by George J Elbaum
Warsaw Montessori Middle School (WMMS) is structured on Maria Montessori’s belief that “The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency toward creative work, and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.” As such, the school sees its two-fold role of informing its students (ages 12-18) and strengthening them. “Informing” includes not only academics but also daily living skills and experiences in a society of adults, and “strengthening” their moral development in personal responsibility and leadership, honesty, fairness, compassion and integrity. WMMS also understands the adolescents’ needs of emotional protection during their transformation to adulthood and of understanding the adult society which they will enter, all the while having a heightened sensitivity to any criticism. WMMS seeks to accomplish all this not only in classrooms but also through field trips into nature, real and meaningful business projects such as running a kitchen and its microeconomics, and by providing self-expression through music, poetry and arts. As a strong sign of its quality, WMMS is followed academically by the Warsaw Montessori High School, which is currently a Candidate for the prestigious International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program.
The current enrollment of WMMS is 58 students in grades 5-8, of which approximately 80% are Polish students and 20% foreigners. My talk at WMMS was organized by Ewa Stawecka, the Director of Warsaw Montessori High School and its IB Program. After introducing me, she started our event by screening a short documentary film showing Jewish life in pre-WWII Warsaw, whose population of 1,300,000 in 1939 was 30% Jewish. That entire world and almost all those lives were tragically erased by the Nazis within 5 years. My talk was arranged by Violetta Tarnowska, who arranged my first talk in Warsaw at her school in 2014 and my subsequent talks in Warsaw.