Friday, August 31, 2012

Texas is Pink, Dammit.

Today Google celebrates the 142nd birthday of Maria Montessori. Maria who?

My early elementary years, deep in the heart of Texas, were spent in a 2-room school house - no lie - where learning happened outside the box, thanks to the educational philosophies of Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. In my classroom there was little to no instruction while sitting at a desk, no black boards (you know, the black walls that you could use chalk to write on?), and no grade levels. Fractions were fun and they came in the form of puzzles. Diagramming sentences? Couldn't ask for a better time at the age of 8. Adjectives and articles were shades of brown, prepositions were green, adverbs were pink. These things I remember and these things I think about when considering the grammatical validity of compound and complex sentence structures today. This is what Montessori education does to a person.

Geography was a game. Puzzles pieces and creating and coloring maps that were 3 feet wide were free time. Memorizing state capitals was child's play when I was 7, and memorizing countries and capitals throughout the world was expected and downright artistic by the time I was 9. The Soviet Union was pink and to this day, Argentina is orange in my mind and Chile is still yellow. Country flags and their capitals were also a card game of Memory - I couldn't make this up if I tried.

And also? Thanks to Maria's legacy, none of this seemed like actual work but then I could be glamorizing a bit. My multiplication tables were learned on the above pictured Google Doodle of the beads and cubed cubes and so dammit, math was pretty to me. By the age of 9 I was reading on a 5th grade level because I could. I was also super competitive with Jessica Johnson who was 8 and would have been a grade below me had we been in a more traditional setting. True to Montessori form, we had ages 5-9 in our classroom and we were all one big competitive happy family.

And no, to this day I am not a genius. Due to the whole 'school house' factor, my Montessori mecca ended after the third grade and I went into the 4th grade at a private Catholic school. On my first day I can still remember Miss Draughan (aka 'Dragon Lady') explaining the glories of nouns and verbs. I thought Holy shit, nouns and verbs? Are you effing kidding me? Yep, that was my 9 year old inner dialogue. Private school lasted through 8th grade and in the 9th grade I was in Sophomore Honors English, learning about the intricacies of nouns and verbs. Thank you public education.

So no, not a genius, but daggum, my formative Montessori years instilled in me a love of learning and concrete tangible concepts like what 10x10 actually looked and felt like. 1/8 = an 8-slice pizza and Texas is  still pink, dammit.

Happy Birthday, Maria!