Each year faculty and staff nominate a fellow employee to offer the Inspiramus at the start of the next new school year. The Inspiramus is designed to provide inspiration and encouragement as the school community prepares to welcome back MSR's students and families. This year's Inspiramus was delivered by Babe Clawson, Lower Elementary Directress (LE4). In her own words...
Hi, for those of you that don’t know me, my name is Babe Clawson and I want to welcome everyone to the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year here at The Montessori School of Raleigh. This marks the beginning of my thirtieth year at MSR, so to say I love this school is an understatement.
For those of you that are new, I hope that you will find, as I have, that MSR is a warm, supportive community that helps you grow as an individual and as a professional. To my returning colleagues, I am honored to be welcoming you back once again. The friendships we have built over the years have truly shaped my life and the lives of countless children.
We have a daunting task in front of us. I would argue that it is the most important task in the world: educating the future generations.
This summer I read the book, The World Becomes What We Teach, by Zoe Weil. In it she outlines the need for systematic changes in education in order to prepare young people to be what she calls “solutionaries.” She defines that as someone who:
● believes problems can be solved,
● invites the perspectives of others,
● recognizes that problems don’t exist in isolation,
● seeks collaboration, and
● looks for ways to ensure that no people, animals or ecosystems are harmed by their solutions.
As a Montessori and IB school, we are so much more fortunate than our colleagues in conventional education in that we don’t have to rethink our whole educational system because we already have the educational pedagogy: we need to create these solutionaries for the future.
Dr. Montessori was a visionary in her own time, more than one hundred years ago, changing the way that we approach education and the way children can learn.
In Education for a New World, Montessori said: “Education should no longer be mostly imparting of knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentialities.”
In The Discovery of the Child, Montessori said, “Times have changed, and science has made great progress, and so has our work; but our principles have only been confirmed, and along with them our conviction that mankind can hope for a solution to its problems, among which the most urgent are those of peace and unity, only by turning its attention and energies to the discovery of the child and to the development of the great potentialities of the human personality in the course of its formation.”
What we do, every day, in our work with children, shapes them into the unique people that will go out into the world. Beginning with our work with infants and going all the way through until our students leave us as young adults, we guide and enable their self-creation through exploration and carefully prepared environments that meet their needs at each stage of their development.
In the Infant, Toddler, and Children’s House classes, our students are given the freedom to do things for themselves. It is through this independent activity, and the development of concentration, that they develop a sense of order, discipline, and self-control. They learn grace and courtesy, to respect the choices of others, and see how their actions affect the environment and the others within it. These are keys that set our students apart, even at such a young age.
In the elementary years, we continue to encourage this independent work as students learn to balance freedom and responsibility while they also widen their perspective so that their sense of community grows to include everything in the Universe through what Montessori called “Cosmic Education.”
In the book Children of the Universe, Micheal and D’Neil Duffy discuss the fact that in today’s society most people are preoccupied with themselves. This includes businesses and governments who promote their own interests at the expense of the environment and less fortunate countries. They explain that the only way to change that is for people to open their hearts to others and that can only happen through an education that proclaims to children in their most impressionable years that the Universe is a web of relationships. They go on to say that if we are to survive, self-interest must give way to the common good, over consumption must fade into moderation, and businesses and governments must operate with universal rather than with self-serving principles.
Montessori’s vision of Cosmic Education helps the child to understand and appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and to appreciate the contributions that each element, plant, animal, and person has made to the world we know of today. Through continuous exploration of organisms, ecosystems, history, science, geography, and cultures, children begin to appreciate the harmony that is created when things work together.
In The Absorbent Mind, Montessori said, “So in the child, besides the vital impulse to create himself, and to become perfect, there must be yet another purpose, a duty to fulfill in harmony with the Universe, something he has to do in the service of a united whole.” This is our ultimate task: to lead the child to discover his own cosmic task and how he will impact the world.
In our Middle and Upper Schools, students have the opportunity to realize they are strong, worthy, and capable of effort. We give them opportunities to exhibit creativity, to problem solve, to take responsibility, and to claim independence. The IB Diploma program continues the interdisciplinary approach to learning begun in the elementary years, helping students to appreciate different cultures and be open to the perception, values, and traditions of other people. It encourages students to be creative and imaginative while dealing with everyday problems and dilemmas. Students are taught to think conceptually which allows them to apply their knowledge to various situations. With these preparations, our students can begin to reflect on all they have learned and ponder how they might positively contribute to society and the betterment of our world.
In Education and Peace, Montessori said, “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.”
As Montessori and IB educators we must keep these big-picture ideas in mind so that we don’t get bogged down in the everyday details of lessons and curriculum. More important than any particular academic skill our students will learn, is for them to develop a love of learning that enables them to explore, question, problem solve, and create, while focused on real-world issues and problems. This is how we help them to become the solutionaries of the future.
As I said in the beginning this is a formidable task. We have a huge responsibility because it is up to us to guide the students that Montessori called the “hope and promise of mankind.” Montessori herself, recognized the magnitude of this work, and said in Education for a New World, “An ordinary teacher cannot be transformed into a Montessori teacher, but must be created anew, having rid herself of pedagogical prejudices. The first step is self-preparation of the imagination, for the Montessori teacher has to visualize a child who is not yet there, materially speaking, and must have faith in the child who will reveal himself through work.”
We know that our beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes influence the way we relate to children. What we tell children, and even what we teach them, makes less of an impression than how we act, how we treat others around us, both adults and children alike. They pick up on everything we do and say, so we must ask ourselves:
● Are we modeling the care and respect we want to see in them?
● What implicit biases do we need to understand so that we can truly see not only the child before us, but all of her potentialities that have yet to be realized?
● How will we develop our relationships with the children and with each other, through humility, grace, understanding and patience?
At this point you may be thinking, “How am I ever going to be able to accomplish all of this and shoulder this enormous responsibility?” The answer is, we do it together. The old adage of “it takes a village” still rings true today. We have to lean on each other and be ready to support one another.
It will not be easy, and there will be many times we will falter and want to give up. At those times we have to reach out to those around us and ask for help. We cannot do this work alone.
In The Absorbent Mind, Montessori said, “Mistakes bring us closer and make us better friends. Fraternity is born more easily on the road of error than on that of perfection.”
We also have to care for ourselves. We cannot bring peace and love to the children if we do not have peace and love for ourselves. We have to find ways to fill our buckets and renew ourselves so that we can carry on. For me it was immersing myself in Montessori’s own work in preparation for this speech that has renewed my spirit. Sometimes going back to revisit the reasons why we are here and doing what we do every day, helps us to see that bigger picture and feel purposeful in our role. You will have your own ways of renewing your spirit and keeping your passion ignited but whatever those are, I encourage you to find them and dedicate time to those practices.
As we know, the last few years have been even more difficult than anything we have experienced before, and many teachers are leaving the profession. How can we create a community of support together that lifts everyone up during the challenges ahead? We will not be perfect, and we need to accept that, but our shared mission, vision, and values can help to carry us through.
Respect, integrity, community, and love of learning. If we can begin each day with those four things in mind, doing our best to infuse each of our interactions with children, and with each other, with grace and courtesy, together we can accomplish the awesome task before us.
I have had the unique opportunity to work as both a faculty member and an administrator at this school and I can honestly say that across the board I see how hard everyone works with the students in mind. To be a truly exceptional school we have to act as one team, putting aside our own biases of our position, level, campus, etc., and listen to one another, learn from one another, and support each other.
Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I know that this group has what it takes and together we can accomplish the task of creating the world we want to see through the solutionaries that come out of The Montessori School of Raleigh. I wish each of you all the best for the coming school year. Onward!