Elementary students have a three-hour uninterrupted work cycle each morning and a shorter work period each afternoon. Lunch typically happens before outdoor time in the elementary classroom. Elementary children take a very active role in managing their classroom and keeping it clean and organized, so time is set aside daily, typically at the end of each work cycle, for these tasks. Most Guidepost elementary classrooms include weekly meetings with the teacher at certain times or on certain days, and most have weekly presentation days for students to share completed work with their peers.
Tell me about class sizes and child-teacher ratios.
As children get older, they become more interested in working with their peers. As a result, in the elementary classroom, the vast majority of lessons are given to small groups of 2-5. This instructional ratio far surpasses the typical instructional ratio in elementary classrooms, which is in the range of 1:25 (we recommend researching this for your area's public and private schools).
Our ideal elementary class size is larger (25-35) than in our earlier programs. This allows smaller peer groups to develop within the larger age range in the program, and for children to find other peers with similar interests with whom they can connect and work.
Tell me about your teachers. Are they Montessori/AMI/AMS trained?
Our hiring process is very rigorous. We start by carefully choosing teachers who have the right kind of personality and the patience that is our requirement for working with children. We look for teachers who are calm, who treat children with deep respect, and who know how to help children increase in independence.
We hire professional educators who view Montessori as a calling, not just a job. Next, we consider applicants who have existing high-quality Montessori training (often from two of the most established training institutes, the Association Montessori Internationale or the American Montessori Society), but we've also developed an extensive in-house training program, so we can either add to the training many guides come to us with or so we can offer opportunities to our own staff who has earned it through their work. We can often promote assistant guides who have undergone our extensive in-house training program, which is accredited by MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Accreditation). We also provide substantial ongoing professional development opportunities so that our staff members can hone their craft.
Why do you use the word “guide” instead of teacher?
Montessori teachers are often called “guides,” to describe their role in the classroom more precisely. In addition to teaching small group lessons, Montessori guides also “guide” the child as he pursues his interests and makes his own learning discoveries using our rich classroom materials. In the elementary program, teachers take on even more of a coaching role, meeting regularly with the children to help them plan their time and achieve personal and academic goals.
Do you give tests to the children? How does assessment work?
We think it is neither necessary nor helpful to administer or depend on traditional tests and assessments, especially with young children. Ongoing, detailed assessment happens in lessons, when the teacher presents a new material, often one-on-one with the child (or in small groups with older children) and through daily observation of the child’s work with the materials. As they get older, a child's completed work becomes more important in the assessment process as well, but early on, the child is primarily working on developing internal skills and understanding, rather than producing a particular external result. Because the child's aim is to build him or herself, careful observation of the child is necessary.
When children move from our program into elementary school, they typically do exceptionally well on standardized tests, but even in schools where we have elementary programs, we do not teach to tests. Instead, we encourage each child's intrinsic motivation by responding to and developing the child’s natural developmental interest. Near the end of elementary, children do practice taking tests so that they are confident and comfortable when taking tests beyond our classrooms, but these are never the goal of daily classroom work.
There seems to be a lot of choice given to Montessori students. What if my child never chooses math/language/another type of work?
Our teachers receive training and professional development in the craft of Montessori education. One of the skills they learn is how to “entice” children and draw their interest. If it happened that your child was not expressing interest in some particular category (this would be very unusual), your teacher would ask herself why, and would closely observe your child in order to figure it out. Then she would craft a plan to help spark that interest, possibly drawing on other areas of interest that your child has.
The Montessori experience is based on the principle of “freedom within limits” or “freedom with responsibility.” Your child is free to choose any work he’s had a lesson on, and to use it as often and for as long as he wishes, as long as it's exercised responsibly. In the highly unusual scenario that he never chooses work in a given area, the guide has a number of strategies she can employ depending on the age of the child (repeating a lesson with the child, working together with the child, enticing the child to observe or work with other children doing that work, etc.).
In the elementary classroom, children are expected to become active members of their society and expected to learn the necessary skills that will allow them to actively participate. They are coached to master key skills and use those skills to explore and demonstrate their knowledge in all areas of learning.
How does Montessori support creativity?
Children that grow up in Montessori schools are exceptionally creative, and many well-known entrepreneurs and artists grew up in Montessori schools (the Google founders, Jeff Bezos, Anne Frank, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few).
In order execute on a creative idea, a person needs to have technical skill; the artist must be able to employ the paintbrush or the clay with skill in order for it to become the thing that he or she imagines. In our classrooms, children are exposed to an abundance of information, and they practice using their hands in many different ways. Finally, they are given real tools with which to do art, from early on.
Elementary students are given real, beautiful, high-quality art supplies to work with The elementary-aged child has a creative imagination and is exposed to an abundance of information and ideas in the classroom. He or she can then begin to put these ideas together in new ways-as an artist, a writer, an inventor, or an entrepreneur.
Will my child have trouble transitioning to another school?
Children typically transition very easily to other schools from our program. We recommend that you choose a school that is sure to challenge your child, as one of the biggest issues after a transition is lack of challenge.
Children from our elementary classrooms are typically sought after by middle schools, and typically become leaders in whichever schools they attend, public or private.
Beth with her daughter Molly (age 6),
Guidepost Elementary student
I love the teachers and community at Guidepost; how loving everyone is. The teachers and administrators are so caring — they want the best experience for our family.