There is a danger in attending an amazing school like Montessori International College, you can become biased and shiny and spiritual and righteous about education and the best way to support children.
While I am often the first to share my love for the school my girls attend, the past year has graciously reminded me learning with presence is the ultimate gift.
My daughters have spent their early years in Yumi and Cooinda and their guides have been nothing short of exceptional. These humans are kind, clear and focussed on supporting the unique expressions of each child in their care. One danger for me is that all the awe and gratitude I feel for the gifts they impart can sometimes start to blind me to all the other ways of guiding and supporting children. This ignorance is entirely my own doing, it has nothing to do with the MIC School, i simply got comfortable and complacent and stopped looking for beauty in learning environments everywhere across this amazing planet.
On our travels around Australia our two girls who had attended Montessori from the start were fortunate to attend two other schools. The first was a tiny public school in a remote indigenous desert community in central Australia. The second a public school in Exmouth WA. They spent nearly 3 weeks in the community school and almost a month in Exmouth and over that time the gifts they received and offered were nothing short of amazing. It was a profound experience to witness their growth and learning over these varied chapters.
Was i scared when they first left my care and entered these ‘mainstream’ environments? Absolutely! I was afraid they might not be held or cared for or given the space they needed to learn and be supported within the traditional framework that is mainstream schooling. I was afraid this may negatively impact their self connection, that they may be negatively influenced or not valued for their sensitivities and learning styles.
Can you guess what happened?
They both thrived. They adapted. They learnt greater flexibility. They were brave and they were lovingly held and cared for by amazing teachers and communities in both instances.
One thing i know to be true is that there are good people everywhere. You see I have friends that teach and work in mainstream schools, private and public schools, Steiner and Montessori schools and some of these teachers have even chosen to home school their children. And you know what they all have in common? Kindness, compassion, care and a genuine desire to support children to grow, learn, discover and build a deep and lasting relationship with themselves through empathy and presence.
My ignorance sometimes judged other learning environments as less than. My fears blinded my vision for the goodness that exists in humans everywhere. Fortunately my rigid certainties were softened as my understanding of my children’s safety grew in these new and varied environments.
School days in the community meant no uniform, a wake up alarm would sound in the morning, another to remind you to have breakfast and a final call to come to school (although their enthusiasm often had them at school long before that last call arrived). School days often went from early morning to dusk. Nightfall reluctantly brought them home. The girls learnt in both a traditional classroom environment and with visits to country, living intimately with the land as an equally valuable teacher. They gathered bush foods, learnt language, dance and culture. They sat with elders on the earth listening to stories as old as 60,000 years. The first day they attended they ran out of the van, along the road and in the school gate. By the third day they would run out of the van, through the desert grass to the nearest 5 foot fence, scale it and continue running to join in with their friends. Formalities fell away, a new connection and presence opened within them. They shared meals with the whole community each lunch, they sang and read together, they built wiltja’s and found birds eggs and tinka’s (lizards) and had more temporary pets than we have ever had in our lives. They learnt about the richness of life and the interconnected nature of death. They ate maku (witchety grubs) malu (kangaroo) tjarla (honey ants) and damper with honey. They collected grasses, made jewellery with the elders, they absorbed through presence downloads from their teachers. It was a timeless sacred experience.
Exmouth offered other opportunities for learning. They had their first uniform ( Freya loved it, she found it novel she got to wear a ‘costume’ everyday while Pearl was tentative about looking like everyone else.) While lesson delivery and the work structure was quite different to their previous experience, the kindness, care and support from their teachers over this time saw both the girls thrive in their learning, expression and courage. Pearl danced and sang and found a new way to share, she read and did homework and questioned the why’s and how’s of the education system. Freya loved the social community she found herself immersed in, she even performed at assembly on her second day at school.
The teachers that guided their learning over this time were exceptional humans. Their willing hearts, their kindness and care, their devotion to supporting the girls learn and expand their education planted seeds that will continue to blossom and grow their whole lives.
I learnt so much over this time too. I’m celebrating I had the opportunity to remember it’s not so much about where they go to school, or the particular system they are in, yet rather the kindness, care and presence of the human beings who guide them.
When i was a little girl i would often call my teacher over to ask a question simply so i could rest in her presence. While she answered the question i would rest in the shade her kindness offered. Maybe it wasn’t the ‘information’ i needed to learn and grow but rather her presence, compassion and care. With my teacher nearby i knew it was safe to open up and explore life. Living alongside my daughters for these expanding times reminded me so much about the true gifts teachers offer.
In todays world there is often much pressure placed on teachers. It can almost seem like they have to ‘perform’ and ensure our children tick all the required educational boxes. I wish i could free them from that heavy load and reassure them that it’s the humanness they share with my daughters which leaves lifelong lasting gifts. I wish we could all remember that maybe it is less about the systems, structure and delivery of materials and more about the presence, kindness and care we embody when guiding others. To me it seems that kindness and care and holding everyone precious regardless of differences is really what the world needs right now. It seems to be kindness, acceptance and care that connects each of us together and ultimately results in learning, discovery and the realisation of the vastness of our human potential.
I bow in reverence and gratitude to all teachers the whole world over. May they be supported with empathy and deep respect, may they be honoured and given space to share their true gifts and may we each be fortunate to be guided by humans such as these.
Lets keep learning our whole lives.
With love and kindness, KMF xo
PS. Special thanks to all the amazing teachers and guides that have blessed my family with their presence, kindness and care. You downloads of ‘being’ are infinitely appreciated xox