Saturday, September 11, 2010

Public impressions

So let me begin by saying that I love Sean's classroom, his teacher, and the whole idea of making Montessori more available to more children. I've felt for years that it is unfair that only those with money, or one of those chosen few to get a scholarship, are able to benefit from Montessori education. Since I started Sean in a private Montessori school and watched with awe the way those children behaved and learned, I've wanted the same option for all children.

Finally the time must be right for the public system in our neck of the woods to see that the system has to be changed. Luckily there are people out there who believe it, and on a federal level there are grants for alternative education models to try to turn things around for the children in the United States.

Because we live out of district I have to transport him to and from school. This is not a problem for me. I have been doing it since he was 4. It is a bit farther, and there is a little cost involved, but I'm willing to do it if he can get a peaceful Montessori education and I can get a few hours to purely focus on my job.
My job is somewhat flexible a couple of weeks in the month. I set my own hours, sort of, so I offered to help in the classroom yesterday, or make materials, or whatever was needed.

I walked Sean to his room, he shook the teacher's hand and was ready for his day. His teacher, Ms. Diamond, introduced me to an assistant who led me to the staff room to put together journals for students in all three lower elementary Montessori classes.

I'll preface here by saying a new school is being built on the same property, above the current school building. The guy who designed the new school has a Master's Degree in Montessori school construction, and the model that sits in the lobby looks absolutely impressive. But the current school building is very old. I see this as both a good thing and a bad thing. Obviously it was built well because it has withstood some earthquake action and lots of storms, etc. and it's still standing. Bad because it's REALLY old and some parts of it are not handicap accessible.

All of that said, I believe a building can be really old and still be beautiful. Parts of it are nice, but that staff room is pitiful. The blinds in that room are probably as old as the building. I'm not kidding. The cabinets are old, the paint on the walls is old. There are relatively new tables and chairs, and a microwave.
The stapler I was using to bind those journals was probably just as old as the blinds, and wasn't totally functional. I had to ask for a different stapler, so the assistant borrowed one from the office and a sticker on the top if it said, "For Office Use Only."

I don't know what it takes to get a new stapler for the staff room, but looking at the blinds I'd say it takes some kind of miracle, some begging and a lot of time.

I used the newer, prettier, stapler and got all of those journals put together. I think I did roughly 75, but I can't remember the exact number. (I really preferred the way the old stapler stapled, but the spring was gone inside so with each staple I had to open it and adjust the staples. It finally just wouldn't do anything. Probably just needed a rest ;))

I took that fancy new stapler back to the office immediately when I was finished, and thought of having someone sign something saying that I had returned it. (Just kidding, but really I did want to have the main office lady at the front desk to acknowledge that she saw me put it on the front counter.) I did mention to the assistant that I would be willing to purchase one of those and gift it to the school for the staff room. She just looked at me and said it's the district, it's just not good.

Next on the list of tasks: Sandpaper numbers.
Why sandpaper numbers for a lower elementary class you ask? Well, actually they were for all three classes, and I guess there are children in 1st and 2nd grades there who don't know their numbers, or still need a little help with that. Honestly, Sean still transposes sometimes and I've thought of getting them for him. Now I guess he'll have a set in his classroom.

The school has these cool letters and numbers blocks that when used with a roller it cuts through to make a die cut. Not sure if these are new for the Montessori transition or if the school has always had them.
So I cut three of each number. The sandpaper felt really rough to me, and the assistant (who is not Montessori trained, BTW--not dissing her, just pointing out that this school is really in transition) said to glue the numbers onto 3x5 cards. The cards were really thin and I could see that it wouldn't really work.
I asked the teacher about this and she agreed and suggested card stock. It was probably the sturdiest thing they had to work with. Ideally they would have had sets of  them, but at least there were materials to make some.

So off I went with a stack of card stock to another work room where the big cutter sat on a table. It was really nice and seemed pretty new. Probably purchased specifically for the Montessori stuff. I cut the card stock into quarters and used tacky glue to put the sandpaper numbers on it. I pressed them with the unused stack of card stock to try to get them to stop curling.

I'll try to post pictures next time around. I forgot my camera this time.

Ms. Diamond mentioned a couple of times that she wanted to laminate the sandpaper numbers, and then remembered she couldn't. I think the laminator was not working. It would have made the cards much nicer and given the sandpaper a nicer feel, I think. The grade seemed really rough, but with a layer of laminate it would have been good.

I worked for six hours. I was able to eat lunch with Sean, and I'll save that for another post. Believe me, I have a lot to say about the lunchroom.

I was happy to help, and I look forward to the PTA meeting and becoming more involved. I don't know much about the district, but I believe a district is made up of people and one person at a time it can change. The superintendent has had some criticism, but I applaud his dedication to open a second public Montessori school.

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