Lately, we’ve had some interesting discussions about whether or not recognizing special achievements or awards of a few students is a good thing. One main concern that came up was that the students that didn’t get that award/achievement might feel bad. On the flip side, not recognizing special achievements could also make those who earned them feel bad if they weren’t acknowledged. There was also debate about whether or not special recognition is “Montessori.” Here’s where we landed.
We believe that the announcements are both advantageous and “Montessori”. We do not believe that an external award is the same as an external “reward” that Maria Montessori decried. For example, the bar of being in the top 5% of standardized scores is like any athletic, artistic, literary or other form of achievement; it is a combination of both ability and effort. No child could have gotten to this level without hours of daily effort spent on study. Like athletic awards, wins and loses, race times, etc., this provides essential feedback as to how your child is doing.
Certainly there are great discrepancies in ability levels in anything, but this is an unavoidable fact in the world your child will ultimately encounter. Blocking your child from “feeling bad” if she/he does not reach the award level may prevent her’/him from developing the “grit’ that is an essential ingredient for success. For many, disappointment may end up being a positive motivator, in focusing your child’s ambitions for success. We worry about children so protected being denied the ego’s equivalence of cuts and bruises. Deprived of this opportunity, these kids may enter adulthood much more vulnerable to life’s inevitable knocks. Moreover, in a social peer group that rewards athletic ability, popularity, personality and facility with social media, we lose the chance to recognize academic skills even more relevant to long term success and to provide a jolt of much needed self esteem.
Despite the above rationale, we want to assure you as parents, that the school remains committed to EVERY child. Testing is one small aspect of our overall curriculum designed to develop the whole child, to teach the joy of real effort and the pleasures of learning for its own sake. For all its importance, even academics itself is but a stepping stone in the development of character, only one of the ingredients in a happy life. This is, and will remain, the central focus of Glendale Montessori. To this end, may all our many Montessorians build character by having a particularly long and fun filled summer!