“The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.”
Adolescence is a powerful time of transition, struggle, and self-discovery for every child. For some the passage is more dramatic than for others, but every young person experiences the physical, emotional, and intellectual changes that characterize the age.
As our school mission statement states, our mission is “to live out the Gospel message, achieve excellence and joyfully lead by faith, virtue and reason.” As a Montessori school, our work is based on the developmental needs at each age. For the young adolescent, the developmental needs are particularly powerful, evident, and exciting.
A Community of Work and Study for Early Adolescents
Our Adolescent program is designed for children from 12 to 15 years old (grades 7-8). St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School Adolescent Program is founded on the belief that adolescence is a powerful age, an age of explosive growth and change on physical, social, emotional, and intellectual levels. Dr. Maria Montessori’s vision of adolescence, which presents the developmental characteristics and needs of this age, guides our work.
We are also guided by the following goals:
- Create a supportive community where adolescents feel respected and loved; where they can struggle, work hard, be responsible, challenge themselves, and discover their best selves.
- Provide an environment where students can be leaders and where each of their voices can be heard. We provide opportunities for students to take responsibility for the community and for their own education. We value resolution of conflicts through community meetings and peer mediation.
- Provide an education that prepares adolescents to think deeply and critically, to be intellectually independent, and to value the viewpoints of others. We encourage questions and honest, open discussions that connect students to the world of ideas.
- Provide a land-based experience rooted in Montessori’s vision for the Adolescent that provides meaningful, authentic work on the land as well as authentic economic experiences.
- Create opportunities for students to accept the challenge of hard work, both physical and intellectual. Meaningful manual labor teaches skills, self-reliance, and fosters respect for the work of the hand.
- Provide a program that embraces the development of their sexual identity. We encourage co-ed social events, co-ed sports, and open discussion on topics of human sexuality.
- Form authentic connections with the natural environment through direct experience and through physical work. Students leave St. John the Baptist Catholic Montessori School with an environmental ethic that includes respect and reverence for the natural world.
From Community to Society
The Adolescent program is a culmination of the child’s experience as a Montessori student. This program is designed to meet and serve the needs of children during this period of tremendous personal growth and change. Students either bring, or work to learn how to bring, a high level of independence and self direction, a comfort with collaborative work, and a love of learning for learning’s sake.
Students treat each other with respect and honor each person for their strengths and challenges. Manipulative materials are used less as adolescents have begun to move beyond much of their applications and into more adult learning techniques of reading, discussion, and application to a task.
The adolescent program is designed to respond to the needs of the child of this age: personal dignity, social justice and belonging.
The positive sense of belonging is nurtured through:
- weekly council meetings run by the students
- resposibilities that adequately match the capabilities of the adolescent, and through work that has a clear purpose
- working side-by-side with an increased number of adults
- engage in the immediate needs of the community: chores of dish washing and sweeping, weeding the garden, feeding the animals, doing volunteer work at the neighborhood shelter, writing letters to representatives, etc.
- each person is expected to contribute his or her best efforts to the topic or task at hand
Montessori adolescents continue to learn without letter grades or gold stars. Conversations with the teachers and written remarks on papers complement the most important barometer of success: the student’s own knowledge that he has put forth his best effort.
The mixed-age class supports each student in applying him or herself in a unique way to a group experience. Longer blocks of time for subject areas such as Humanities, Occupations/Sciences, and Creative Expression allow enough time for each student to follow personal threads of interest without interruption.
The Montessori adolescent program offers lessons with practical applications that allow students to make improvements in their community. “What will I use this for?” is an often-asked question of the adolescent, as they are determined to use knowledge to DO something in the world.
- Projects such as monitoring the neighborhood watershed, building and maintaining a garden, or baking bread are real-world opportunities for many lessons in science, language arts, and practical life skills.
- Students work as a group to find ways of making money, their first direct experiences of the economic connections in a society. The success of earning money for a job well done is a strong source of validation for the adolescent’s skills and contributions.