‘Tis the season to share the adventures of summer in schools across the land, so I will take my turn here with you.
I had an opportunity of a lifetime to volunteer teach at a small school in Tanzania this summer. I spent three weeks working in a Montessori program at Upendo Primary School in Usa River, in three different Primary Montessori rooms.
I was welcomed with open arms by both the teachers and the students. I spent my days giving both group and individual lessons. The children’s concentration and the pride taken in their work consistently impressed me. I was touched by their huge smiles and happy demeanors.
I learned more than I probably even realize at this point. But I recognized that some things are universal, no matter which continent I’m currently on:
- Young children love stories to be read to them. And they love to read to adults, too (even if the reading is just memorized words – it’s about sharing the experience together).
- The Montessori curriculum really can be applied in any culture. Children can all benefit from being provided opportunities for hands-on activities and developing independence.
- While having new materials and a pristine environment are desirable, the curriculum can be implemented without it. The classrooms I worked in had concrete floors, often with patches of dirt where the concrete had chipped away. The window frames had no glass because it had broken over the years and they didn’t have funds to replace it. Yoga mats were used as work rugs. But the children here were working, focused, and developing skills that will serve them well for a lifetime.
The children of Tanzania captured my heart and my experiences there will be treasured and remembered fondly for many, many years to come.