From Director of School Administration

Dear CMS Community,

Many of you were able to attend the Parent Education Evening last Term when Greg MacDonald presented the second plane child to the community. Those of you who met him will agree he is very knowledgeable and certainly has a good listening ear.

Anthony had ongoing discussion with Christine Harrison (Chair of Montessori Foundation Australia) over several months trying to work out who was best suited to visit our school, observe and get to know our teachers before offering recommendations for improvement. Montessori trainers are thin on the ground in Australia so Christine directed us to Greg who resides in USA. Greg met the teachers via skype and had established a rapport, before finally meeting them last Term. When Greg set foot in Australia he already had a sense of teacher agency and areas of practice where feedback was sought.

Professional Learning for teaching staff in Cycle 2 and 3 was delivered by Greg with plenty of time allowed for questions and answers. Anthony and I attended the workshop which was enormously beneficial as a collegial learning arena. Greg was relaxed and joined staff and administration for dinner on various evenings over the course of his stay. When Greg departed Canberra he travelled to Melbourne to consult in another setting, which benefited CMS as we shared the international airfare with the other schools.

Greg’s ‘Recommendation Report’ arrived towards the end of Term 3 and time was taken to share and discuss Greg’s recommendations with Cycle 2 and 3. The Directors are happy for me to share a general overview of individual findings as follows:

Environment:

Greg gave a description of each environment taking into account computers, additional comfortable furniture, reader books, musical instruments and wall displays. He cited two environments as not being fully equipped with Montessori materials.

Children:

The commendations for our children were heart-warming. Each classroom cohort was described as happy, skipping with joy, displaying positive and friendly interactions, consistently working, engaged with variety of activities across many subject areas, intense focus seen, and working in self-formed groups. Every comment made by Greg was positive.

Adults:

Each Director was attributed characteristics including: “gentle and sensitive manner”; “caring and respectful rapport”; “engaged with the children in a relaxed manner” and “having a natural manner with the children and she has developed a mutually respectful rapport with them”.

Recommendations – some of which included:

  • Fully equipping the environments both with Montessori materials and teacher made materials
  • Stressing the importance of the group lessons and follow-up activities
  • Presentation technique for specific materials
  • Maximising occurrences of engagement with Montessori materials
  • Rapidly moving through sequences of presentations as 100% mastery is not required for all lessons
  • The importance of the Great Stories was reiterated
  • The use of Learning Journals recommended
  • Importance of fluid mixed aged groups and older children teaching younger children
  • Elimination of work cards, work sheets as rarely appropriate
  • Going Out is developing, but needs to be actioned
  • Use of the tone bars
  • Individualised spelling for 9 to 12
  • Move away from chalk and talk style presentations
  • Reintroduce charts and timelines
  • Purpose of the child/Director conference is more than academic
  • Positioning of the Director when presenting

I would like to add that I combined the recommendations for the four Primary Directors together and as our staff are at differing career stages some of the items are not relevant to all. Also, Directors were really pleased that some of Greg’s recommendations could take immediate effect. For example, the last dot point brought an awareness to the Director, she needed to give all the children a similar vantage point when presenting to a small group…easily achieved by the Director repositioning herself.

Some of the recommendations are specific to individuals and will be reflected upon. Other recommendations can be actioned right away. In order to fully equip the classrooms, an inventory has been produced and a wish list presented to the Administration Office. The materials will be in the classrooms as soon as possible. Many of the materials are in storage at the school (as spare materials) and some may need to be ordered. Once the rooms are equipped, Greg will send all the resources he has available to support the ongoing development of teacher made materials. We will invite parents to be part of the printing and laminating when making all the new materials.

It was a pleasure to have an expert such as Greg work with us and we look forward to welcoming him to our school in the future as we continue to enjoy the relationship and avail of his support through ongoing consultation.