I remember making three dimensional maps of the country with flour dough. I remember using beans, seeds and sticks to learn math. I built a fort out of a refrigerator to encompass my desk as part of a lesson about the rainforest.
I am the product of a public school education. I went to four different public schools by the time I was in third grade. And I did very well in those public school classes.
I talked too much and was a bit dramatic – one of my kindergarten teachers said she couldn’t wait to see me on the “big screen” when I grew up. I was one of those creative weirdos who would probably have “benefited” from an “alternative” education. I use both of these in quotes because just as I would have likely benefited from an alternative education, I also learned and grew from the standard, run-of-the-mill public school education.
And that was a considerable amount of years ago. Education has changed. Yes, since that time “No Child Left Behind” appeared and disappeared, followed by the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” But standardized tests were still a thing when I was a runt, and if anything, public classrooms have changed for the better as teaching practices have evolved.
My point to all of this is that the OISD is considering eliminating the Montessori program because its only teacher is retiring and there is a perception that a Montessori classroom is “exclusive” and better than other classrooms, which damages both staff morale and student dynamics, decreases collaboration between teachers and affects the size of other classrooms. There has been uproar from some parents who now won’t be able to provide their children with a Montessori education past a certain grade, as the only private Montessori school ends at kindergarten.
The merits of having a variety of educational opportunities are inarguable, and Orcas has many – the public school, OASIS, the Orcas Christian School and Salmonberry School – particularly for a community of its size. And the private schools all offer scholarships at a variety of levels.
If the public school’s Montessori program is eliminated, the school should take the opportunity to harness the methods that make Montessori appealing and incorporate them into its classes. The Orcas Island School District is consistently ranked as one of the top schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
The teachers are on the front lines, so to speak, of education. They are intimately aware of each student’s unique learning capabilities and styles. There are numerous methods these teachers study constantly, learning new ways to help each of their children to exceed. I heard the teachers of the public school say that they want to take the best parts of every theory they learn and combine them into something they can utilize to teach every student.
Every single child in the public school system – and in fact, the private school system – should have access to the same education as their peers regardless of socioeconomic, learning style and amount of parental support.