As we have seen in the current work climate, the future of the workplace and the job market is unpredictable. The types of careers and the variety of skills necessary for success are ever-changing, which requires an education to support the development of a resilient, flexible child.
Recently, I’ve read articles in several business magazines listing the most common reasons young people struggle in the workplace, regardless of their level of talent (or the presence of a global pandemic). Each article had its own list of qualities, but there were several common themes. The authors pointed to the following characteristics that today’s young adults tend to lack, which carry over into in the workplace:
Confidence: A lack of self-confidence can manifest as a fear of taking on something they’ve never tried before, failing to ask for help, or resistance to constructive criticism and taking responsibility for mistakes.
Communication: Clear, authentic and communication is critical to almost any type of work; however, miscommunication, difficulty presenting, and inability to confront and have difficult yet constructive conversations is prevalent.
Taking direction, initiative, and working on a team: Difficulty working with a team, showing appreciation and respect for others’ ideas and opinions, and being able to both lead and follow creates challenges.
Having a vision: An inability to think critically and see the big picture is a barrier to success.
Anxiety management: Anxiety is reaching epidemic proportions in people of all ages—and this was true even before the COVID-19 crisis. Anxiety can, and often is, an aspect of all the other challenges listed above.
While these trends are worrisome, an authentic Montessori education can be a critical factor in supporting the development of young people who demonstrate the qualities that will help them manage the constantly shifting demands of the working landscape. Consider what a CMS child learns about herself or himself and the world through all of the stages of development.
As a Toddler, she learns that the adults around her have infinite patience in allowing her to try something again and again until she can do it herself. The consequences of making a mistake, such as spilling some water or breaking a vase, are natural and simple to remedy. She has just the right amount of support to experiment with a new skill until she can perform it well. She becomes increasingly confident in herself and her ability to take on challenges.
In Primary, the child discovers the joys of expanding concentration and self-mastery. The adults around him consistently show him respect and model Grace and Courtesy. He learns that while his feelings are important, they exist in a community of other people’s feelings and needs. The rich language environment he experienced in Toddlerhood expands even further as his brain acquires the ability to link words to more abstract concepts. He builds stories, and begins to practice presenting what he has learned.
In Elementary, the child’s intellectual capacity explodes. She enters the realm of imagination as her ability for abstraction expands. She considers the fundamental needs of human beings: past, present, and future. She thinks about her place in the universe, and explores the world through research and Going Out. Virtually all of her work is done in collaboration with others. Navigating social conflicts is some of the most important work of this period; rules, guidelines, fairness, and justice are explored both as cognitive concepts and lived experiences. Grace and Courtesy are internalized through the testing of boundaries.
Entering Adolescence, the child’s rapid intellectual and emotional development may seem to stall, or even regress. The body and psyche are undergoing astoundingly rapid changes at a pace not experienced since Toddlerhood. This is a critical time for the young person to be in a place where he is appreciated and loved for his essential self and his potential—not who he appears to be in any given moment. The Adolescent’s natural anxiety abates as he begins to find his way again in a safe community, exploring his identity while also engaging in purposeful hands-on work, spending time in the outdoors, and exploring academic pursuits in a developmentally relevant context. He rediscovers the joy of intellectual exploration and starts to acquire a sense of who he is and what he has to contribute to the world.
Of course, each child’s journey through life is unique. At the same time, the Montessori understanding of development, grounded in over 100 years of careful observation as well as emerging brain science, offers a universal approach that allows children to realize their potential. By design, an authentic Montessori education prepares children to enter life with the skills they need to navigate the evolving work environment of our time—and also to be happy human beings who enhance their communities.
Even during this time of Distance Learning, your child’s teachers are continuing to support his or her development. We are honored to be partnering with you in this manner and look forward to continuing our collaboration back on campus!
Kim Schneider, Head of School