Cultivating Genius: A Conversation with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad

Cultivating Genius: A Conversation with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad

Join us Sundays at 4:30pm for new episodes of The Early Link Podcast. Listen live at 99.1 FM, online at PRP.fm, or stream wherever you get your podcasts. 

This week, host Rafael Otto speaks with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, whose research has focused on the social and historical foundations of literacy in Black communities and how literacy development can be re-conceptualized in classrooms today. She is associate professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, and is the author of the recent book, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.

Guest:

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad is a leader who strives to shape the national conversation for educating youth that have been underserved. Her career also includes having served as a school district curriculum director responsible for K-12 literacy instruction, assessments, and professional development, and as a reading, language arts, and social studies middle school teacher.

Having received her PhD in Literacy, Language and Culture at the University of Illinois Chicago, her research interests are situated in the historical foundations of literacy development and the writing practices among Black communities.

 

Additionally, she works with teachers and young people across the United States and South Africa in best practices in equity, anti-racism and culturally and historically responsive instruction. She served as a literacy coach and school board president. She has received numerous national awards and is now a best-selling author.

Summary:

Dr. Muhammad begins by giving us a history lesson on Black literacy societies going back to the 19th century, and how they influenced the writing of her book. Then, she notes how literacy itself has a much deeper meaning, particularly for Black people historically, in regards to liberation, power, self-determination, foundation of all learning, accumulation of knowledge, and more. This segues into the overarching definition of culturally and historically responsive literacy, and the four components that Dr. Muhammad suggests come with it: Identity, Skills, Intellect, and Criticality. She then gives an example of how this framework could be implemented for a specific classroom lesson plan.

There are noticeable challenges that teachers face when teaching culturally and linguistically diverse youth, which in turn, disproportionately and negatively affects students of color. Dr. Muhammad gives suggestions on what educators need to do to effectively implement culturally and historically responsive teaching and learning. Even those who are bound by the curriculum in their schools or districts.
Finally, the conversation closes with Dr. Muhammad giving us an idea of what culturally and historically responsive classrooms and school communities could look like in the future.

Additional Resources:

12 Questions to Ask When Designing Culturally and Historically Responsive Curriculum

Transcript

[00:00:00] Rafael Otto: This is the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. Thank you for listening. I appreciate you tuning in. You can always catch us on 99.1 FM in the Portland Metro on Sundays at 4:30 PM. Or tune in at your convenience, wherever you find your podcasts. That includes iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

Today, I’m speaking with Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, whose research has focused on the social and historical foundations of literacy in Black communities and how literacy development can be re-conceptualized in classrooms today. She is associate professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and is the author of a recent book called Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.

 Gholdy, it’s so good to have you on the podcast today.

[00:00:45] Gholdy Muhammad: Yes, it’s so good to be here. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:48] Rafael Otto: I wanted to talk about the book, Cultivating Genius. It offers a model for teaching and learning. So it’s really designed for educators and school leaders. And it uses a framework built on Black literacy societies going back to the 19th century. Can you talk a bit about what those societies were, and what they were designed for, and how did they influence the writing of the book?

[00:01:10] Gholdy Muhammad: Yeah. So, I discovered this part of history, Black history, American history, when I was a graduate student. And I read from a scholar named Elizabeth McHenry, Dorothy Porter, these are some of the writers who documented the practices of Literary Society members. And I discovered that in the early 1800s, around the 1820s, we developed these literacy clubs in urban northeastern cities, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston. And where in these cities where black folks had a little bit more liberties, they organized themselves and studied mathematics, literature, science, art, history. They lectured, they debated, they read, they wrote toward improving humanity, improving society, conditions within society. And they ultimately had a number of goals in their practices. They had goals of cultivating and advancing a sense of self and identity. They had goals of cultivating and advancing their skills, writing, reading, mathematics skills. These things that would put them in positions to also help with change.

They also had goals of cultivating their intellectualism. Their what I call in the book, criticality. Their anti-oppression, and then also their joy. And so I found the spaces to be so fascinating. I did not know why I did not learn about them in my own K-12 experience.

Like a lot of people in the United States, this part of history is not in the curriculum. It’s not in the books typically. But learning about them, it’s a fascinating and beautiful history. In addition to all these, this part of history was teaching me how to be a better teacher, how to be a better thinker, speaker. And so it’s a lot of implications for teaching and education.

And so that’s how the book really emerged, taking the knowledge from these literary societies. And they had great membership. They had, well, some membership was small, some membership was over a hundred. And they had one goal is to create more literary societies to improve toward all those goals I named.

And it was like I said, it was beautiful to read and discover. And at the same time, it was almost like. Well, why didn’t we learn this before?

[00:03:55] Rafael Otto: Right. It’s a wonderful part of our history that, I was not aware of either until I picked up your book. So I appreciate that. I also like the way you talk about literacy as this larger frame. Because so often today, when we talk about literacy or early childhood, we’ll talk about a reading proficiency by third grade. It’s kind of in this realm of skills and proficiency. But the way you talk about it has much deeper meaning, particularly for Black people historically.

So talk about what you mean by literacy in this historical context.

[00:04:30] Gholdy Muhammad: Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. Most of the time we see literacy defined as skills only as cognitions as something you have or don’t have; literate versus illiterate. And it wasn’t those binaries for black people historically, you know. Literacy was more than just having a test or a level of literacy, like a reading level or writing level, it was more than just skills.

It was reading the world, making sense of the context around you. It was meaning-making, making sense, like, you know. So I would find some literacy practices involve hair braiding, coding, using codes and songs and algorithms to send messages, quilting. They had very unique and nuanced language practices.

And so, the way I define literacy taken from these historical examples is, of course reading, writing, speaking, thinking, meaning-making; print, but all sorts of texts, the world as texts, the land as texts. And so it’s a bit of a wider way of conceptualizing literacy. And I found that the five pursuits, with the added one of joy, became a way of defining their literacy practices. So every time they were reading, writing and thinking, historically, they were building identity skills; intellect, criticality, and joy. And so that’s how those five pursuits became so connected to the ways in which they define literacy.

Please download the full transcript below.

Montessori Group Serves Early Childhood Community in the UK, Internationally

Montessori Group Serves Early Childhood Community in the UK, Internationally

This week, host Rafael Otto speaks with Leonor Stjepic; an award-winning social enterprise entrepreneur, whose career has spanned both the private and nonprofit sectors in the United Kingdom. In addition, she is currently the chief executive officer for The Montessori Group, an organization that provides training in Montessori education for early years communities in the UK and internationally.

Guest:

An award-winning charity entrepreneur, Leonor Stjepic’s career has spanned both the private and charity sector. Since 2007, Leonor has been the CEO of RAFT – an award-winning medical research charity.

During her time at RAFT, the organization became the first UK charity to create an Enterprise Investment Scheme company and the model is widely praised as a case study in how to de-risk social investment. Leonor is also the Chair of London Fire Brigade Enterprises and was previously CEO of Smart Matrix Ltd. In 2016, the ACQ5 Global Awards named her as ‘UK Gamechanger of the Year’ and a year later, Leonor was named as the ‘Most Innovative CEO in the Not-For-Profit Sector’ by Business Worldwide.

Summary:

In this podcast, Leonor discusses what makes Montessori education unique, as well as important facts about the woman behind it, Maria Montessori. She also talks about her advocacy work surrounding proper investment in early childhood, as it is an area with the least government investment. She then speaks to the reasoning behind it, and follows up with what this investment in early childhood development looks like on an international level.

Additionally, she shares how she makes her most effective case to policymakers and legislators for investing in the early years. As far as long-term goals, Leonor is most interested in funding research, supporting teachers, and strengthening higher education*. She further details what all of these look like on this scale, and what is needed to obtain them, as well as the importance of The Montessori Group’s global social impact partners.

Leonor closes by telling of an important time in her life when she was working with young children in a Balkan refugee camp. These particular moments stuck in her memory, and these children inspired her to undertake the work she does today.

*Soon to have the UK’s first Undergraduate, Master’s and PhD courses in Montessori education in partnership with Leeds Beckett University.

Transcript

Rafael Otto: [00:00:00] This is the Early Link podcast. I’m your host Rafael Otto. Thanks for tuning in. As usual, you can catch us on 99.1 FM in the Portland metro on Sundays at 4:30pm or tune in at your convenience, wherever you find your podcasts.

Today, my guest is Leonor Stjepic. She is an award-winning social enterprise entrepreneur, whose career has spanned both the private and non-profit sectors in the UK; and she is currently the chief executive officer for the Montessori group, an organization that provides training in Montessori education for early years communities in the UK and internationally. Leonor, it’s great to have you here today.

Leonor Stjepic: [00:00:37] Well, thank you very much for inviting me. It’s a pleasure.

Rafael Otto: [00:00:39] I wanted to start by asking you about the Montessori approach to early education. Why Montessori and what purpose does the Montessori Group serve?

Leonor Stjepic: [00:00:49] That’s a great question to start off with. So Montessori is an approach. It was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori over a hundred years ago. But what’s really fascinating about Montessori is that she really was a real pioneer in that everything she talks about, we now see to be true as much as it was a hundred years ago.

So the approach is something that helps children develop their potential. It treats each child as unique. All these things sound sort of commonplace now, but this was revolutionary at the time and it’s very strong on teaching, not only numeracy and literacy. But also on those social-emotional skills that are essential to first of all, develop as a human being, but secondly, are going to become really important as the way that we work changes. And I’m sure we’ll talk about that later. The Montessori Group is a global organization. We don’t own Montessori schools, but we do support Montessori schools, educators, children. At the heart of everything we do is social impact.

Maria Montessori started her first school in the slums of Rome. And we follow that legacy of trying to bring education and particularly early years education to the most underprivileged in our communities. Whether that’s disadvantage through economic factors,  social factors, whatever. We want to ensure that every child has the opportunity to have an excellent education and actually reach their full potential.

Rafael Otto: [00:02:26] Maria Montessori was a pioneer in many ways. One of the things that I read about her recently is that she, more than a hundred years ago or 120 years ago, she fought for equal pay for equal work, which was revolutionary at the time and in some ways, still is today. What else do you want people to know about her?

Leonor Stjepic: [00:02:46] Well, she was, I mean, she spoke in 1896 at the first congress for women’s rights in Berlin. Even before she actually developed her pedagogy, she was already thinking about that. She was one of the first women to actually become a doctor in Italy. Going against what would have been the sort of societal norms at the time where sort of, well, you know, brought up young ladies did not go into work, let alone something like being a doctor.

And there’s a story that when she was actually studying medicine, the male students refused her access to the anatomy classes. So she actually had to learn anatomy by going into the morgue late at night. Which is, you have to sort of think that’s one very strong woman to sort of say, “Right! Well, I’m going to do that and I’m going to show them that I can actually sort of graduate as a doctor.” So she worked with Mahatma Gandhi. They were friends. So her writings on peace, she wrote a series of lectures in 1947, having experienced two world wars, about peace education. She talked about sustainability even before it became fashionable or even recognizable as an issue that we should actually be mindful about.

She really was way ahead of her time. I had a very interesting conversation yesterday with someone who was explaining to me that now neuroscience proves that virtually everything that Maria Montessori said about child development is true.  It can now be proved through neuroscience.

Please download the full transcript below.

Educators Play Key Role in Supporting Students With Dyslexia

Educators Play Key Role in Supporting Students With Dyslexia

On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto speaks with Danielle Thompson, who is the president on the board of directors for the Oregon branch of the International Dyslexia Association. She has been an educator for more than two decades. And as a dyslexia screener and tutor, she has been on a journey to understand the impact of dyslexia on students and how educators can do more to help.

Summary:

Throughout the episode, Danielle covers the different aspects of dyslexia. She first walks us through the definition of dyslexia as, “characterized by difficulties with accurate and or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and poor decoding abilities.” This can be taken a step further and even influence the processing of sound. She then follows up that there are plenty of misconceptions about children with dyslexia – the most common one being that dyslexics see words backwards. Another aspect Danielle clears up is that it’s a neurobiological condition that is not correlated to one’s intelligence.

Danielle also discusses the “continuum of severity” for dyslexia, and how some students are able to mask dyslexic traits while others are not. Then, the prevalence of dyslexia in Oregon is touched on, as well as what needs to change in the education system to properly teach those with dyslexia. The primary way to address this is through screening processes.

Finally, she provides resources for parents, educators, professionals, and those interested in finding out more about dyslexia, the screening processes, etc.

Additional Resources:

International Dyslexia Association – Oregon

The Economic Impact of Dyslexia on California – Whitepaper

Florida Center for Reading Research

Transcript

Rafael Otto: [00:00:00] This is the Early Link Podcast. I’m your host Rafael Otto. Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Danielle Thompson, who is the president on the board of directors for the Oregon branch of the International Dyslexia Association. She has been an educator for more than two decades and as a dyslexia screener and tutor, she has been on a journey to understand the impact of dyslexia on students and how educators can do more to help.
Danielle, welcome to the podcast.

Danielle Thompson: [00:00:25] Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Rafael Otto: [00:00:26] Great to have you. So start us off by talking about dyslexia, what it is, how we define it.

Danielle Thompson: [00:00:32] All right. Well, dyslexia is a specific learning difference or a specific learning disability and it’s neurobiological in origin. We can see the learning differences in the brain. And it’s characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and poor decoding abilities.

And then those difficulties can typically result from a deficit in the phonological or the sound component of language. And it’s often unexpected relative to other strengths that a person might show. And then secondary difficulties that can come along with dyslexia can be like, limited reading exposure, and then a lower vocabulary development and difficulties with comprehension. Dyslexia occurs across like all backgrounds and all cultures all around the world, and it can be diagnosed. But many people have symptoms or characteristics of dyslexia and are not diagnosed, because it can range from mild to severe, to profound.

Rafael Otto: [00:01:40] What are some of the misconceptions about dyslexia and how it shows up in students?

Danielle Thompson: [00:01:45] The most common one I’ve heard is that people think that dyslexia is seeing things backwards and there’s no, um, difficulty in terms of how a person with dyslexia sees the printed page or the printed screen. But the challenge for students with dyslexia or adults with dyslexia comes from the way that their brain processes language. And scientists can see from FMRIs there’s a different neural signature for people with dyslexia when asked to do language related tasks or in general, perhaps a different brain organization. So they use different pathways to process language and it can take longer and it can make it more difficult. But seeing things backwards is a most common myth. The fact that it might occur more in one gender than the other is another myth. It’s generally pretty equally found across genders.

Rafael Otto: [00:02:37] Okay.

Danielle Thompson: [00:02:38] And it’s not for a lack of instruction or an early exposure to a print rich environment. It’s not due to poor parenting.

Rafael Otto: [00:02:49] Right. This is a neuro-biological condition that, that people are dealing with, right?

Danielle Thompson: [00:02:53] Yes, and it’s not related or tied to intelligence.

Rafael Otto: [00:02:57] Can it manifest later in life or is it typically something someone is born with?

Danielle Thompson: [00:03:03] You’re born with your brain working in certain ways that scientists have later determined. If your brain sort of has this structure, or responds to speech sounds milliseconds slower, that those students go on to then have reading difficulties. But many people, if they’re not severe enough, might mask that they have this learning difference or learning disability.

Please download the full transcript below.

Parent Advocacy, SB 236 and Changing the way we Talk About Young Children

Parent Advocacy, SB 236 and Changing the way we Talk About Young Children

On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto speaks with Andrew Yoshihara, who is a member of Black Child Development PDX and founder and executive director of Bustin’ Barriers, a nonprofit organization that serves kids with disabilities. He is also a parent advocate and has been involved with legislative advocacy in 2021.

Summary:

Andrew begins by recounting how he got involved with Black Child Development PDX, and what influenced his decision to testify on behalf of Oregon Senate Bill 236. With the recent passing of the bill, he then notes his wishes for the future in regards to the suspension and expulsion that disproportionately affects Black and brown children.

Next, Andrew discusses his role as founder and executive director of Bustin’ Barriers. Specifically what it means to him to act as a mentor to the kids in the program. Then he circles back to his advocacy work with Black Child Development PDX, and notes how he witnessed true “Black excellence,” among his colleagues.

Ultimately, he believes that although there is still a lot of work to do on an institutional level, the passage of this bill will give these kids a real chance to be heard and understood.

Additional Resources:

Bustin’ Barriers

SB236

Black Child Development PDX

Transcript

Rafael Otto: Welcome to the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. I appreciate you tuning in as always, whether it’s on 99.1 FM in the Portland area, streaming at prp.fm or wherever you find your podcasts. If you do tune in on the radio, you can find us on Sundays at 4:30 PM.

Today, I’m speaking with Andrew Yoshihara, who is a member of Black Child Development PDX and founder and executive director of Bustin’ Barriers, a nonprofit organization that serves kids with disabilities.

He’s also a parent advocate and has been involved with some legislative advocacy in 2021. Andrew, great having you on the podcast today. How are you? 

Andrew Yoshihara: I’m doing well, man. Thank you for having me.

Rafael Otto: Great to have you here. Let’s talk a little bit about your story in terms of how you got involved with Black Child Development PDX. What did that look like?

Andrew Yoshihara: Yeah, for sure. For me, I have three children, a 15 year old, a five-year-old and a three-year-old and a few years back we adopted our five-year-old and our three-year-old. And, when we did that, we started receiving services, for some behavioral stuff and just kind of some social, emotional stuff.

And, during the time of getting those services, we’ve met some really great providers that helped us with our children. And one of those providers told me about the bill that BCD PDX was trying to move forward and they were looking for some parent support for somebody to come testify.

I had some time in my schedule, so I decided to sign up to testify. And honestly it just was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve had. And I’m so glad that someone kind of pushed me in their direction. I’m super excited to become a more intricate part in their organization to help them keep on fighting for Black children and all of these things.

Rafael Otto: Tell me about that experience of testifying. What was that like for you?

Andrew Yoshihara: Yeah, man. So I run a nonprofit that I founded, as you mentioned before. So, being an executive director, you know, a lot of my work is public speaking in front of a lot of people, a lot of meetings, all the time. So, the speaking part was not really anything new to me.

The interesting part to me was the processes and procedures that everyone followed in the legislative process, and just how this bill was treated in terms of it being predominantly a bill pushed by a Black organization to really help Black children and other marginalized populations,  specifically with the emphasis on Black children, and it felt a little jumbled in the processes.

Rafael Otto: Was it hard to find advocates in the legislature for SB 236? And I guess we should just recap a little bit: SB 236 bans suspension and expulsion in early childhood settings. That bill was passed, late in the legislative session for 2021. That ban will go into effect in 2026. And I think it’s also important for people to know that there are supports built into that plan for educators, for working with young children. And I know that part of the reason that Black Child Development PDX became involved in this issue is that suspension and expulsion disproportionately affects children of color and in particular Black children, and even more specifically Black boys in early childhood settings. 

So that’s a little bit about what the bill entails and my original question was, did you find… was there support in the legislature for it? Was that difficult to find?

Andrew Yoshihara: I can’t say that it was hard to find support because the bill passed, which we’re super grateful for. What was hard was to hear a lot of the language that was coming out of some of the legislators’ mouths about, you know, these children and these are babies. These are pre-K.

So we’re not talking about high school kids or middle school kids, or even like fifth graders. We’re talking about three, four, five-year-olds.

Please download the full transcript below.

No Such Thing as a Bad Preschooler: An Interview with Dalia Avello

No Such Thing as a Bad Preschooler: An Interview with Dalia Avello

On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto speaks with guest Dalia Avello. Dalia serves on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Montessori Association, trained as a psychologist, is a certified Montessori teacher, and is an expert in Education and Child Development. 

Guest:

Dalia Avello has worked for over 15 years in private, public, and non-profit organizations in the areas of research and organizational development. She has dedicated the last 10 years of her career to Infancy and Early Childhood, with special focus on adversity and mental health policy. A large part of her work includes helping organizations successfully implement monitoring programs tracking children’s physical and socio- emotional development.

Through her work with the Oregon Montessori Association she has led projects in the areas of advocacy, professional development, inclusion and social justice. She shares her time between her work on behalf of the Montessori community, her own consulting company, and volunteering as a NICU baby cuddler in a local pediatric hospital.

Summary:

Dalia begins by discussing the origins and the individual behind Montessori education. In addition, she notes the motivations behind it, and how they closely relate to Senate Bill 236 in our Oregon legislation. Further, she recounts her experience testifying before the legislature in favor of the bill and her overall influence in that process.

Next, Dalia touches on one of her projects pertaining to trauma-informed care in young children. Finally, she notes how brilliant children are, and why we should allow them to participate more in legislations pertaining to their care and education.

Additional Resources:

What is Montessori?

The Montessori Method

SB236

Black Child Development PDX

Trauma Informed Oregon

Transcript

Rafael Otto: This is the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. As usual, you can catch us on the airwaves on 99.1 FM in Portland on Sundays at 4:30 PM or subscribe and listen, wherever you find your podcasts. Today, I’m speaking with Dalia Avello who serves on the board of directors of the Oregon Montessori Association.

She trained as a psychologist, is a certified Montessori teacher and has expertise in the education and international development fields. She has led her career internationally, but calls Oregon home.

Dalia, it’s great to have you on the podcast today. Welcome!

Dalia Avello: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Rafael Otto: Let’s start with a little bit of background about the Montessori approach to education. Can you talk about that history a little bit and give us some context? And what does it mean? What does the Montessori experience look like for young children and for teachers?

Dalia Avello: Absolutely. I would love to tell you. It’s very interesting, but we need to go quite far in time. Think about late 1800s in Italy in Europe. So there was this woman called Maria who, uh, was quite smart, very determined. She wanted to be a doctor. Obviously not something that people expected her to do. But she persevered and eventually graduated, doing very well as a physician, from the University of Rome. And being a physician, she got a position helping in a psychiatric hospital associated with the university.

And one of the things that she describes in her books as seeing is that the hospitals in Rome were filled with children that were experiencing poverty. But she particularly wanted to work in this psychiatric hospital that was called “The Great Asylum of Rome,” where they were the “feebleminded” and the “idiots.” That’s how the terms were used at the time. And so they, um, have all these children there together with the adults, and they had no hope for them because they didn’t expect the society, do not expect these children to be able to do anything. So she felt very strongly about them, as such to work with them.

At the time, she also fell in love with someone and got pregnant, but out of wedlock. And that was a Catholic country where that was not something you could do. So she had to disappear for some time to have the baby. She did a lot of studying about what was happening in France. Because you might remember from studying, there was this boy in France that was found in the jungle when he was about fourteen.  There are movies about him.

So a couple of physicians had found this boy and they were determined to bring this wild child to society and help him how to speak and teach. So she was interested in what these physicians in France did. She translated all of that while she waited for the baby to be born. Came back with all this knowledge from her European tour.

The baby went to a family because it was so hard for her to become a doctor. And I think she wanted to continue in the career. But imagine a mom that had to abandon her child. So she felt very connected with these children, started working with them and saw them as children that, because they were under the care of doctors, they were not under the care of educators.

Rafael Otto: Right.

Dalia Avello: And so she started working with them using these tools that the French doctors had created, and started to get really good results and people were very impressed. They were like, “Well, how do you do it Maria? Like, how is it possible? We had no hope for the children.” And so she created an institute that also took, not just the children from the hospital, but the children that were at the schools.  And they were deemed, how do you say, the most dangerous in the community, the children that were subnormal, the children that could not learn. Those children, the schools have the permission to expel them, but no one had the responsibility for taking care of them. So they were left to their own devices and they will become, you know, homeless.

So, families sometimes reject them. She took all of them. She took all of the children actually from the asylum, plus all the children they didn’t want, and created the center and lived with them for 10 years. And then after the 10 years of huge success, she was very famous, you know, and she  started to wonder: If I get all these results with children that had some difficulties, the children that are neurodiverse, how we will call them today, what will happen if I work with children that are developing normally?

And at the time there was this project in the slums of Rome being built. And, um, this gentleman had this group of abandoned children doing all kinds of things that they should not be doing. And there was no one controlling the children or taking care of them. And for him, it was cheaper to hire this lady that he saw in the newspaper than to pay for the damage these little criminals who are going to have. This is all the descriptions from the books.

So they gave her these children, she started the school and then she started to get tremendous results. And her key? She wasn’t an educator. She couldn’t have worked at a school even if she wanted, because she was a physician, not a teacher. She didn’t have the credentials. So she used the scientific method and did a lot of observation and experimentation, created many materials.

And based on that, she said to get results see what worked for the  children and the thing grew and grew. She published a book. It was supposed to be called, “Scientific Pedagogy.” That was what Montessori education should have been called. But then, um, you will know like “Obamacare” and “The Affordable Care Act,” the Scientific Pedagogy ended up being called, Maria Montessori” or “Montessori Pedagogy,” which is what we know today. And it’s essentially a system of vocational pedagogy that is based on the development of children, and it’s based on serving the needs of children so that you help them develop. And the classrooms are, well, spaces for the children to flourish.

So the experience for the child is an environment where they feel welcome, where they have materials are very attractive to them, or they can work and they can develop the skills that they want to develop.

Rafael Otto: You mention this as part of the history in the schools that children were being expelled from the schools, and those were the kids that Maria wanted to work with initially. And so there’s a connection to what’s been happening here in Oregon, locally with the bill, which is called Senate bill 236, which prevents suspension and expulsion.

As of today recording this podcast, we know that that bill has passed and is headed to the governor’s desk, Governor Brown’s desk, for signing. Talk about that connection between the history of the Montessori approach and what’s happening today in Oregon with the passage of that bill.

Please download the full transcript below.

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