Where the child's interest inspires great work
Maitri Learning creates educational materials that are research-based, accurate, beautiful, durable, and usable. Maitri Learning was founded somewhat accidentally by a Montessori teacher who was trying to buy the perfect materials for her classroom and couldn't find them anywhere. Now, the materials she created (based specifically on the precise directions received in her AMI training) are used by Montessori teachers, parents, and teacher trainers around the world. We are named after the Buddhist word maitri which means 'having a compassionate, kind heart.' We keep the principle of maitri at the front of all of our business decisions.
Maitri is a green, eco-friendly, fair-wage, right-livelihood, woman-owned business. We pay all of our employees at least $15/hour, which should be our country's national minimum wage. Our prices reflect these fair labor costs along with the higher costs of environmentally-sound paper, toxin-free laminate, and inks made without ozone-depleting substances.
We know it. We're supposed to have orderly, uncluttered, just drop-dead gorgeous environments for our children. But most of us have a hard time making this a reality. We find new things we put together for the children and add them to the shelves. We have a pile of "stuff" we're going to get to that keeps getting larger and dustier. We're hanging kids artwork up all over the place because that's what we're supposed to do to validate their effort, right?
It seems like every third research paper I come across is about how dramatically a child's home life influences their academic life. It puts this great pressure on we educators to try and expand our teaching from the students to their families. But, we're generally unprepared to do this. Instead, we end up getting frustrated and depressed and feeling like what we really need to do is grab those parents by the neck, bang their heads against the wall, and yell, "Your child doesn't listen to you because he thinks you only talk to your cell phone! How can your child learn when he is so tired he fell asleep on the toilet!"
Okay, so while I've never actually done any of those things (only fantasized about them), I don't expect they would be terribly effective either with the parents or the school district. So, what is an ever-gracious and patient Montessorian to do?
I just got off the phone with Michelle Boyle (the really happy grown up in the picture), the founding Head Teacher at Libertas Public Montessori School of Memphis. Her school opens its doors for the first time this August. We were talking about ideas on engaging families and preparing staff... how to get things off to a good start. And what was the first topic that came up? The bathrooms. That's right, we were thinking about the onerous job of cleaning pee off of the floor (which we all inevitably do during those first few weeks of school). But the question is, what can you do about the bathrooms so that they don't end up requiring a police force to monitor them? The answer, of course, is in practical life.