Faculty Focus is an ongoing series, featuring articles written by Heartwood’s own panel of experts. This installment comes from Upper School Director Ray McClure.
If you were to walk into a traditional classroom in different countries throughout the world, you would certainly see many differences. A traditional classroom in the United States looks very different from one in China or Poland, because culture, national standards and measurements of educational success guide what is being done in these classrooms. This means that children around the globe are educated in very different ways.
Common Ground for Growth
Dr. Maria Montessori developed the Montessori method as she observed the way children naturally learn and develop. From her observations, she founded the Casa dei Bambini in San Lorenzo, Rome, Italy. She traveled the world as a distinguished lecturer to share her observations and to train educators.
Educators quickly realized that since the Montessori Method was based on the natural development patterns of children — patterns which are consistent no matter where the child lives — it could be applied in any country and any culture.
My Polish Experience
I have the honor of traveling to another country frequently to educate educators in this method developed by Dr. Montessori — the beautiful country of Poland. In my travels, I have had the opportunity to observe in both traditional Polish schools as well as Montessori schools throughout the country.
As expected, the traditional Polish schools are quite different from schools here in the United States. The Montessori schools, however, are almost exactly the same as those here in the United States or any other location in the world. This is because the Montessori Method, including the materials and the classroom arrangement, does not vary because of culture or location.
A Universal Language
Not only are the materials and principles the same, students at Montessori schools are taught the importance of being a global citizen and understanding of cultures that are different from their own. In today’s economy and society, this is a huge benefit to students who are educated using the Montessori Method.
The beauty of this methodology has been evident in my travels. I have had the pleasure to walk into many classrooms in many different cities in Poland and can do so comfortably. I may not be able to speak or understand the language of Poland, but I do understand the language of Dr. Montessori.
Building Global Community
No matter the country, the culture, the language, we as Montessori educators speak the same language. I can sit down in any Montessori classroom with any child, in any country, from any culture and comfortable and confidently give lessons with no worries about language or cultural barriers. How beautiful, how perfect this educational method.
Dr. Montessori developed an educational method that has withstood the test of time and culture. It has survived countless global crises and has thrived. Why? Because the Montessori Method is rooted in our biology. What an amazing educational and developmental discovery!
Ray’s wife Missy introduced him to the Montessori Philosophy eighteen years ago; he observed her classroom one day and was immediately hooked. Ray began his journey as an assistant in the Children’s House, then taught at the 6-9 and 9-12 levels before founding Heartwood’s Middle School in 2006 and High School in 2015. Since 2010, he’s also served as an instructor with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies and the Center for Montessori Teacher Education of North Carolina, sharing his love of the Montessori Method.
Ray says, “I was lucky enough to study mathematical physics through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and love to share my passion of math and physics with everyone. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for 20 years now and we have a 19-year-old son. In my spare time, when I can find some, I enjoy reading (particularly history and science), and spending time with my family.”