MOS Müchen is a private school founded from eight primary and secondary Montessori schools as a way for the children to continue their Montessori education in higher levels. It’s a Fachoberschule, a high school for applied science (Agricultural & Nature, Art, Social and Economics) with students from 11th, 12th and 13th classes and ages from 16-20 years old.
We talk with Carl Mirwald, headmaster at MOS Munchen about the development of the Montessori pedagogy with young adults. You can see the full transcription of the interview below.
A Montessori high school for the young students who want to go further on Montessori education
«Our school was founded 11 years ago from 8 Montessori primary and secondary schools. They thought it could be a way for young children to go further on Montessori way. They come together and founded one as a high school.
Fachoberschule we call in German that is high school for Applied Sciences, we have students after the 10th class students from 11th, 12th and 13th class. They are about 16 to 20 years old. We have four areas: agricultural and nature science studies, art, social and economics studies. We are about 440 students. In our school they can make examination, one Fachabitur after the 12th class, and after they go with that to the Hochschule, which it’s not exactly university, it’s like a college. If you go to the 13th class and make the abitur then you can go to any university.
We are not a public school we are a private school. We are more free than a public school but the disadvantage for being a private school is that we have to take school fees.«
The Montessori approach with young adults
«The main issue here is to develop the pedagogic education system from Maria Montessori for the young adults in 21st century so it’s a big challenge to do that.
Most important thing not only for Maria Montessori, is to be respectful with the community, with the students, that they are always able to critize us, that they don’t have to feel fear, that they feel accepted, that they have the freedom of choice. I mean, be free not to choose the subjects, we have the subjects they have to learn, they have the curriculum they have to learn, but they have freedom to visit the class or not, to come to school or not, to critize us or not, or to choose the way they do all the tasks. We just give them impulses and then we hope they have place and room and time enough that they can be self-active.»
Teachers and students at the same level
«When the teachers come from a public school, they are often irritated because as a teacher you don’t have the position of power and that’s very important because you live in a community where we help each other and it’s because we know that, if I help the other person the other person will help me and that’s equal standing teacher and students together.
So I am the so called «principal» but I don’t have more power than the teacher or the student. They all can critize me constructively hopefully. You are kind of vulnerable but it’s more intense, the respect you have each other is real.
We have the same curriculum like public schools and we have the same exams. The subjects are not always interesting. They have to learn that. They have to learn Maths, they have to learn certain themes in English or Chemistry. But even if they don’t like to learn, they like to come to school.«
Supporting groups, self-active learning and feedback ,the pillars of the school development
«The students feel that they are a respected part of our school and they can develop our school if they want, they don’t have to, but their opinion is really important. We always say to our students that they are free to choose to be here. You are young enough but you are old enough to choose if you want to be or not if you want to learn or not. This freedom of choice is, I guess, big and important thing for young adults.
We decided this year to have one time slot for that school development. We have several ideas for that school development. This years is about feedback, how to give feedback, where to give feedback, what kind of feedback tools, what kind of evaluation you do, the feedback from students to the teacher, from teacher to students, between the teachers, how can we make that self active learning time more attractive for students that they really want to go because we don’t force them….
The self active learning is the central idea of Maria Montessori that children want to learn. They are natural born learners and the biggest problem are teachers and schools so the important task for teachers is not to disturb them first of all. If adults, teachers and schools never disturb children they always want to learn so that’s the first thing we always have to remember.
Then we have to try to make a good learning surrounding so we have good books, good materials, good tasks or something like that, a good atmosphere that they feel respected so they want to learn, they are not disturbed in their will to learn.
That’s the second thing and the third thing is the supporting system how can we support young people in learning in difficult times. We have got small supporting groups, every teacher has got about 12 students and we are more or less responsible for them. We meet every week and ask them if they have problems or what they have done the last week, discuss about the learning or motivation or not having motivation.
These three themes, supporting groups, self-active learning and feedback evaluation these are the big themes for the school development team.
We have supporting system from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. We have a lot of teachers here at school but they don’t have classes but they can support students. So all the students can go to them and do the so-called homework or school works I would say. Or in the afternoon from 15:30 to 17:00 we have also supporting systems. So every day from Monday to Friday they could learn here or be supported from 8:30 to 17:00, so they don’t have to work at home.
Mi colleague, art teacher and me, we try to have two classes together at the same time that we can do kind of team teaching. I really like that but it is not easy for every subject because of the timetable, it’s very challenging to organize that.»
Finding a balance between the free of choice and the regulations
«There is a kind of contradiction. On one hand you have the National Curriculum and the examination which is very limiting about what you have to learn and on the other hand we have our school policy that every human being should develop themselves in free choice. That’s our dilemma often but the young people they come here to do the examination so we have to support them.
We don’t want to have a hierarchical school. My position as the headmaster is totally nonsense. We need it because people, parents, the other schools and the government they understand it better that we have somebody who is responsible for that.
I am member of every team of school development and I talk in every team so I have some kind of bigger influence than other people that’s true, but I don’t have the power.«
«The most important thing is that you as a teacher still have fun while learning with and from your students»
«In general we have very good relationship and cooperation with the parents and they also know that the biggest responsibility is on the students so they have got a big responsibility if they “fail“ then is their responsibility, they cannot blame the teachers.
I guess it’s very important that you as teacher still have fun in learning that you don’ think “I am the teacher and I know everything”. The best moments as a teacher are when I say “Wow I have learned something from that young man/woman”. Because in many things they have more knowledge and skills than me. If you are 30, 40, 50 open minded to learn from young people then I guess you are a good teacher.«