a BA in English Literature. Rachel received her Montessori certification from Houston Montessori Center, and went on to earn her M.Ed in Montessori Integrative Learning. Rachel resides in Gentilly with her husband and two kittens. In her free time, Rachel can be found reading in a coffee shop or running in City Park.