Three boys appeared in the door of my office, yesterday.

Boy 1: “We’re not in trouble. Our teacher sent us to ask if you could help us work out a problem that came up at recess.”

I excused myself from the finance meeting, Read More…

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Children Want Social Responsibility

by Rick on September 25, 2014

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”

–Albert Einstein

Yesterday at 8:26AM, I stepped away from my job of shaking hands and greeting incoming students at the front door of the school to talk to a student in the hallway. When I returned to my post one minute later I found Isabel and Isabella, two fifth-graders, standing where I had been standing, shaking hands, smiling and saying good morning to the students as they came into school. Read More…

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Metrics in Education

by Rick on September 18, 2014

Measure What Matters

 Yesterday Jasmine (grade six) and Aymani (grade 4) were sitting together editing each other’s papers. Shelby (grade six), who was sitting nearby overheard them wrestling with the problem of how to indicate to each other the things that needed fixing. She said, “There were signs you can use.” Read More…

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What are the Drivers of Success?

by Rick on September 11, 2014

“Find something you love to do more than you love yourself.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert

What are the drivers of success? The first thing we think of is abilities and disabilities, but that’s what matters least.

ellen swallow richards accomplishments - Google Search-1In 1842, when Ellen Swallow was born, girls weren’t expected to have careers and they certainly weren’t expected to become scientists. Change can be slow, but Ellen Swallow helped speed it up by opening doors for women. Read More…


Happy Birthday Maria Montessori

by Rick on September 1, 2014

Maria Montessori was born 134 years ago yesterday. Although her research with children has been replicated again and again in the last century, and although her discoveries have been born out in photosuccessful practice all over the world (there are about 20,000 Montessori schools in the world today), and although these discoveries constitute the core of the meaning of the word “education,” Montessori education is still considered “alternative” education. Why?

In the last two weeks at Golden Oak Montessori, I have seen the children at work and play. Read More…

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Years ago in some online comment Janet Lansbury wrote:

“I was encouraged by a mentor, infant specialist Magda Gerber, to view babies as whole people from the get-go, not my projects, not reflections or extensions of me. Their emergent personalities never felt like my responsibility.”

That babies are whole people is actually a revolutionary idea and one that I hope takes hold in the hearts and minds of all those who care about children and their education.

UnknownThis concept is built into Montessori education. Children are not incomplete adults who need to acquire academic skills and moral behavior in order to be fully human. Rather they are born wired to communicate, connect, create and contribute and then like the rest of us spend the rest of their lives defining themselves to the environment they find themselves in. Read More…

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Telling the Truth is Tricky

by Rick on August 23, 2014

“Mark’s mother keeps harassing me about his academics,” said third-grade-teacher Dara. “I keep telling her that he is doing very well, but she doesn’t believe it. She thinks I don’t have high enough standards. Yesterday, she said, ‘I am so worried about how he will do in 7th grade.’ I gave her the rundown, yet again, of how well he is doing academically: two years above grade level in both reading and math—and so on, but she left the room saying, “That’s not good enough.”

Dara broke into tears. Read More…

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Our children are inundated with demands from the adults in their lives…. What an exhausting way to parent, especially when there are more effective ways to get the job done. –Maren Schmidt

On a recent trip from Chicago to Oakland I sat at gate B20 next to a mother with her three-year old son. In our collective boredom, the boy started fiddling with the handle of my brief case, which sat on the floor between us.

“Stop that!” his mother blurted out and launched into a long explanation as to why it was wrong to touch someone else’s stuff. His face went blank, and he didn’t look at her as she talked to him. At a couple of points in her diatribe, he looked up at me. Read More…

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Every night at dinner my three-year-old grandson launches into at least one oration. He holds both hands up with the palms up and out, gesticulating not just with his hands but with his whole face as words pour forth as from the mouth of Demosthenes. At this age he is better with his body than his words, so I have a hard time understanding what he is actually trying to tell me, but I can tell it’s about an important truth.

On September 12, 2001, I sat in on a discussion that the second grade class was having about the attack on the World Trade Center. One seven-year-old said, “One plane hit the tower thirteen times.” She had been watching the news, of course, and needed to talk about what she had seen. The teacher explained that she had seen the same video clip thirteen times, and that the plane had only hit the tower once.

building with blocks - Google SearchThis is how children inquire about the world. They don’t so much ask questions as make statements. They tell you what they experience, watch your reaction and listen to your response. In fact, recent research (Alison Gopnik, and others) confirms that children tend to be better scientists than adults. Every move they make tests some hypothesis that they created from previous experiences. Read More…

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We all want our children to “work up to their ability,” but how do we measure that? Traditionally, one starts by “evaluating” the child to determine a “baseline” of ability. The problem is that such results are artificial and distort reality. We never know what a person can do; we only know what a person did. Any measure of a person’s “ability” is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a baseline. Read More…

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