I send weekly updates of WHAT we do in class - the topics and subjects covered and the fun events that get added in. But this blog post is written in efforts to answer HOW the work is accomplished in the classroom.
The part of the adolescent classroom that is difficult to maneuver is that Maria Montessori died before she could write formally on what the adolescent classroom should look like, except for her beliefs regarding the Erdkinder experience. However, the goal is to incorporate the Montessori principles underlying all practices from Children's House upwards into the adolescent classroom while undertaking more academic content. Freedom and responsibility, defined work spaces, independence and choice, as well as the obvious kinesthetic learning are all principles that are operative in the classroom. Your students have choices as to how they complete their work, what form their work takes, how quickly they work, and where they work.
As much as possible, students are provided tactile materials to learn vocabulary words, graph lines and angles, and organize timelines. They are given the opportunity to take timed quizzes to develop their test-taking abilities as well as to drill and assess their constantly-evolving skills. Some lessons I present are more content heavy - more of a "gift" of information from me - telling them what they need to know. Other times I present a context for them to study and let them pursue it and ask questions as they go. Every lesson is followed by certain practices and assessments in order to ensure that the information is being exercised and absorbed.
I find community and social events a huge part of the classroom - whether that is going to Feed My Starving Children and talking to the other volunteers or going to HEM Dance Class, it is evident that the adolescents, although sometimes wary of these new uncomfortable environments, always rise to the challenge and excitedly explore the part they can play in that particular community.
I am of course emphasizing Religion - challenging them to think about the stories they've heard a million times in a new, objective context. To wonder how they would respond if Jesus asked them that question, to think about and empathize with the Jewish people's timeline of persecution, and to reflect on the lives of particular saints and ask themselves how they can mirror how those saints lived. In opening the Catechism of the Catholic Church they are extending the lessons they learned in Atrium into a broader, more dense philosophical realm of understanding. They also answer their own questions by consulting the YouCat. Finally, I encourage them to set personal goals for their spiritual life - such as memorizing Psalms, committing to personal prayer every morning, and simply inviting Christ to walk with them in their day.
Another important piece is the practical life responsibility placed on the adolescents. They are called to a new level of leadership as the oldest students at The Way of the Shepherd. Therefore, they are asked to set up for Mass and Benediction, take down all lunch prep, lead the E2 students in packing away the classroom every weekend, and in contributing to our own classroom environment by performing their daily jobs. I see them glow with the responsibility and how it sets them apart from the younger students. I would encourage you to provide many opportunities for them to take leadership in your homes with practical life - whether in making dinner, taking care of siblings, or cleaning and maintaining the home environment and yard. It is evident that they feel such a sense of purpose when they are asked to perform those tasks because they are beginning to see how they can contribute to the common good.
Finally, I am encouraging them to think about their own personal vocation - their cosmic task in the world, as Maria Montessori would say. How are they being called to contribute to the world in a way only they can perform? I am beginning to bring in guest speakers to discuss vocation - on a more formal level in discerning the different states of religious, priest, or married life, and then on a career level - bringing in people with special skills to tell the students what its like to use your skills to build up the Kingdom - from basketball, to spreadsheets, to photography.
This is a small snapshot into the Adolescent classroom and the way that they are being formed.