It was the perfect work environment.  Everything was laid out logically to avoid congestion and reduce backtracking. The design aesthetic was minimalist. The materials maintained in pristine condition. Large windows on two adjoining walls often let in enough light to work by. The entire space couldn’t have been much more than 500 ft² (46 m²), ruling out any tolerance for clutter. The furniture was made from solid, light coloured wood in a uniform design but in varying dimensions so you could opt for group or solitary work depending on the project, the mix of people, even the time of day. Almost everyone cycled around to the “alone” spots at least once per week. I loved that there weren’t enough tables to accommodate everyone because it meant we could work on the floor too. This made for a lot of scooching and stepping around but that was okay as we were a considerate lot. I think at its most crowded, there were 24 bodies plus the manager and assistant manager working together in this space. But there were years when it went as low as 18. It really didn’t matter either way.

Of course not all of us wanted to be here at first. Clearly for some it was not a matter of choice. But once they saw the diversity of jobs, got some practical experience and realised that the rest of us were enjoying ourselves, they stayed.

It was the nature of the work that we delved into many areas of knowledge. The resources were there for us to dig further into mathematics, botany and biology, physics, geography and topography, language and grammar, even music. I don’t recall anyone ever running through all the materials available.

Keeping the space clean, caring for the plants, washing our dishes, even feeding the African Dwarf frogs were shared tasks. It was our environment; we all had a responsibility to pull our weight and get along.

I spent seven years of my life in the perfect work environment, a Montessori classroom; three years as an assistant, four as a Casa Directress. For seven years I lived the majority of my waking hours in the company of hard-working children between the ages of three and six, Sitting at the feet of the Buddha himself couldn’t have taught me more.

August 31st was the 145th anniversary of the birth of Maria Montessori, Italian physician and educator.

Image Credit: Montessori System- Form Reduced to Line