It’s 9 am on a weekday morning and the class of Freedom Reign, a first-year lead teacher at Urban Montessori Charter School, is buzzing. There are 25 students in the class – 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade students, which is typical in a Montessori school where grades are put together to enable students to learn from one another. The students are in 8-10 different small groups working on various projects before they are called to the front.
Freedom is an Oakland native who has been working at the school for seven years. He sits at a table in front of the class, and rather than lecturing, as you might typically see a teacher do in a traditional class, he works with small groups of students through particular assignments. (“This is how you calculate area,” Freedom tells one group.) After a few minutes, they return to their seats and a different group of students comes to the front for their time with the teacher. All the while, a support teacher, Anna, circles the room to see if students need any help.
“The biggest thing I enjoy about being a teacher, especially a Montessori teacher at Urban, is the cosmic connection with students,” Freedom said. “Helping them find their bigger place in the world or the universe and trusting them to be in charge of their own learning, make them feel responsible and have a sense of ownership over their education.”
Freedom is part of the first cohort of a Montessori teacher training program called the Oakland Montessori Teacher Residency that launched last year at Urban. There are five other teachers in the cohort, and all were previously school employees who expressed an interest in becoming a lead teacher. It’s a two-and-a-half-year program that includes full-time work for back-to-back summers. At the end of the program, the residents will hold a Montessori teaching certificate.
“Oftentimes they are from Oakland, they went to public schools in Oakland and they understand our kids and where they come from,” Krishna Feeney, Urban’s Head of School, said of the first cohort.