What is the end goal of a Montessori education? Foremost, it is to help you raise a good and virtuous person. One who is independent, and knows where and how to find resources. We cannot imagine what the world will hold in store next year, much less 10 or more years from now, when our current middle school students will be young adults. What we can do is prepare them for the unknown challenges they will face, with dignity, resourcefulness, and care for the world we all inhabit.
Hermosa middle school students enjoy diverse opportunities to master the academic material. Each school year consists of four 6-week thematically interrelated cycles of study. The school day includes direct instruction and work periods broken up into individual work time and group work time. Group work time allows students to work together and exercise their developing peer communication skills.
Each new cycle begins with an overview lesson to introduce students to the topic. Students then complete individual and small group assignments while learning about a particular topic in depth. Students follow-up by teaching the concept to the rest of the class. Teachers monitor the work and confirm the accuracy of the information of student presentations. Students learn new and various ways to take accurate class notes. Daily homework in language arts and math begins in middle school.
At the end of each cycle, students demonstrate proficiency by taking tests for which they will earn a grade. Hermosa’s program uses the mastery-learning model. This provides students the opportunity to re-learn and master material they missed on a test, and retest to demonstrate their newly-learned mastery. Teachers use the highest grade earned on tests for their transcript.
Twice a year, students compile a portfolio of their work, which they use for student-led parent teacher conferences.
As a public school, we teach our students the same academic standards that traditional schools offer. Students participate in:
The curriculum also includes:
Teachers provide additional tutorials Monday through Thursday from 3:00-4:00 every week, free of charge, to assist students with homework or assignments. .
Seventh grade students spend one week in another classroom on campus working as a teaching assistant. Eighth grade students spend one week within the Tucson community in areas such as animal rescues, administrative offices, and local nonprofits. To prepare for these positions, students make contact with their potential “employer” via written communication and they learn how to write a resume. After their internship week is complete, their employers are asked to provide feedback and evaluation. Our students consistently receive positive feedback. Many student interns have so impressed intern employers that they have been offered jobs when they become old enough to be employed.
It is a developmental need for adolescents to seek peer approval and support. As this is normal and expected behavior, we build appropriate opportunities for peer support into the school day. Each day begins with a community meeting. During “community meeting” time, the students have rotating leadership opportunities as they practice leading their own community. Teachers first model the roles of facilitator, and scribe, making sure that students understand each role. They ensure that all students understand the importance of respectfully listening to the speaker. Teachers also demonstrate the importance of everyone having the opportunity to express his or her opinion. After this modeling, students take the lead. Students learn to recognize and identify problems, design solutions, and implement proposed action.
Hermosa’s program builds community among the students, and between students and their teachers. The program is designed to have a 16:1 student-teacher ratio, and to be no larger than 50 students, which research informs us is the optimal class size.
There are many benefits to the small class size. It is difficult to build a community with a larger number of students. This is in stark contrast to other local public middle schools.