“Education is not something which a teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on [their] environment.”– Dr. Maria Montessori (The Absorbent Mind, 3)
Classroom Celebrations – Yay or Nay?
I get asked from time to time, do Montessori schools celebrate holidays? The answer to this can be a little tricky.
Holiday classroom celebrations will look differently depending on where you live in the world. They could also vary from school to school, public to private. I know of schools throughout the globe who go to great lengths to celebrate none. Inversely, I have also been in schools who choose to celebrate many.
This of course speaks to a school’s Montessori Parent Education (and Montessori leadership). The school I previously taught in received a lot of parental pressure to celebrate certain holidays in the traditional way. What seemed to be true was, the more parents understood the Montessori philosophy, the more they understood the true purpose of classroom celebrations.
Despite the constant pressure, in my classroom, I tried not to celebrate certain holidays in the traditional ways. Over the years, I found this became more or less difficult depending on the stance of our leadership and if other classrooms caved into the parental pressures.
Peer pressure can be a strong driving force too. It’s unfair to the teacher who is put in the position to defend their Montessori program against their own leaders and colleagues. Personally, I always stood my ground. And it always made me feel like a real stick in the mud.
Classroom Celebrations should ‘Follow the Child’
One of Dr. Maria Montessori’s founding tenets was the directive to “follow the child.” This is a common term you will hear within the Montessori community.
In the classroom, this means allowing children to experience and engage in activities independently. The inverse is also true: It means resisting the urge to lead the child. Instead, adults should create an environment encouraging self-direction.
Therefore, classroom celebrations should not be a directive from adults. Instead classroom celebrations should develop organically inside the classroom.
The age of the child determines how much they might be capable of exploring on their own. A young child might be interested in a simple story about why we draw hearts on Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, an older child may want to research the origins of the holiday and explore Ancient Rome.
For instance, the earliest possible origin story of Valentine’s Day is likely the pagan holiday Lupercalia. Then in the late fifth century, the Catholic church declared February 14th to be a day of feasts to celebrate the martyred Saint Valentine. The possibilities are endless.
Bottom line, simply encourage children to explore their natural desire to learn. Cultural holidays are a great way to expand their view of the world. Call it a ‘teachable moment.’
When approached in this way, holiday classroom celebrations can contribute to a nurturing environment that respects every student equally.
Celebrating Cultures from Around the World
Schools and classrooms should be open to celebrating any holiday, not just the few special occasions we tend to celebrate. In the United States, this is often Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. There are so many more!
A Montessori classroom provides daily opportunities for curiosity, engagement and community. The spirit of giving and receiving should be kept alive all year long. It should fill our children’s lives.
Guides should be mindful of all the cultural holidays represented within their classroom communities. If a holiday is meaningful to a student, it should be highlighted. Exposing the classroom community to new cultural holidays will benefit the development of all its students.
Weaving classroom celebrations into classroom cultural studies gives students a greater appreciation for the diversity of our world. Even more, it underscores the values we share across cultures.
Do you have thoughts on classroom celebrations within the Montessori program? Do you have a suggestion for another blog topic? Please send me an email with your ideas or experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Read More: Non-negotiable: Public Montessori Part II
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