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Visiting the Kids at Montessori

“Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori and characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.”

From Wikipedia

Some Of my earliest childhood memories were inside of a Montessori school. I suppose it makes sense since my mother has owned and operated one since before I was born, but mostly because of the teaching techniques, philosophy, and experiences the Montessori method embraces and gives its students. Unlike many traditional schools, Montessori children are taught to be independent, to use their imaginations, solve problems by thinking outside the box, and to respect those around them.

The beauty of a Montessori education is that you are taught based on ability. In other words if a child is good at math he/she may learn at a higher level (I use level for lack of a better word), and the opposite is true. The student who may excel in math may struggle with English. Ultimately, the end result is confidence. I attribute any success I have had up to this point in my life from knowing very well what I am good at and what I am not, and having the confidence to admit where I can improve. That, and I almost ignorantly, think big (another characteristic I probably picked up at Montessori).

The Montessori mentality has taught me a lot about working and running kitchens. Great chefs, at least the ones I aspire to be like, are the ones that empower their staff. They develop team members that can solve problems on their own without needing constant assistance. They create an environment where everyone contributes to the success of the team by giving the staff the freedom within the limits of the hierarchy, and a voice to share their strengths. These chefs and restauranteurs learn from everyone around and continue to learn and look at things through multiple lenses. Great chefs teach cooks how to taste, feel, smell and use their senses and surroundings in cooking as opposed to just following a set recipe. All things I would compare to a Montessori education.

Montessori can teach us all about life both personal and professional. Thats why when my mom asks me to come back to visit or to teach a class I’m happy to do so. Also working with kids, as difficult as it can be, is extremely refreshing. My favorite part of the bread class was the excitement on the little girl’s face when the bread was placed on the table. Her expression and reaction I would compare to arriving at Disney for the first time. Its nice to see that humble cooking can have such an impact on someone. Funny that even when I return to my Montessori roots I can still learn even something….even if it is only a reminder to be more “child like” in the kitchen!

Good Cooking!

James

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