“Let children own their learning.” – Trevor Eissler, USA
Trevor Eissler is not an educator. In fact, by profession, he’s a pilot. But for many parents and Montessori school educators, Eissler is a bit of a cult hero. Why? Because he is passionately spreading the word about Montessori education, and the reason he – and parents like him – believe it’s the most innovative form of education that has existed for more than a century.
“When my children started school and we discovered Montessori education, I started a second career as a Montessori parent-advocate,” says Eissler. “I wrote Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education, which has been the best-selling Montessori-related book over the last three years.” Eissler has since written three other Montessori-related children’s books. “I have traveled to over 30 states and three continents, speaking at almost two hundred schools and conferences during my vacation time from my ‘real job,’” adds Eissler. In addition to his books, Eissler and a group of other Montessori advocates have started Montessori Madmen to “advocate for Montessori education so that one day it’s not called Montessori school; it’s just called school.” Eissler has also released several “Montessori Madness” videos for schools to use to introduce some of the Montessori principles to prospective parents. These videos have spread like wildfire, and Montessori parents and advocates share them broadly through social media.
Just what is so different about Montessori from traditional education? Started in 1907 by Maria Montessori, Montessori is now the single largest pedagogy in the world, with schools found on every continent and in every country except North Korea. At its core, a Montessori education is characterized by the belief that children are inherently intelligent beings. Children learn at their own pace and through all five senses. A Montessori classroom is generally a mixed-age, student-led environment of discovery and curiosity: students provide the spark and initiative for what they are learning.
“Regarding the word ‘innovative’,” notes Eissler, “although Montessori appears highly innovative to those who see it for the first time, it is no flavor-of-the-month. Montessori is an innovative method in that its principles are being backed up with cutting edge research on brain development in children. Montessori is also innovative in that it revolutionizes the way we think about children, treat children, and educate children. And speaking of innovative, are Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Jeff Bezos innovative enough for you? They are all Montessori graduates.”
It’s my pleasure to share today’s Daily Edventure with Trevor Eissler. Enjoy!
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
I would like to think that my efforts have contributed to more families enrolling in Montessori schools around the world. My focus is getting parents to sit in a Montessori classroom and see it for themselves.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
Around 4,000 Montessori schools exist in the US. About 10 percent of them are public schools. The way to spread Montessori is to move it more broadly into the public school system as an option for families. There is absolutely no reason why our nation’s children cannot be offered free Montessori schools.
An interesting statistic from my home state of Texas (other states show similar ratios): my own children’s private Montessori school costs about $7,000 in tuition per child. The state of Texas spends over $9,000 per public school student. In other words, if we could offer every child in Texas a private Montessori school education, we could save about 20 percent on the education budget. Amazing. The way to implement this is to have more parents and teachers demanding more free, public Montessori schools for more children.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
The pressures of standardized testing, report cards, grades, tests, and homework are the biggest obstacles to quality education.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
We raise a lot of money through taxes. The problem is that we spend that money to prop up the conventional method of education.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
Parents and teacher must demand alternatives to the current conventional system.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Remember why you got into teaching in the first place. Was it, “to prepare workers for the 21st century”? Was it, “to make the US competitive with China”? Was it, “to provide skilled workers to the labor force?” Or in fact was it, “to allow children to grow into the best, smartest, happiest, most curious, most caring, most fulfilled, most interesting, most loving people they can become”? If the last one hits closer to home, you know you’re a Montessori teacher at heart.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students?
Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
They are born with the best tool: their hands. Hands-on learning is critical to developing brains. We must allow children to explore, connect, build, and to feel a part of the world around them. The most important educational tool isn’t technology. It’s not smart boards or iPads or even pencils. It’s hands. Free their hands.
About Trevor Eissler
- Birthplace: Rhode Island, USA
- Current residence: Texas, USA
- Education: Esperanza Preschool, Houston, TX
- Website I check every day: Facebook
- Person who inspires me most: I was chopping a tree down in the yard yesterday, so I’d have to say Paul Bunyan springs to mind.
- Favorite childhood memory: Watching the Memphis Americans professional indoor soccer team.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Portland
- When was the last time you laughed? Why? This morning. Doing taxes for 2012.
- Favorite book: The Hobbit
- Favorite music: Mozart
- Your favorite quote or motto: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.'” —Maria Montessori