Longtime Wellan teacher Sister Lauretta Maynard shares her heartfelt and inspirational philosophy on education in our latest blog post. After starting her teaching career in St. Lucia, Sister travelled to the U.S and discovered Montessori philosophy, where she felt she found her "niche"—and we are so lucky she did!
Richard E. Mayer defines learning as "the transformative process of taking in information, that, when internalized and mixed with what we have experienced, changes what we know and builds on what we do"—and while this is a valid definition, my experience as an educator has led me to believe that learning is a lifelong process. It is ongoing, always evolving, and it affects the whole person mentally, socially, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
It is my firm belief that learning is such a powerful and dynamic process that it propels the learner into action. It excites, it liberates, and enthuses the whole being. Learning is like a hunger that is never satisfied and a thirst that is never quenched.
My teaching career began at an all girls high school in the island of St. Lucia. I was assigned to a class of forty adolescent girls. The task seemed daunting at the time, but I was determined to stay the course and do my best to empower these young adults. They were eager, curious, energized, and full of untapped potential. I knew from the onset that there was no room for boredom (no doubt, it would be a disadvantage); I had to keep them motivated, focused, engaged, and involved in the learning process.
Since adolescence is a turbulent, confusing time, and full of uncertainty, it was imperative that the educational environment was positive, validating, and affirming so it would help boost their self-esteem and give them a sense of belonging and purpose.
I concluded that if these students were to succeed in life and high school, I had to encourage them to participate in their own education by helping them acquire the tools to develop their strengths and interests. Thus, I strove to enable them to unlock their potential by availing them with opportunities to question, research, debate, discuss, discover, create, explore, challenge, and voice their opinions so they could thrive by using their intelligence effectively. Suffice it to say, I was relentless in my efforts to provide activities and opportunities that kept them engaged and motivated in the learning process. The alternative was not an option.
In order to replenish my reservoir of knowledge as an educator, I decided to broaden my horizon by applying to colleges in America. I needed a new perspective on learning in a completely different environment.
In my quest to enhance my learning experience, I discovered the Montessori philosophy and became immersed in its powerful approach to learning. It drew me in like a magnet. I had found my niche in the educational arena.
Fortunately for me, I was hired to work in that field of education in the Infant/Toddler classroom. I discovered that although my teaching strategy and expectations had to be adjusted significantly, nonetheless, the learning concept remained the same—encouraging lifelong learners and educating the whole child.
According to Maria Montessori, the Toddler program offers very young children a unique year of self development in a safe and specifically prepared environment of respect and support for the child. There is freedom of space and two important limits that are beneficial for a lifetime: respect for others and the environment. Learning is purposefully structured to cater to the child’s sensitive years when they can absorb information from the prepared and enriched environment.
Maria Montessori discovered that children have an innate desire to learn. Thus, she believed in allowing each child to perfect the art of learning at their own pace—so that their innate ability could be maximized in future learning situations. What is better than that?
There is a saying that rings true: “Children are gifted; some just open their package sooner than others.” Therefore, my goal is to encourage, motivate, inspire, provoke, and excite their young minds through an aesthetically pleasing, well-prepared environment and an avalanche of Montessori and Non-Montessori materials that will improve the child’s learning and Montessori experience. I want to give them the opportunity to soar like eagles even though they have the wings of a butterfly.
In my daily interactions with the children, I try to model the behaviors I want them to emulate in their interactions with peers and others. Observation gives me an insight into their curious minds and their personal needs as they purposefully navigate the classroom. Needless to say, it brings me instant gratification when a child accomplishes a difficult task. The joy they express verbally or through facial expression is priceless! What a joy for an educator!
My short term goal is to continue to seek opportunities to acquire new knowledge through research, technology, workshops, conferences, seminars, and other pertinent opportunities that are relevant to my teaching techniques/strategies so I may better serve the needs of the children entrusted to my care. According to a Chinese proverb, “A child’s life is like a blank piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark.” It is my hope that my mark will be to enable them with a well-rounded education so they can make a positive contribution in the society and the world.
In order to facilitate the needs of the students, my long term goal is to continue to provide stimulating, thought-provoking, and exciting materials, resources, and activities in the classroom that will motivate and rouse their curiosity and enrich their learning experience.
Bearing in mind that learning is a dynamic and ongoing process that is always in a state of flux—especially in our ever changing world and its demands—I cannot become complacent. Constant vigilance is the key to staying current with the needs and trends in education so I can continue to empower the children in my care. I have to continue my quest as an educator—that of helping my students to maximize their learning by becoming their best selves, because they will be the future leaders of this land and the world. My mission is to fan the fire of learning, so that no one can extinguish the flames.