Kathy Graham shared a story at Kindergarten graduation about a former teacher she knew. Her name was Doma Petrutis, a Lithuanian immigrant. She once said, “we do not teach the child, we plant seeds in fertile grounds.” This woman wrote a little book called “More Than Sandpaper Letters” – a story about the Montessori Approach. In the book she talks about the fact that we do not teach, but instead we learn how to help the child grow to their full potential by providing a prepared environment, where love and great respect for human life exists – treating it with gentleness, kindness, and only giving it†assistance when it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we step back and wait for the mystery of life to unfold! Ms. Kathy closed graduation night with the same line she ends her book with “So, [just like] when we plant a rose, we think about it!”
When I first heard the phrase, we do not teach the child, we plant seeds in fertile grounds; it was used as a statement of promise. It was helpful for me to realize a seed contains all that is needed within it to grow. The phrase helped to bring into focus the reality Montessori teachers don’t just merely “teach”, they empower the seed to reach its full cycle, knowing when given the time and opportunity to nurture the seed, the expected growth will come forth.
In the same way a plant needs to complete its growth cycle, a child planted in a Montessori Tides classroom needs the same opportunity to complete the full cycle. A recent experience gave me clarity and understanding of this truth:
Nothing is more beautiful than the flowers on a Crepe Myrtle. Three years ago my family and I drove through our neighborhood looking for a new home. I truly believe it was the gorgeous blooms of the Crepe Myrtle that drew me to the neighborhood. Every yard seemed to have Crepe Myrtle blooming. Of course, every yard except the one we moved into.
I waited a year or so before planting my own tree, not because I wasn’t eager to plant one. Between the children’s outdoor toys and a lawn already landscaped there was no room for any additions. After a really cold winter a few plants died and finally there was room for my Crepe Myrtle! I did like any good sower. I watered, fertilized, and sat back anticipating its growth and beauty. After several months, the leaves began to wither and fall. My tree wasn’t growing and any future growth was not looking too promising. After another cold winter, my tree had no leaves. I thought about moving it. Actually I almost gave up on the plant all together and just uprooted it.
Simultaneously during this same time, we were putting in a swing set. Due to the size of the set we had to cut down several trees along our fence line. And, voila, the barrier was removed! My Crepe Myrtle was not getting the FULL sun it needed. My tree sprouted and budded again. Although I had thought many times of moving the tree, the issue was never a matter of whether the soil was fertile, or that the tree itself lacked what it needed to become a perfect tree.
The Montessori Tides Story
As I thought about my tree it became the perfect illustration of Montessori Tides three-year cycle. The first year of any of the three programs, a child’s roots are being established for that classroom. We normally don’t see much outward or upward growth while roots are being established. During the second year after roots are initially established and growing deeper, we begin to see outward growth. The third year we see fruit in the life of the child.
We believe the Montessori Tides environment is fertile ground. When given the time, patience and faith, the child will produce just like a Crepe Myrtle planted in the ground. The beauty of the three-year cycle is that the teacher is given the opportunity and time to see any barrier to the learning experience broken down.