Montessori environments are still today, after a century of practice, misunderstood. The perception is still erroneously of a school for ‘hippy’ children, a place for students with learning difficulties or indeed gifted and often considered an education where children are free to do what they want without adult guidance.
To clarify some misconceptions, we will try to elaborate on how we support our gifted students.
The Caboolture Montessori School is the home to children from diverse backgrounds and abilities; it is a learning space with strong academic rigour. We have students with exceedingly diverse and impressive aptitudes. Identification of a gifted student is not always easy. Gifted students can demonstrate significant competence in areas of social adaptation, physical ability, creative skills or academic understanding. These students can also be disruptive, struggle with social cues and not perform to their abilities.
The question if these students suit the Montessori environment is often asked. It is well known that Dr Montessori started her approach to learning with children that were ‘deficient’; children that were considered less capable that peers in traditional educational setting. Her methodology however was not designed for a specific level of student ability. Her studies in human development, lead her to design an environment that would meet specific developmental stages and not for just exceptional students from both ends of the learning spectrum.
The gifted students at the Caboolture Montessori School are not differentiated in a way that sets them out to be different from their peers; differentiation is the norm for what is expected for each child in our environment. Academic expectations are defined by the student and their needs. Adult Guides/Directors assess student capability and provide activities that will enhance their growth both laterally and vertically within the curriculum and student interests.
Generally gifted students are able to apply learned knowledge to diverse areas of learning. This capability suits our didactic approach. CMS runs an integrated curriculum and provides opportunities for students to expand their integrated learning. Gifted students work with students with similar abilities, and not necessarily with peers of same age or class. The environment is modified to meet the student needs and not vice versa.
Managing gifted students is very rewarding, even if at times not simple. Preparation of the adult is critical. Having spaces that endorse and augment student needs, facilitate student’s decision making and independent learning is vital. Ultimately the best way for a student to operate is to become totally independent in their thinking and problem solving, so they are able to identify ways to source information and progress their learning.
Montessori schools are learning settings, where academic achievement is sought. We encourage personal growth as much as academic performance. We want students to reach their potential, continue exploring the world around them and develop own high expectations through intrinsic motivation.
Caboolture Montessori School