By Wanda Whitehead
For over 25 years, Casa di Mir Montessori School has nurtured the characteristic of leadership in the more than 400 students educated here. They have gone on to be leaders in our community and across the globe. The Montessori approach to education is known for cultivating leadership skills. Enrolling your child at Casa di Mir means you can expect to see an emphasis on character development, independence and responsibility, and communications skills in addition to the acquisition of academic skills.
An article by Glenn Rifkin written for the magazine Briefings on Talent & Leadership grabbed me. He writes, “What do P. Diddy, Sergey Brin, and Peter Drucker have in common?” The answer: “When it comes to producing creative business leaders, a Montessori education has proven to be a potent predictor of future success.” What Rifkin writes in such a grand way affirms what I get to see in our students at Casa and reflected back to us from schools our graduates attend after Casa. Our students easily slip into respected leadership roles as they move forward in their education and their lives.
What are leadership characteristics? Some leaders are out there loud and clear and some quietly exude leadership. In either style, leadership is a blend of knowledge, self-confidence, integrity, strong communication and interpersonal skills, a sense of social responsibility, and the ability to inspire the best in others. There are many positive attributes that we recognize in leaders. What they all have at their core is strong, positive character.
So what is it in a Montessori education that provides the experiences needed for our children to grow a strong character and to develop as leaders? Rifkin gives a great answer in his article:
“The unique and widely lauded education method, created more than a century ago by an Italian physician and education visionary, is built around the concept of self-directed learning, mixed age classrooms, collaboration, creativity and social responsibility. Eliminating the rigid structures of conventional classrooms, a Montessori school encourages students to embrace their curiosity, think imaginatively, and see the world as an array of possibilities.”
Montessori: Build Character, Build Leaders. Montessori provides an environment in which the child can develop intrinsic motivation (passion) and be proactive in his/her own learning and in problem solving. Because children are given the freedom to take initiative, they grow into “can do,” self-confident people. Early experiences of themselves as respected members in their family and classroom communities provide the foundation from which to approach the world at any age. Montessori students become highly principled people because they embrace life and all its differences, accept their own uniqueness and that of others, and become culturally competent and globally aware in the process. These principles of respect, contribution to society, compassion, acceptance, perseverance, and self-discipline drove Montessori in her vision of an alternative education method and motivate the Casa staff in carrying out the vision!
Developing a sense of passion for learning comes through experiencing the space and time to pursue interests. It could start with an interest in bugs, move to dinosaurs and end up in innovative thinking in creating technology designed for the sustainability of our planet.
Other practices in our classrooms that nurture principled leadership are:
Skills of leadership are skills for success. Whether individuals express their leadership in grand ways like leading corporations, serving in government or simply by living an informed, compassionate life of contribution, these skills and qualities will serve our children throughout their lives. Montessori education creates leaders for the 21st century!
About the author: Wanda Whitehead is Casa di Mir Montessori School founder and Director of Education, and former head of school (1989-2018).