This is a guest post from Vina Kay, a Minnesota mom who is making a documentary film on Montessori education. For more information on this series and how to submit your own perspective on education, click here.
Education has a future. I believe that despite the news of failing students and teachers, gaps in achievement and opportunity, and fatigue over what to do to change schools. In my research and policy work for racial justice in Minnesota, despite the many challenges and barriers to racial and economic equity, I hear a common theme. Education remains a source of hope. Education can change lives, opening up opportunities and possibilities.
The problem, of course, is that education today does not work that way for all students. Too often, schools because a source of tension, judgment and limitations, rather than possibility. My friend and advisor, Dr. Steve Hughes starts a presentation with showing what happens when we Google “education makes me…” What comes up automatically is shocking. Here is what comes up as the top searches:
“School makes me depressed.”
“School makes me sad.”
If you click on “school makes me want to…” it gets even worse:
“School makes me want to kill myself”
“School makes me want to die.”
Like any parent, what I want for my children is for them to be happy. Yet, clearly many students are Googling in search of an answer to a state of despair. Education needs to change.
This is why my friend and creative partner, Jan Selby, and I are making a documentary film. We want to change how the public sees education and what it can be for children. We are turning to some basic questions. What is education for? What skills do young people need to develip to become happy, successful adults? What kind of teaching inspires creativity, critical thinking and life-long love of learning?
We know that the answers brain researchers, child development experts and our leaders in business, policy making, the arts and other fields offer will point in a clear direction. The kind of learning environments Montessori education offers gives students the experiences and skills they need.
The Montessori approach is nothing new. For over 100 years, Montessori education has thrived to become the largest education pedagogy in the world. Yet, it remains on the edge of mainstream education in the United States. Instead, the focus is on standardization of learning, improving achievement test scores and evaluating teachers based on those test scores.
The Montessori focus is on highly trained teachers, mixed age learning environments, extended period for individualized work and concentration, developmentally appropriate and aesthetically pleasing materials and respectful communities, adds up to the kind of education that fosters a deep sense of self and possibility in young people.
Through our film, with the working title, Building The Pink Tower, we intend to open eyes to what education can be. In communities across the country, the demand for Montessori education is high. Yet it remains out of reach for too many families, whether because of tuition of private schools or limited seats in public or charter school settings. School leadership and policymakers should embrace what works and expand Montessori learning opportunities.
Our film will become a tool for a Montessori movement. We need help to make the film a reality. We believe that anyone who cares about the future of children and education will care about making this film with us. Through our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign, we have the goal of raising $50,000 by December 18. When we meet that goal, two founcations have agreed to support the project with an additional $10,000 each. With this support we aim to begin filming in early 2014.
Please visit donatepinktower.org and donate. Take advantage of the many great incentives we are offering. Then spread the word- successful crowd funding deoends on that reach.
Please join us in making sure the future of education is bright.
For more information or to contact Vina, you can find and follow their Facebook page right here.