Maria Montessori had many scientific justifications for the three-year cycle. However, my aim is not to give you her principals, but to impart greater understanding to the advantage of continuing through the Montessori Tides three-year cycle.
In a previous blog post we discussed a few foundational benefits of the three-year cycle. Such as, a securer environment and the development of a very special teacher-student bond; giving the child excellent experience in adult social relationships. Apart from that, we want to discuss the social position within the classroom community, and how it equips the child both socially and academically.
Contrary to tradition, the Montessori Tides classroom is a community in which children of different ages cooperate instead of compete with each other. This inevitably leads to feelings of respect for each other and to a more productive work environment. Just like in a family, there are several positions within each classroom community: the youngest, the middle child, and the oldest child. Unlike in a family, however, the child does not hold her position by birth for a lifetime. Her position in the Montessori Tides classroom changes each year repeating in three-year cycles. During each cycle the child is able to be the leader, the “new kid”, and the one in the middle.
Naturally each position carries with it unique responsibilities. In general, the youngest child is the unassuming observer. The middle one has the pleasure of no longer being the youngest but is kept humble by the oldest child, who, in turn, tends to be the leader. Thus the position of the oldest brings with is a certain level of social responsibility. The younger ones learn by observing the older ones, while the older ones help teach the younger ones and must set good examples for them. Children tend to be less inhibited when learning from their peers. Dr. Montessori said, “ There are many things which no teacher can convey to a child of three, but a child of five can do it with the utmost ease. Our schools show that children of different ages help one another. The younger one sees what the older ones are doing and ask for explanations.” The three-year cycle, therefore, sets the stage for a great amount of indirect learning. The various roles and responsibilities the Montessori Tides child has the opportunity to experience teaches tremendous social skills. Henry Franklin in his good-bye speech to lower elementary thanked his friend Julia for teaching him how to be a good friend. Our classroom community foreshadows what the child will one day experience in society at large, depositing now in the most formative years the skills needed.
By laying a solid relational foundation as displayed in the 3-year cycle, we allow the child to excel and develop academically. Ms. Nancy offered this observation. “The ground work is laid the first two years and the culmination becomes evident in that third year. Often it is in the third year that the child sees the abstract of all the concrete they have practiced. If they leave in the middle of a three-year cycle, it is like breaking any cycle. They just aren’t finished yet. Their leadership role is maximized the third year with them internalizing all they have learned.” Then they enter their next school system with excellent academic knowledge and social skills necessary for a successful transition.
Something that is often overlooked and is at the very heart of our school, is to see each student complete the full three year cycle, thus gaining all Montessori Tides has to offer.