On the Montessori Journey: When One Teaches, Two Learn (Part III)

Be the Change: The Journey from Student to Teacher

The move-up process at the Suzuki School means that a child can transition from a PrePrimary class to Primary once he is developmentally able, and the way it occurs is carefully crafted to encourage curiosity and eagerness in the student to join his new classroom. Even if a student transitions from a nanny or other at-home childcare, we will ask that the child come in on an introductory basis to learn the room before delving in fully. The child will typically visit for 1.5-2 hours in the morning during work cycle. Although it is a relatively short visit, this does not change that the experience is still new. As mentioned before, the excitement of a new classroom walks hand in hand with timidity and nervousness. It is still an unfamiliar room, with new teachers and new friends!

Last week, Kyle— who, like Alice, his name has also been changed for purposes of anonymity in this publication—visited Primary for a few hours in the morning during work cycle. He is 3 and getting ready to move up to our class in the Spring, when some of our older friends graduate. The PrePrimary and Primary teachers work together to determine his readiness for Primary by assessing his ability to sit with teachers for lessons from start to finish based on his maturity, listening skills, and potty-training. When he first got to the Primary door, he was initially hesitant to come in the room.  Kyle was frightened by the classroom of unfamiliar faces. Most of the children go on working when a new child visits. They may regard him with curiosity initially, but there are always a few extremely excited as they recognize him from their prior class. These friends were anxious to see him. We have one younger friend who exclaimed every morning for weeks when Kyle visited, “MS. CASEY, KYLE’S HERE!” That first day though, a teacher coaxed him in from the door, where he looked out with a mixture of confusion and curiosity, and showed him a few preliminary lessons so he would have a few options of lessons to work with. This was how we introduced Alice to the room a couple years earlier, and how we’d introduced every student.

Within a half hour, Alice had taken Kyle under her wing. I observed her taking him by the hand and showing him a Nesting Boxes lesson, followed by Nuts and Bolts, and finally the Pink Tower in Sensorial. What remained amazing about their interaction, besides the fact that Kyle was completely focused on what Alice showed him, was how showing the lessons to Kyle completed Alice’s transformation. Gone was the girl who used to look for constant guidance and direction from her teachers. In her place was a patient, kind, empathetic girl who remembered what it felt like to be the youngest in the room. She used a gentle, soft voice, and took the time to carefully retrieve each piece of the Pink Tower, one at a time, and gently place them on the rug before building the tower from largest to smallest. After showing Kyle once, she waited patiently and encouragingly as he completed the lesson. When she was finished showing him how to clean up, she was not looking around the room for any pat on the back or praise from her teachers for doing something kind. You could tell from watching her that doing the right thing and being helpful was something ingrained in her from her experience in Primary.

This occurs daily in a Primary classroom where the ages are mixed, as they are at the Suzuki School. The older children will recognize their younger counterparts and offer assistance in lessons which they have already mastered; in turn, the younger children idolize and look up to their older peers and will sit mesmerized and completely focused on a Math lesson they previously had no interest in. This symbiotic relationship allows the older children to learn even more—lessons about themselves as well as about their subject of choice—and encourage this behavior in their future classmates.

Watching Alice and other graduates entering Primary as shy, quiet 2 ½-3 year olds who need constant direction, often attached to a teacher’s leg or hand, into confident, fearless leaders has been a powerful example to me of the far-reaching benefits of a multi-age classroom. Not only do these children learn and perform the lessons more carefully and precisely when showing them to other younger children, but they learn the importance of assisting their peers and offering a hand to help when the opportunity arises. The children learn how good it feels to make another person feel good. This is one of the most important lessons you cannot find on a Montessori shelf, but will always remain an inherent foundation in the Montessori, multi-age classroom.  

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Be the Change: The Journey from Student to Teacher
By Casey Hardigan


Casey Hardigan is a Teacher at the Ponce City Market location. Before joining the Suzuki School team Ms. Casey worked with children with special needs in a public elementary school in Massachusetts. She is a dedicated teacher with a passion for constantly learning and growing in her profession. She brings her enthusiasm for education into the classroom and inspires a love of learning in the children.

Ms. Casey joined the Suzuki School in January 2013. Casey was first interested in the Suzuki School because she played the violin for 10 years growing up and was taught using the Suzuki Method. Once working at the school, she fell in love with the Montessori system of education because she loves how this method does not only focus on Math or Language. While the children learn these concepts seamlessly through the carefully thought out lessons, the Montessori method provides an emphasis on helping to develop the whole child. The children learn grace and courtesy lessons such as The Soft Voice and Practical Life activities like Washing Dishes. The breadth of lessons in Montessori help to guide the child into becoming a responsible, capable, kind-hearted human being who is ready to take on the world and make it a better place.

Originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Ms. Casey moved to Atlanta in 2013. She comes from a large family with 3 brothers and 2 sisters. She enjoys spending time reading or outside with her rescue dog and family.

A graduate of The University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor’s Degree in English, Ms. Casey has also completed training with the Pan American Montessori Society at Kennesaw State University and is a Certified Montessori Teacher.