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    Montessori and special education
    By Linda Licata

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    I am a special education teacher in the Buffalo (New York) Public School system. This is my second year teaching a self-contained special education classroom at Bennett Park Montessori. When I got the job last school year, I knew almost nothing about the Montessori curriculum, philosophy, etc. I am currently taking the Montessor Teacher Education Program (Buffalo MTEP) - it is a 2 year program which trains you to teach in a Montessori classroom. I will be done in June and will have my Montessori certification. It is a lot of work, but it has been very helpful.

    As far as Montessori and special education, I still have mixed feelings. I have 10 kids (grades 2nd - 4th) with learning disabilities in a special education self contained classroom. Sometimes I feel my kids do best sitting at their desks with direct step-by-step instruction (traditional education). Sometimes I feel they do best moving freely about the room using the Montessori manipulatives. Right now my classroom is a mixture of both. I do direct instruction for part of the day and Montessori "shelf work" for part of the day. It seems to be working out well. I still have a lot to learn!

    Montessori first worked with children who had learning difficulties. A lot of her ideas (children learning at their own rate, using manipulatives to teach concepts, children learning from each other, children actively involved in learning, etc.) are very appropriate for special education children. The areas that my kids have the most difficulty with, as far as the Montessori environment, are working independently and staying on task (they like to socialize when they should be working!).

    Good luck - I wish you well! It's a great learning experience (for you) and it's a lot of work. I still feel very overwhelmed.

    Write back if you get a chance!

    Linda



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