What can parents and school expect of each other as we enter into a partnership to aid the development of your children? The following section aims to articulate expectations we agree on: what parents can reasonably expect of the school, and what the school will expect of parents. It also aims to reduce the inevitable misunderstanding and disappointment that result when unstated expectations go unmet.
Q. What is the school’s most basic expectation of parents?
A. Make continuing efforts both to understand and to embrace the Montessori approach and to work in partnership with the school.
The school desires parents who understand and embrace the mission of the school. To that end, we help parents learn about the Montessori approach by providing information and opportunities for parent education, starting from their first visit to the school – so that parents can make an informed decision in choosing to enroll their children – and continue to provide more opportunities throughout a family’s years at the school. Once children are enrolled, the school expects parents to attend regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences and parent workshops, and to familiarize themselves with the philosophy, policies, and procedures contained in the parent handbook and other school publications. Children thrive when home and school work in harmony, with both environments sharing the same educational values and expectations.
Q. What contribution can I make to a positive school community?
A. Demonstrate respect for all adults and children, the school, and the school’s programs.
Model for your children respect – for them, their classmates, parents of classmates, teachers and other school staff – in short, for everyone associated with the school. Respect begins with civility and deepens into trust. Our most fundamental behavioral guidelines for the children
are, “respect yourself, respect others, and respect the environment.” We expect the same from adults, parents, and school staff, at all times and in all relationships within the school community. This includes speech and outward behavior. Support your child by speaking of her/his teachers, classmates, and school in positive terms. Respect and abide by the school’s policies and procedures. Honor your commitments. Look for ways to make a positive contribution to the life of the school. Through your behavior, you contribute to your children’s moral development and to the culture and climate of their school, which they experience on a daily basis.
Q. How can I create consistency between home and school?
A. Strive to parent according to Montessori principles.
Learn as much as you can about Montessori principles as they apply to preparation of your child’s home environment as well as the way we parents interact with our children. This begins with the general principle, “Never do something for your child that he can do for himself.” Allow your child to engage in all of the simple tasks of practical life that a child can do for himself at each stage of development. Montessori education may also entail learning a communication style different from the way in which we were parented. Children develop a love of learning and become responsible, independent, and capable when parents’ values and expectations are consistent with those of the school.
Q. What are my responsibilities regarding communication between home and school?
A. Maintain active, direct and respectful, two-way communication with the school.
Read communications that are sent home, including letters, newsletters, and calendars. Inform the school in a timely fashion of pertinent changes in your child’s life. Active communication involves parents sharing observations and concerns about their child with the child’s current teacher. In matters large and small, remember the principle of respect: even when there is disagreement, disagree respectfully. Children prosper most when the primary voices in their lives sing in harmony. Let’s work together for that music to happen.
Q. What can I expect of the school academically?
A. Children’s Workshop aspires to fulfill its mission as a Montessori school.
As a Montessori school, we are different from traditional schools. Our first commitment is to the multi-dimensional development of the child. Montessori children do amass a great deal of factual knowledge in school. However, our aim is for each child to be far more than a repository of this information: we guide each child to think for herself. Cognitive development and a solid academic foundation are important, yet they represent only one dimension of our aspirations for your child. Equally significant is your child’s social, emotional, spiritual, and physical development.
Children are given choices and a great deal of freedom – within limits – during the school day. The choices a child makes, and the accompanying responsibilities, influence the emerging character of your child. Choosing his own work or shaping it to a considerable degree, following that work through to completion, while working independently or in cooperation with others, the Montessori child identifies his interests and develops his individual gifts. Young children learn by serving their small community, e.g. classmates, classroom, and family. As they grow, children reach out to the larger community and experience the many rewards of helping others. The children gain awareness and appreciation of others, of the challenges faced by others, and equally importantly, of their own strengths and abilities to help others and affect the world around them.
We treat each child with dignity and respect, and expect that she will treat all others with the same respect. We treat each child as an individual and strive to develop each child’s unique gifts – within the context of the classroom and the school community. With freedom comes responsibility, and each child learns to balance his personal freedom with a clear sense of responsibility to himself, to others, and to the community as a whole.
Q. What can I expect in terms of communication from the school?
A. We aim to maintain open, honest, timely, and respectful communication with you about your child and about information affecting the school community.
There are two regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences each year, accompanied by written summaries. In the event of special concerns, your child’s teacher will contact you to discuss these concerns by phone, by email, or in person. Each CW teacher is a well-trained professional and her evaluation is confidential and based on direct observation of your child. She will always offer her current best understanding of your child’s progress and her strengths and needs. For all children, this evaluation is based on the teacher’s observation, which may be augmented by input from the head of school. Regarding ongoing, school-wide communication, the school distributes a twice monthly electronic newsletter, Points of Interest, as well as a parent handbook, school calendar, and other occasional letters and publications.
Q. What can I expect of the school environment?
A. We strive to ensure an environment that is physically and emotionally safe and supportive, as well as aesthetically beautiful.
Dr. Montessori said that the classroom teacher’s first responsibility is to prepare the environment. This means that the learning materials should correspond to the developmental characteristics of the child at each level, and that those materials must be attractive to the child: correct in size, aesthetically pleasing, well maintained, and complete. More broadly, the whole school environment must meet these criteria: to appeal to the child and to inspire his work. We are ever vigilant to ensure that the school building and grounds are physically safe, secure, and well maintained.
Our community of children and adults comprise a social environment and culture that impacts the child’s experience. We strive to make this environment emotionally supportive and safe for every child. This does not mean that there are no problems. It does mean that we will work with your child in developmentally appropriate ways to deal with problems as they arise, empowering him with social skills and aiding him in the development of emotional intelligence to prepare for a lifetime of working with others in different communities and organizations.
Q. What professional standards can I expect of the school and faculty?
A. The school maintains accreditation by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and high standards for training and professionalism among its faculty.
The school is accredited by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). This organizations represents the most exacting standards of excellence for Montessori schools. We are also licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. At minimum, all lead teachers hold a bachelor’s degree; with some having earned master’s degrees as well. Our teachers have a sense of mission in working with children and demonstrate high standards for themselves and their students.
The school promotes a culture of professional growth in a number of ways. Teachers work annually with the head of school to set goals for professional development. Over a three-year cycle, AMI school consultants observe each teacher and work with each level as part of the formal accreditation process. In addition, the faculty and staff attend workshops and conferences for professional development.
Q. What can I expect of the school administration?
A. Integrity; a focus on the needs of the individual child in harmony with the life of the community; mission-driven decisions embodying good stewardship and responsible management; and an open door to your questions or concerns.
Administrative staff interface with all the various constituencies of the school: students, parents, extended family, faculty, trustees, alumni, prospective parents, professional visitors, government officials, other schools and educational organizations, and the general public. In your interactions with administration, you can expect professional, courteous, and business-like conduct, as well as mutually respectful communication. The head of school, administrative assistant and financial administrator comprise the administration. They often face decisions requiring a balance of competing priorities. Sometimes those factors are mutually exclusive; sometimes equally well-intentioned adults see matters differently. In making decisions, the administration will focus on the interest of the individual child in balance with the needs of the school.