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#1 of 19 Old 12-08-2008, 11:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I went on my first tour of a non-Montessori K-6 elementary school today and left there feeling downright sad for those children. This was one of the Open schools that I thought would be the closest thing to Montessori if we had to go this route. Basically, I'm looking at all my options since dd will be starting kindy in Aug. and open enrollment starts in Jan. Our first choice is a Montessori charter school, second choice would be to keep her in her current private Montessori school, third choice would be an Open school (they have some of the same principles as Montessori), and the very last choice would be our neighborhood school (which isn't horrible, but isn't the best choice considering our alternatives).

This particular school uses a "physically open design" (PODs) that doesn't physically combine the classes, but allows them to see through to the other rooms (most were divided by tall shelving units and I think that all rooms can be sectioned off with moveable partitions). Smack dab in the middle is the library area. It was so tight and cramped and just had an air of unproductiveness about it. All the classrooms had 20 +/- desks, one for each student. Starting with 4th grade, each area had 30 +/- desks one for each student. We passed by a 2nd or 3rd grade class and the teacher was standing at an overhead with a list of about 10 spelling words and the children were all sitting at a desk writing (I assume copying the words). The desks and the overhead is what did it for me. It was painful to continue the tour.

They call all the teachers by their last name (is this common in most elementary schools?).

The principal gave me this look of confusion when I brought up their math curriculum. She said, "We do use some manipulatives". I thought some? SOME?

The kindy rooms had old school Fisher Price dollhouses (I'm a HUGE old school FP collector, but I don't want to see this in a kindy room!) and other brightly colored Fisher Price and Little Tikes toys. I have nothing against them, but I just thought it felt weird to see them in a kindy room.

There was absolutely NO artwork made by the children on the walls that I could see. I was so overwhelmed by the clutter that I wasn't sure what to focus on (how must that make the children feel?)

They were so heavy on the reward system that I think I was caught rolling my eyes. "Caught being good" stickers, a reward for learning sticker that is the mascot of the school, they use warning stickers for bad behavior and if you collect 3 of them you lose your lunch recess time! : WHA? I wrote down "lunch recess", but I can't believe any school would keep a child from eating, so it must just mean the outside recess portion. : At lunch time they have assigned seats and they must sit with their own class. They are not allowed to mingle or share food (allergies. ok, I get this, but it just sounded weird).

They actually take quizzes on reading books to test their comprehension. I just felt that if somebody was testing me on a book that I just read that I would want to memorize it instead of enjoying it. :

The principal came right out and said, "The students do not get as many choices as a Montessori student". HUH? She said, "we follow the standards that the state sets. For example, 2nd graders are expected to learn and comprehend 2nd grade math".

Why I didn't just get up and walk out is beyond me. I think I was so intrigued by this method of education that it was like looking at a train wreck.

One couple was there and they said their child was currently in the Montessori charter that we are applying to. I took the opportunity to ask about it and they said that their son just doesn't do well in that atmosphere and needs "more structure". Uggghhh.... I wanted to ask, "You want your child chained down to a desk and overhead projector for the large portion of the day?" I wonder how many parents just want an alternative to public school without doing any research on Montessori?

Thanks for letting me vent. I was just so disheartened by what I saw today. I then went and picked my kids up from school and thanked their teachers up and down. I have about 5 more schools to tour and if nothing else it has just reinforced our choice of sending our children to Montessori.

An incredibly thankful SAH Mommy to 3 fiendishly enchanting girls 11/04,10/05, & 12/06. 
 
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#2 of 19 Old 12-09-2008, 01:13 AM
 
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Thanks for letting me vent. I was just so disheartened by what I saw today. I then went and picked my kids up from school and thanked their teachers up and down. I have about 5 more schools to tour and if nothing else it has just reinforced our choice of sending our children to Montessori.
It's called "No Child Left Behind." Now that you've seen it, write to your senators, representatives, school board, and (of course) Obama.
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#3 of 19 Old 12-09-2008, 05:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Matt, no kidding!!! Up to this point, I've only seen preschools and my focus has been on that. Seriously, the more I think about what I saw today, I was shocked. And I had no clue that the higher your school's test scores, the more money the school gets from the government.

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#4 of 19 Old 12-09-2008, 06:44 AM
 
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Matt, no kidding!!! Up to this point, I've only seen preschools and my focus has been on that. Seriously, the more I think about what I saw today, I was shocked. And I had no clue that the higher your school's test scores, the more money the school gets from the government.
And think about the cycle that creates on another level. A public school in the middle of a gang area is likely not going to have great test scores. Going to sleep at night wondering if you should open your window to avoid heat, while risking letting in a murderer ranks a little higher on the immediate priority spectrum than ... say ... studying quadratic equations.

So these schools that need to create a better environment get low test scores. They don't get funding and then even have to worry about whether they will have books the next year for their students. The schools that already have an updated educational environment get money that, while they need it, are not in desparate need of it.

It basically says to any struggling school just trying to make a decent environment, "Forget it!"

I won't even go into the problems associated with teaching to the test.
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#5 of 19 Old 12-09-2008, 02:16 PM
 
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I'm actually seriously considering homeschooling after ds's kinder year in Montessori. Unless we move to a place that has a great elementary M school.
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#6 of 19 Old 12-09-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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Our whole district is "failing." So, on the one hand we have these experts coming in saying we need to hire a math coach at each grade level, and ELD curriculum expert, lower class sizes, etc. On the other hand, our governor has declared a fiscal emergency in our state and after cutting $5million from our budget this year, we are expected to cut another $6 million next year "just to open the doors in September" which of course means laying off teachers and raising class sizes and getting rid of the "extras."

I just participated in a walk-through to help evaluate our teachers (public school) and I thought in general most of our classes were fine-- well organized, happy teachers and kids, everyone working-- until the facilitator said, "So which of these classrooms would you want your kid in?" That totally changed perspectives for me. Um, just one class that I saw. I don't want my kid filling in the blank, quietly copying spelling words 5 times, and passively ingesting information. We have sooo few options in our community, I'm glad we have our tiny little Montessori and that it goes to 8th grade!
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#7 of 19 Old 12-10-2008, 12:05 AM
 
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You guys are just articulating every reason why I'm planning on keeping my children in M school as LONG as we can possibly afford it (our school goes to age 12). argh.....
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#8 of 19 Old 12-10-2008, 01:07 AM
 
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I have one Montessori friend out in California. She works for a public school system there. She said the school board spends tons of money to send them to workshops about multi-modality teaching and making the curriculum individualized. When she starts talking about how that's exactly what Montessori is, the other teachers say stuff like, "But that won't work for most children."

Really? Then why is the district spending so much money to give workshops on how to make your classroom just a little bit closer to Montessori?

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#9 of 19 Old 12-10-2008, 04:04 AM
 
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i'm also researching public schools in my area for dd's K next year. it's pretty sad what the no child behind has done to the classroom. a school's status is heavily affected by test results so no surprise they push testing like mad. for now i am keeping dd in montessor thru K if I can keep up the payments. then i might consider moving to a more liberal district or charter school.

single mama to DD 5.09
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#10 of 19 Old 12-10-2008, 02:16 PM
 
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Wow...even if schools are not Montessori, I wonder why nobody is reading/consulting people like Alfie Kohn (especially "From Compliance to Community", "The Homework Myth", and "Punished by Rewards") for a fresh perspective on the kinds of classrooms and schools that can and do work even in distressed neighborhoods.....

Love the old school FP reference....my favorite Christmas present ever: when I was 5, I was given the old school "Seasame Street" playset. Still have big bird, but lost everything else....
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#11 of 19 Old 12-10-2008, 03:36 PM
 
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It's called "No Child Left Behind." Now that you've seen it, write to your senators, representatives, school board, and (of course) Obama.
while i agree that NCLB SUCKS! it's only made what was originally a bad system, worse. i taught in public schools before G. Bush, and the educational model is the factory model, not at all conducive to, or comparable to M. so, even w/out NCLB, the public school model (and, in my view, all other models) is a failed model.
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#12 of 19 Old 12-12-2008, 05:28 AM
 
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Wow...even if schools are not Montessori, I wonder why nobody is reading/consulting people like Alfie Kohn (especially "From Compliance to Community", "The Homework Myth", and "Punished by Rewards") for a fresh perspective on the kinds of classrooms and schools that can and do work even in distressed neighborhoods.....

Love the old school FP reference....my favorite Christmas present ever: when I was 5, I was given the old school "Seasame Street" playset. Still have big bird, but lost everything else....
I cringe every time I hear the words "Sesame Street" together. I worked for a school by that name and it was a nightmare. (No...it wasn't Montessori)

The only redemption is this video that makes me laugh every time I hear about Sesame anything:

http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=uSrj19709Ws
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#13 of 19 Old 12-12-2008, 01:44 PM
 
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I know most of the criticism here is focused on NCLB, districts, and states...but please be sensitive when making generalized statements about "public schools." Many districts, schools (Montessori and otherwise,) hard-working teachers, families and children are providing and experiencing wonderful, caring, achieving school experiences...often bringing in things that work for them and their children, even if it means tweaking expected state/district curriculum...and ignoring George Bush's unrealistic ideas. Many parents on MDC have their children in public schools and are thrilled - and may not have another choice financially.

Of course, there are too many teachers who do things I would never dream of, and would never subject my child to (in private schools, too)...and way too many schools who are too underfunded, unsupportive of burned-out teachers, and using outdated methods. And I agree that NCLB stinks...

I'm proud to be bringing Montessori education to a population that might not otherwise be able to have it, and could philosophically never go back to private school.

Sorry to be defensive, and not trying to start any sort of debate, I just feel defensive when I hear "public school"=bad and private/homeschool=good when there is much good and much bad within both systems.

If only every child could have a beautiful Montessori environment, a conscientious Montessori teacher, and a loving Montessori school community to guide them through their school years - huh?!
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#14 of 19 Old 12-12-2008, 03:55 PM
 
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I know most of the criticism here is focused on NCLB, districts, and states...but please be sensitive when making generalized statements about "public schools." Many districts, schools (Montessori and otherwise,) hard-working teachers, families and children are providing and experiencing wonderful, caring, achieving school experiences...often bringing in things that work for them and their children, even if it means tweaking expected state/district curriculum...and ignoring George Bush's unrealistic ideas. Many parents on MDC have their children in public schools and are thrilled - and may not have another choice financially.

Of course, there are too many teachers who do things I would never dream of, and would never subject my child to (in private schools, too)...and way too many schools who are too underfunded, unsupportive of burned-out teachers, and using outdated methods. And I agree that NCLB stinks...

I'm proud to be bringing Montessori education to a population that might not otherwise be able to have it, and could philosophically never go back to private school.

Sorry to be defensive, and not trying to start any sort of debate, I just feel defensive when I hear "public school"=bad and private/homeschool=good when there is much good and much bad within both systems.

If only every child could have a beautiful Montessori environment, a conscientious Montessori teacher, and a loving Montessori school community to guide them through their school years - huh?!
It looks to me that we are all talking about the individual districts where we live. I was specifically talking about the public school district where I work, the OP was talking about the school she visited. . .
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#15 of 19 Old 12-13-2008, 02:07 PM
 
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Sorry to be defensive, and not trying to start any sort of debate, I just feel defensive when I hear "public school"=bad and private/homeschool=good when there is much good and much bad within both systems.
i never meant to be offensive to anyone in my post, either. my husband is a public school teacher, and a damned good one. he was teacher of the year last year! i would never discount how hard he and others work. i taught in public schools, too, before i had my children. it is a wonderful place for many kids.

my criticisms were about the system. the fact that public schools are largely failing is widely accepted, which is why NCLB was implemented to begin w/. and i certainly never said "public school"=bad and private/homeschool=good" in fact, i said that i would lump public and most private together, since most private schools emulate the public school model (exempting, of course, the alternative forms of ed. discussed here on MDC).

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If only every child could have a beautiful Montessori environment, a conscientious Montessori teacher, and a loving Montessori school community to guide them through their school years - huh?!
this reinforces what i was trying to say.
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#16 of 19 Old 12-14-2008, 01:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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It looks to me that we are all talking about the individual districts where we live. I was specifically talking about the public school district where I work, the OP was talking about the school she visited. . .
Yeah, I was talking specifically about one particular school that I visited. I actually went to the 2nd Open school and *LOVED* it. It's a public school that really, really wow'd me and it would be up high on my list if only it was K-8 (it's only K-6). It still may be my 2nd choice, but I have one more public Open school to visit next week and it's K-8. Plus, I still haven't lost hope that we will get into the public Montessori charter school. We have a fantastic district with some really amazing schools. I'm not against public school at all, just as long as it's the right fit for my children.

I also went to a fundamental school (almost ZERO fine arts) that mostly focuses reading, writing, math, and community service and again was horrified by what I saw. One of the discipline methods this school uses is making a child (as young as 4 3/4!) sit at a table with their head down if they are being mildly disruptive in class (i.e. talking or fidgeting) . I am not comfortable with that sort of humiliation in front of peers at all. The principle came off as horribly unorganized and unprepared. It was almost embarrassing.

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#17 of 19 Old 12-14-2008, 11:39 AM
 
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One of the discipline methods this school uses is making a child (as young as 4 3/4!) sit at a table with their head down if they are being mildly disruptive in class (i.e. talking or fidgeting) . I am not comfortable with that sort of humiliation in front of peers at all. The principle came off as horribly unorganized and unprepared. It was almost embarrassing.
Ugh! I remember having to do this elementary school too, it was so horrible. I had to keep my head down with my eyes inside my arms. But them I'd get in trouble if I peeked out or if I fell asleep!
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#18 of 19 Old 12-15-2008, 01:07 AM
 
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Yeah, I was talking specifically about one particular school that I visited. I actually went to the 2nd Open school and *LOVED* it. It's a public school that really, really wow'd me and it would be up high on my list if only it was K-8 (it's only K-6). It still may be my 2nd choice, but I have one more public Open school to visit next week and it's K-8. Plus, I still haven't lost hope that we will get into the public Montessori charter school. We have a fantastic district with some really amazing schools. I'm not against public school at all, just as long as it's the right fit for my children.

I also went to a fundamental school (almost ZERO fine arts) that mostly focuses reading, writing, math, and community service and again was horrified by what I saw. One of the discipline methods this school uses is making a child (as young as 4 3/4!) sit at a table with their head down if they are being mildly disruptive in class (i.e. talking or fidgeting) . I am not comfortable with that sort of humiliation in front of peers at all. The principle came off as horribly unorganized and unprepared. It was almost embarrassing.
How lucky you are to have so many choices! Here all the public schools are the same and they pride themselves on it. They say its good that if a child moved mid-year anywhere in the district they'd be coming inot a classroom almost exactly like the one where they left. Theres one private Montessori, one private religious school and rest are traditional public schools. I just want options!
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#19 of 19 Old 12-15-2008, 11:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Flor, where in CA are you? (you can PM me if you want )

An incredibly thankful SAH Mommy to 3 fiendishly enchanting girls 11/04,10/05, & 12/06. 
 
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