Social Responsibility

“If salvation and help are to come, it is through the child ; for the child is the constructor of man.” 

- Maria Montessori

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Meet Grace!

As a 7th year, Grace has a lot of experience with being immersed in classroom communities at GSMS. She shared a little with us about how that has shaped her feelings about participating in the various communities in which we all live.

Tell me a little about the experience of being part of a classroom community at GSMS.

I love that we begin each year creating a list of community guidelines together. Students have the chance to say what really matters to them and form our classroom culture around that. We also sign the list in the end, and that feels like a commitment by each person to cooperate together and it helps us feel united.

Our community meetings are a good chance to speak up for what is important. We have the chance to say thank yous, compliments and apologies. I think that part of the meetings builds up relationships between two people, but with the rest of the community there to be a part of it. It’s also a safe space to ask questions, especially about changes we might want to make to the way things are going for the whole group.

Let’s talk about some of the projects and events you’ve participated in with your community. Can you tell me about any experiences that stand out and the fruits of working as a community?

This year in Theology we’re going to visit a nursing home. Last week there wasn’t really an activity planned. So, someone sat down to play the piano and the rest of us sang to the residents, and it’s was so much fun! We organized around our individual talents and everyone had a role to play. It was kind of scary to walk in without a plan, so we definitely had a feeling of unity when we rallied to come up with a solution together. When we work as a community, you can see that everyone has something that they can do, and everyone can be expected to do their fair share of the work.

Also, it’s really rewarding to see the smiles on the people we visit when they know that we’re there to spend time with them. You know, you hear so much bad news that it feels great to go out and maybe not solve all those big problems on the news, but to know that you’re still making a difference in somone’s day.

In Theology, we also have been “praying the news”. People bring in articles about bad things that are happening that we read, and then we pray together for the people who are in harm’s way. It’s given us a connection to the issues and helps us know that those stories are about real people, who are going through real suffering. It’s a good chance to discuss things as a group and make a difference by giving them spiritual support, even if we can’t be on site to help those people physically.

I also have learned a lot about these kinds of things in my family, which I guess is also a kind of community. My sister and I are really passionate about environmental issues, so as a family we do things like hand back plastic straws at restaurants and reuse our plastic baggies. Also, my mom took us to experience some of her former work in Chile. One of her friends lives in real poverty, and when I went to their house it struck me that there are many people in the world who live like that. That was a time that I think the community of my family helped me see that, even if as a 13 year-old I can’t just go off to foreign countries on my own to help people, I can start looking for ways to help in light of what I DO have power over. I can start right here.

Has any of your more traditional classwork made you think more about these things?

Actually, we just read the Alchemist, and I don’t want to give the book away, but I thought the discussions we had with Mr. Garvey about personal legend were really very inspiring. It was another time that I could see that my life has already started, and I don’t have to wait around for what people think of as “real life” - which is basically being an adult. We talk about the idea of a Cosmic Task at Good Shepherd. The Alchemist helped me see that a Cosmic Task is not a build up to one big event in your life, but it’s actually the choices that you make to put together the puzzle pieces of your life that make up your task. It makes the whole idea of a Cosmic Task much less daunting because it’s just a string of many small choices and has a lot to do with having a brave attitude about trying things. It’s given me a good attitude about each choice I make and new thing I try because who knows?!


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At GSMS we are very proud of the sense of Social Responsibility our students display both within and beyond our walls. The socially responsible person must know herself, be able to unite with others, value her own work, be able to assess collective work, practice sharing and cooperation, be an active listener and communicator, participate in decisions, and accept and respect others.

After spending a small amount of time in the Montessori classrooms of Good Shepherd, you can see how all of these qualities are being cultivated and encouraged in age-appropriate manners throughout the daily activities of the classroom community. The responsibility a child begins to feel in the classroom becomes the foundation for a natural interest in others, a spontaneous desire to help, and a well-developed sense of social responsibility. We believe that even the earliest stages of childhood is when socially responsible individuals and communities begin their development.


Autonomy

“The child must learn by his own individual activity, being given a mental freedom to take what he needs, and not to be questioned in his choice. Our teaching must only answer the mental needs of the child, never dictate them.”

- Maria Montessori

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Meet James!

James is a very articulate and friendly 6th year student at Good Shepherd Montessori School. He is a young man of many talents and interests, not the least of which are his costume skills: this Halloween he trick-or-treated as “Good Shepherd Recess”, complete with a large stick for fort building, tire swing, and a GSMS beanie. He loves his school, and we love him, too!

James, what are some things that make Good Shepherd a unique place to learn?

Each day we have a three-hour work period, which is uninterrupted. It’s a school where you will find students working on their own or with other students, which I believe doesn’t always happen elsewhere. We have lots of options: how we practice religion, what we chose to wear (within reason), whether you like art or music or chess. There’s something for everyone. And you get a chance to choose what you want to do - all of the work is required, of course, however it is not dictated by a teacher. I mean, all of those things just make the day more fun!

So, I’d like to talk with you about the idea of autonomy -

Ah, yes! Like self-regulation, right?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact! Give me your thoughts…

Because of autonomy, I don’t have to worry about things being overdue in my classroom. I know the guides trust us to work at our own pace, but do expect us to be actually doing the work. And that’s a fortunate thing for me, because I’m not a very fast writer.

Where else does autonomy come into play in your classroom?

For one, the way that the works are set up with increasing levels of difficulty allows for autonomy. You go through a gradual path of learning and it doesn’t just !SPLAT! you right in the middle of an idea. Instead, it initiates what I’d call a work trend, where you work hard on one presentation of the materials, and when you are confident that you’ve mastered the idea, you can go to your guide for the next presentation. It feels kind of self-directed, if you know what I mean.

Another example is when you are practicing math tables. You find your mistakes instead of your teacher, so you realize where changes need to be made and you can kind of I.D. your own challenges to remember for next time. Now that I think about it that way, I guess that’s a pretty special thing about a Montessori education: You don’t get shown - you get to discover!


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Maria Montessori identified three types of autonomy, intellectual, physical and emotional, and believed that the development of all three is the key to a person’s capability to take charge of his or her own life.

A Montessori environment encourages intellectual autonomy in students by offering opportunities to think for oneself while incorporating reason. The students are challenged to work through problems using previously acquired personal knowledge and to not accept the opinions of others without first giving them serious consideration. At GSMS students are able to reflect on their strengths and intentionally grow from their weaknesses.

As a child grows in physical, or behavioral, autonomy, he grows in willingness and ability to independently care for himself. He gains ownership of his own environment and workspace, his health and personal care, and his behaviors. The physically autonomous child understands behavioral expectations of his environment and is comfortable acting freely within them.

Finally, Montessori encourages emotional autonomy in the child. As she grows in emotional autonomy, she becomes more and more independent of her parents and other adults and becomes less concerned with the opinions of her peers. She grows in awareness of others and their social needs and displays empathy. Emotional autonomy also allows the child an awareness of her own well-being, and the Montessori classroom offers opportunities to practice managing stress and anxiety in productive ways.

And the crazy thing? The GSMS child may not even realize the autonomy he is carefully developing - it’s all in a day’s work.


Academic Preparedness

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

- Maria Montessori

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Meet Julia!

A question we hear often is how do GSMS students do as they transition from Montessori into a more traditional school environment?

Today one of our graduates, Julia McKenna, is taking over the blog to tell us about her LAGS (life-after-Good-Shepherd) experience. Take it away, Julia!


Transitioning from the GSMS community to John Adams High School – a traditional public school with around 1900 students – was not nearly as daunting as I had envisioned. I thought I would get lost, be behind, and have no real connections to people. I could not have been more wrong. GSMS prepared me so well for high school that I was able to immediately start creating another home among my new friends and teachers.

Not only was I prepared academically for the highest level classes, but I was largely ahead of where the 9th grade curriculum. My reading, writing, analytical, Spanish, math, and science skills were all compatible with honors, advanced, and AP classes. Later, as I entered the International Baccalaureate magnet program, I recognized so many cross-class connections that allowed me to be a very thoughtful and independent learner.

What I found even more valuable were the skills I learned as a GSMS student; I was a curious, driven, organized, self-motivated learner who was ready to tackle big questions and devote time to studying not because I had to, but because I genuinely enjoyed it. The new introductions of assessments and class schedule were minute compared with the advantages I brought with me from a school that encouraged not only my enthusiasm but also my ability to absorb and ponder new information.

As a senior (ahh!) I am on my way to a university of some sort next year. I recently applied for Stanford University early decision, but also have plans to apply to the University of Notre Dame, Yale, and other high level institutions. I owe so much to what I learned as GSMS student and cherish not only the community that I have, but also all the tools they have given me to go further in life. I cannot stress the value of GSMS education enough and how it allowed me to flourish in the person I am today.

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Spirituality

“If we want to help the child grow near to God, we should, with patience and courage... seek to go always closer to the vital nucleus of things. This requires study and prayer. The child himself will be our teacher if we know how to observe him.”

-Sofia Cavalletti

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Meet Caleb!

Caleb is a 2nd year student in Lower Elementary at GSMS. Last summer, Caleb and his family traveled to Rome, Italy for his father’s work. He liked seeing the Vatican, but he says that his favorite thing in Italy was... gelato! As students at Good Shepherd Montessori School, Caleb and his classmates are able to recognize that faith is about more than beautiful church buildings - even those as grand as St. Peter’s!

Caleb, can you tell us a little about touring churches around Rome?

Yes, we went to see a LOT of churches, probably one hundred. Even on days that aren’t Sunday we went to church. One church I remember really well is the first church we visited. It had three pillars made of three different types of marble. I was surprised that the marbles all looked different even in the same church. They were carved to look really important. And then I just fell asleep - they call that jetlag.

Traveling can be tiring! Did you see the Good Shepherd anywhere in Rome? What do you know about Him?

Yes, they do have the Good Shepherd over in Italy, too! I know that the Good Shepherd takes good care of the sheep and feeds them. But really, God is the shepherd and I am the sheep, and He’ll rejoice when I come back to Him. The Shepherd always goes after the sheep if one of us escapes, but I don’t really feel like escaping most of the time.

Have you been particularly enjoying any works in the atrium this year?

Well, I’m painting an icon with Mr. Driscoll. I’m really good at art and so I like doing a painting for atrium work. When I work on it, I feel really concentrated on Baby Jesus and Mary until I finish that part. Mine will look a lot like the picture after I finish drawing with the red pencil.  I wasn’t as interested in painting an icon when I was four, but I’m really interested in it now! I’m pretty good at it, too.

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The tone for all learning at Good Shepherd Montessori School is set by Montessori’s deeply-held value of respect for the child, the environment and the community, and by the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based approach to Catholic faith and morals. GSMS is an independent school, and we are proud that families with a diversity of faith backgrounds have found a home here where all children can wonder and grow their spiritual life.

In the atrium, our students are provided with a space to listen to the voice of God and foster their relationship with the Good Shepherd, a loving God who knows them and calls them by name.

To give context to their education, Good Shepherd offers students Five Great Lessons that situate their learning in the history of the universe: The Coming of the Universe, The Coming of Life to Earth, The Coming of Humankind, The Coming of Numbers, and The Coming of Language. From this context, each GSMS student is able and encouraged to ask himself, “What is MY cosmic task?”