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Tag: Montessori Community School SLC Utah

The Society by Cohesion: Why Did We Have To Have All These Kids, Anyway?

Below you will find a beautifully written article, written by Montessori advocate and author Catherine McTamaney, about how a Montessori classroom functions.  She so concisely sums up some of the most basic and important tenants of a Montessori classroom (including why there are so many kids in a classroom) to describe their place in our environment and, most importantly, their outcome!


Glance through some school brochures. You’ll notice quite a bit of language in common: whole child, child-centered, low student-teacher ratios, individualized attention. If so many school settings agree that fewer children per teacher is something to brag about, why are Montessori classrooms so large?


Remember the basic design principles of a Montessori classroom: multiage classrooms, specialized materials and extended time to explore them, professionally-prepared teachers and individualized curricula to match each child.

The curriculum not only complements the first three factors size: it relies on it. Because Montessori classrooms are multi-aged, with specialized materials and professionally-prepared teachers, the curricula can be truly individualized to the child.

The multi-aged classroom allows children to look to and rely on each other to get their needs met independently of an adult. Older children can offer guidance and direction to younger children. Younger children can provide practice and new questions to their older peers. Children across the age spectrum develop independent skills, learning to rely on the tools they have available to them and coming, through practice, to regulate their choices on their own. Children’s natural curiosity and intrinsic motivation to learn are protected when their reliance on adults is limited. There’s simply no space for helicopter adults in a classroom with so many children. Instead, children learn to look to each other or to find their own agency in solving problems, what Montessori called, “The Society by Cohesion.”

The materials, too, help to support the individualized development of each child. Because each lesson is self-correcting, learners need not wait for a teacher to “check their work,” or look to an adult to know whether they’ve mastered a concept. The ability to assess their own learning is fostered by the design of the materials. Meanwhile, their resilience to struggle through challenges also grows, as children work to make sure the box lid closes or to integrate the extra pieces left over while they’re first practicing new lessons. Adults are able to serve the role of facilitator instead of assessor, supporting children’s mastery of the material without devoted hours to checking their work. When materials require an adult’s expertise to “know if they got it right,” the group size necessarily has to be small enough for the adult to assess each child. Self-correcting materials mean that Montessori teachers spend most of their time observing individual children to make sure the materials available are precisely the ones they need and preparing the classrooms that best serve those needs, rather than allotting time every day to respond to children’s work as a human answer-key.

The three-hour work cycle, too, allows for a more individualized curriculum. Learners don’t have to segment their interest into predetermined content areas. They can read whenever they choose, not just during the fifty minutes or so allowed for “Reading” on a traditional classroom’s daily schedule. Extended time means children can spend as much time as they want working on the lessons that motivate them most, delving more deeply into content that’s challenging for them and having sufficient time to figure it out. The extended work cycle also allows teachers to offer lessons to multiple children over the course of a day. A shorter window of time would require fewer children, because the teacher would need to make sure each one had mastered the content she intended for that day before moving on.

None of this could happen without professionally-prepared teachers who know how to observe children, who know their materials well enough to know when to provide them, and who know children’s development well enough to make the connections between what they see and what they prepare. Understanding that the child must know how to learn and not just how to listen, Montessori teachers don’t choose a particular subject area to master; instead, they are generalists among all the areas of the curriculum, and focus their mastery on child development across the social, emotional, intellectual, academic and physical domains. Montessori teachers are not conduits of a prepackaged curriculum. Instead, they serve as scientists in the classroom. Their area of research is the individualized development of each child in the room, prepared for within a context of a larger understanding of children in general and developed to respond to the distinct development of each specific child.

While a Montessori classroom with twenty-four children and two adults in it may have a 12:1 ratio, in practice, they’re 1:1. Children are either working directly with a teacher, one at a time, or they are pursuing their own individual interests and meeting their own individual needs. A teacher’s attention isn’t given in 1/24 servings to each child, but in its entirety to one child at a time. As one teacher is focused without distraction on any one child, the other teacher is available as a resource to the rest of the classroom. The balance results in environments that serve larger groups of children with more individual attention than would be possible in a classroom in which we expected every child to be doing the same thing all day long. The systems of the Montessori classroom support the diversity of learning authentically expressed by individual children who are each unique contributors, no matter how many there are.

August 13, 2018
Catherine McTamaney

Townhall 2019

In our ongoing efforts to provide a safe, nurturing and inclusive environment for the entire MCS community we have welcomed the recent questions and input from parents on school policies, procedures and administrative practices. The subsequent discussion surrounding vaccinations, infectious diseases, and best practices has yielded much food for thought. This work, in collaboration with interested stakeholders, has helped shape our priorities and inform the revision of policy as well as the creation of targeted interventions that will help keep our students, families and staff healthy and happy.

We invite all MCS Stakeholders to join us for a Townhall this coming Tuesday, October 15 @ 6:00pm in the MCS Gym. The Townhall is intended to inform and engage stakeholders.  We invite you to review the below information in preparation for the Town Hall. We also invite you to participate in a poll that will be sent out following the Townhall.

  • Below you will find three options, two of which would reflect a change to our policy. Please note that a poll will be sent following the Townhall so that our stakeholders have the opportunity to weigh in on which policy they most support.

Option 1 (Current): An up-to-date immunization record or an exemption form must be on file for each child by the child’s first day of attendance at the school. A student is exempt from the requirement to receive a vaccine if the student qualifies for a medical, religious or personal exemption. Documentation of an exemption must be provided to the school upon enrollment. Your child will not be able to attend school until we receive the appropriate documentation.

Option 2:  We accept medical exemptions. We do not accept exemptions for personal or religious beliefs. We recognize an individual’s right to choose and we respect religious beliefs. This policy reflects our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our students, staff and their families.

Option 3:  Exemptions for personal or religious beliefs will be evaluated on a case by case basis. The health and safety of our community is a responsibility we take very seriously. Approved exemptions will be re-evaluated if a member of the student or staff member becomes immunocompromised or if there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in Utah.

*Regardless of the policy chosen, current students or staff with an exemption will be grandfathered in to our program. 

  • Our policy for staff immunization is under review.
  • In preparation for submitting our Annual Immunization Assessment Report our audit of  student records has revealed that we currently have 1.4% of our total enrollment with a status of personal exemption.   This is a revised number from our previous findings. Parents with children in the classrooms of students with personal exemptions have been notified via email.
  • One targeted intervention of recent Committee Meetings held with some MCS parents and staff is implementation of a new policy, Infection Control Protocol, which will be added to our Parent and Staff Handbooks and implemented immediately:

Contagious disease and infection can spread rapidly in the school setting. This can have a wide-spread impact on our school community; affecting students, families and staff.  When there is good cause to believe circumstances warrant it, the school may implement higher than normal health and safety protocol to limit the transmission of the disease or infection.  

In such cases, our administration will consult with a Health and Safety Advisory Committee, which consists of MCS parents who are medical professionals, MCS staff/teachers,  and other volunteer parents. This advisory committee will help the school administration determine appropriate measures to implement for a short time to safeguard the health or safety of our community.  Enactment of an Infection Control Protocol would be communicated via our school wide emergency notification system. The details of the specific measures being implemented will be dependant upon the nature of the illness.

  • Some MCS parents have already been invited to participate on the Health and Safety Advisory Committee. Along with advising MCS administration in regards to best practices for minimizing the spread of infectious illness, this committee will be invited to otherwise educate our community of best practices in regards to health and safety (example: writing educational blog posts, presenting at Parent Education events, etc.)  If you are interested in participating, please indicate so on the poll sent following the Townhall.
  • Ramira Alamilla, our Director of Admissions and Accreditation, will be reporting on updates about our Accreditation Process during the Townhall.  Ramira will introduce our intention for creating a Strategic Plan Council and will summarize our findings from the self-study so far. A summary of the self-study can be read in detail here. We thank those who have contributed to this process to date and look forward to the participation of our stakeholders as we move forward in the accreditation process and as we set goals for the school’s improvement in the futur