Focus On Individual Progress and Development
Students progress at their own pace, moving on to the next step in each area of the curriculum when they are ready. Each student is viewed as a distinct individual for the purpose of assessment and educational program planning.
We, the teachers, observe the students’ progress and help them to define short- and long-term goals.
We see the first year as the time of building a relationship. We, the teachers, work hard to earn the trust of each first-year student, so that they feel safe to allow us to see their true assets, liabilities, interests and challenges.
Starting in the middle of the Sophomore year, we guide the students to begin exploring post-graduation interests. Students in the Junior and Senior year are encouraged to take college level courses and earn professional experience through apprenticeship and internship programs.
With the experience at school and our guidance, our students are fully prepared to embark on their next stage of life by the time of graduation.
Prepared Learning Environment
The prepared learning environment consists of the school building with all of its resources as well at the multiple off-campus locations where students work side-by-side or with guidance from professionals. True to Dr. Montessori’s approach to adolescent education, our environment provides teenagers with hands-on and intellectual learning.
We aim to inspire within each student a passion for knowledge and the process of learning.
We are dedicated to providing an environment which frees each student to explore, to choose, to decide, to try, to err, to succeed, without fear. We provide the structure for this learning process through the individual work cycle as well as through collaborative group projects (both at school and off-campus).
We encourage students to use curiosity, creativity and imagination within the boundaries of the prepared environment.
We acknowledge the universal values of respect for others, honesty, integrity, empathy, responsibility, compassion, peacefulness.
We recognize that adolescents need to create their own comfortable space where they feel confident to take on learning challenges. For this reason, we encourage students to choose their own study space during their individual work cycle.
This is the most important pedagogical component in all Montessori age levels. Work cycle is a daily designated time (about 3 hours long) for uninterrupted individual study with materials designated for each student’s appropriate level and pace of development. Independence is cultivated during the work cycle. With years of repeating the same routine, students experience the work cycle as a state of mind, as an ethic of work, as an approach to creativity and productivity, which they carry with them wherever they go.
At the beginning of each school day, students are expected to plan (using Google Calendar) the work they intend to do that day. This involves time for an individual, uninterrupted period of work on specific subjects when students have the opportunity to be absorbed by their work. Such work helps them cultivate concentration, focus, self-discipline, and responsibility for the task at hand. Part of the work cycle on some days may involve team/group work on specific projects (short or long term) or seminars.
Work cycle has two parts. The first takes place at school in the morning until lunch. Typically after lunchtime, students’ work takes place in our off-campus locations under the guidance of experts in specific fields. Such work is usually collaborative, involves seminars, the arts or physical education. The second part of the work cycle takes place after school at home. Then the students follow (or modify, if necessary) the remaining part of their work cycle plan.
Real — rather than simulated — practice and the theory supporting that practice reinforce each other in all disciplines. Students acquire the skills to perform a task by doing it, analyzing the concepts underpinning it, thus integrating experience with knowledge. In this study process they develop the method of life-long learning. Equipped with this method, teenages grow into independent, adaptable and constructive adults.
Project-oriented work is at the core of active learning and hence our program. Building and service projects, research, and most curriculum related activities involve work with professionals (engineers, writers, historians, archivists, musicians, videographers, chefs, etc.) and are long term. This teaches our students to plan, to prioritize, to execute and see the importance of quality, to take responsibility for their own work as well as to experience its value in a team effort. Thus they also discover their passions and interests, which can be further pursued after graduation.
An essential skill of social independence is to “know thyself” (that was the highest merit in classical Greek culture). Our students learn how to reflect on their individual work and objectively assess what was done well and what could be done better. This skill vastly differs from judgement. Neither guilt, nor moralization, reward or punishment are involved in this process of self-assessment. We all have assets and liabilities. Knowing them well allows students to strengthen their assets and cope successfully with liabilities.
Key to this skill, in addition to active learning, is the capability of rising adults to reflect honestly and critically (with self-compassion rather than self-anger) on their work so that they can continue to grow and thereby also improve society. Just like with academic work, students’ self-assessment is guided by teachers/mentors who mirror the normative expectations of adult reality.
We help students develop this skill especially with the weekly self-assessments and cycle grades recommendations. Both require students to describe with details the content, process, and outcomes of their learning in each subject area. Teachers/mentors provide feedback and share the weekly self-assessments and cycle grades with the parents/ guardians of the students.