Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Silicon Valley’s Innovation Secret: The Montessori Method

The Montessori Method: An Education For Creating Innovators
Kyle PearceJanuary 24, 2016
The Montessori Method may just be Silicon Valley’s best kept secret. The connections between the innovators who built Silicon Valley and Montessori education run deep.
I frequently hear people joking around about the “PayPal Mafia” and their remarkable influence in Silicon Valley (three former members of PayPal have become billionaires: Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, early Facebook venture capitalist Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn) but there may be a “Montessori Mafia” also, which Peter Sims argues in his excellent book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries.
It turns out that a lot of Silicon Valley’s brightest minds and most successful innovators have a Montessori education in common.  Here are just a few of the innovators that went through an early Montessori education:
Larry Page and Sergei Brin, the founders of Google were asked in a 2004 television interview with Barbara Walters if having parents who were college professors was a major factor behind their success. Instead, they credited their early Montessori education.  “We both went to Montessori school,” Mr. Page said, “and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently.”
What’s most remarkable about their success is that Google didn’t begin as a brilliant vision to make the world’s information accessible for everyone to search, but as a project to improve library searches at Stanford University. As Peter Sims points out referencing Montessori: “most highly creative achievers don’t begin with brilliant ideas, they discover them.” Page and Brin discovered that their initial idea of improved library search had broader application and eventually unlocked a revolutionary business model and an indispensable tool you probably use many times each day.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon went through Montessori as child and he has made experimentation and discovery an integral part of Amazon’s workplace culture. Bezos thanks his Montessori education for his enthusiasm for experimentation. Talking about the risks of the experimental innovation process he acknowledged that most of their projects fail, “But every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.”
Will Wright, the inventor of best-selling video games series “The Sims”, heaps similar praise on his Montessori education:  “Montessori taught me the joy of discovery, it’s all about learning on your own terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you.  SimCity comes right out of Montessori…”
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia went to a Montessori-influenced school and like many of today’s tech elite he sends his children to a Montessori school. As you can imagine, Montessori schools and similarly structured Waldorf schools are very popular in Silicon Valley.
Even Thomas Edison, the American inventor and in some ways the Godfather of modern America’s innovation culture (I recommend watching this biography The Wizard of Menlo Park)  founded his own Montessori School. He said, “I like the Montessori method. It teaches through play. It makes learning a pleasure. It follows the natural instincts of the human being . . . The present system casts the brain into a mold. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning.”
Other prominent people who went through Montessori education include singers Taylor Swift and Beyonce Knowles, renowned celloist Yo-Yo Ma, legendary management guru Peter Drucker, actor George Clooney, illusionist David Blaine, author Helen Keller, techno-philosopher Jason Silva and English royals Prince William and Prince Harry.
While Montessori education may not be ideal for everyone, it provides a great philosophical blueprint for anyone to follow to become more curious innovators. It teaches a process that is fundamental to innovation: that we must take action and start building things by taking small, achievable steps toward making our ideas happen. When we are following a deep sense of self-directed experimentation and inquisitiveness this leads us to create new things that may have value to society.   
A link to the balance of the article follows:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Reading the Same Book Over, and Over, and Over...

Reading out loud to children is a great way to share a love of books and learning. Children improve vocabulary, use their imagination, make connections to real life, and make memories of special time spent with a parent. But did you know that there are great benefits to reading a favorite story over and over again?

Children feel comforted by the familiar. They like familiar foods, routines, toys, and even books.This familiarity in a special book though builds a child's skills needed for reading. A parent models reading fluency, speed, and expression while reading and the more this is modeled, especially with the same book, the more a child tries to emulate this. Reading comprehension also grows with a familiar story, as a child practices anticipating what will come next and has discussions with a parent about what happened in the story. And finally, vocabulary is grown, as a child needs to hear a new word repeated a number of times before committing the word to memory. 

So, as difficult as it can be to read "Green Eggs and Ham" for the 300th time, just remember that your child benefits from each reading...and re-reading...and re-reading!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Value of Parent Teacher Communication

At Westmont we strive to keep ongoing and open dialogue between parents and teachers so parents can have up to date knowledge of their children’s school experiences.  We believe that communication between parent and school is vital to a positive home/school relationship.  After all, school is a home away from home for our students. 

 We also know that quite often the standard responses to “what did you do at school today?” include, “Nothing”, “I ate snack”, or “I played on the playground”.  The former we know is not true and the latter very important to every child.  We do see some parents every day and the teacher often has the opportunity to give a brief update on a child’s day or week.  Other parents do not make it to the school on a regular basis and our weekly Montessori Compass comments and photos online provide a welcome glimpse into a child’s day or week.  A simple login allows parents to see what activities their child engages in, and supporting photos help facilitate leading questions for them regarding what really occurs on a day-to-day basis.

Westmont offers formal parent teacher conferences three times a year and this week all teachers and parents are meeting to review each child’s year and subsequent development.  Although we do not test, or give homework, we do assess children and measure their development on an ongoing basis. Because our Montessori philosophy is developmentally responsive to each individual student and provides resources and time for each student to learn at his or her own pace, teachers must know their students. Montessori teachers therefore are trained in, and adept at, observing students.  Based on their observations, they plan for future activities to support each child’s individual skills and can address strengths and challenging areas.

The goal of this week’s meetings is to present the outcome of the year’s plans, observations, and assessments.  Teachers and parents can then reflect on all areas of development relating to each child, including growth observed in independence, confidence, social, motor and cognitive skills.
Research has shown that parent involvement in a child’s education is an important factor for a child’s future school success.  Shared feedback between teachers and parents will strengthen trust between home and school and enlighten parents as to what their children are really doing in school, which we know is a lot more than words here can express.

Colette B. Cross

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Our Children all Need Great Teachers Like You 
by Felicity Luckey



Our Children all Need Great Teachers Like You 
by Felicity Luckey
You once had a choice
And you chose to teach
And every day
It's our children you reach

You make the difference
In the life of each child
Those that are quiet
And those that are wild

It's the way that you teach
You do it so well
They look up to you
And think you are swell

You teach from your heart
That's plain to see
They think you're divine
And we all agree

Please never forget
And remember it's true
Our children all need
Great teachers like you

We appreciate you
And we value your time
And if you should forget
Please re-read this rhyme

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Public Speaking in Kindergarten

When you're five years old, the prospect of speaking to one adult, let alone a whole room of them, can be quite daunting. Providing children with the confidence to do so, however, is a skill that will provide the child with social skills that will serve him or her well for years.

At Westmont, we incorporate public speaking early and often, to build up to a kindergarten play in their final year with us. Children first learn to speak in front of their class during show-and-tell in their Early Childhood class. Then in kindergarten, they are given the opportunities to share projects they have created and read books to their class. We even have a small stage in the room so they can gain confidence as the center of attention. They also put together and perform a play, first for the children of the school, and then for the families of the school. To get the Early Childhood children ready for this big step we invite the EC children to sing along at the play as chorus members, sitting in chairs in front of the stage to ease them into this type of production and make them more comfortable with the concept when their performance day as a kindergartener arrives.

Instilling children with the confidence to stand on a stage and speak publicly is a skill that we hope children take with them when they leave Westmont. We want each child to believe they have something to contribute to the world and that their voice matters.