Entering Ms. McGill’s classroom for the first time in September, I was immediately welcomed to a community which was peaceful, productive, yet amazingly alive. There was calmness in the room as students worked at their own pace to complete lessons they themselves had selected—their focus and fascination almost tangible. At lunch, during the afternoon, and on the way to specials, students’ individual personalities and perspectives came to life; the class interacted in a way that resembled in my eyes a family.
The title of our digital documentary photography class, “Capturing Transience,” really embodies a central concept I hope my project conveys. The students in Ms. McGill’s classroom are at a very special and specific time in their lives, where wonderment and genuine interaction characterize much of their behavior—a stage that sadly is often fleeting in nature. While photographing at Watts, it amazed me how engrossed and absorbed Ms. McGill’s primary students were in everything they did. They truly live in the moment. Mariah carefully polishing and slicing an apple, Lorenzo putting together Europe with puzzle pieces, Ella tracing every shape she could find. I wish I were half as captivated by my interactions with the world as they are by exploring numbers or dancing in music class.
As I say in my video, the Montessori method as I came to understand it promotes student growth through collaboration, respect, and discovery-based learning. Through the process of completing this project, I feel as though these three principles which the Watts’ community embodies have greatly affected my growth as both a student and person. Documenting Ms. McGill’s primary classroom provided me an opportunity to experience collaboration, respect, and a desire to learn through discovery. It was an honor to be welcomed into the Watts community and into the classroom of such an astonishing team of teachers—and the most kind, quirky, and loving students I’ve ever met. I hope I can do this incredible and unique community of learners justice with my project. To me this experience has made for one of my most positive learning experiences as a Duke undergraduate.