Hello and happy summer! My name is Samantha Bittman and I’m going to be taking over the Westmont Montessori School blog and social media as a Social Media Intern for the school (while also remaining a staff member at Extended Day Camp). When summer ends I’ll return to Fordham University for my junior year as an English major, but my educational journey began right here at Westmont. Westmont has been the longest-standing and strongest community in my life. Although it’s been fifteen years since I was a student at Westmont, I honestly feel like I never left. Westmont’s role in my life over time has changed yet never faded. After spending several summers as a Junior Camp Counselor I joined the staff working at Westmont last summer. As I watched the children proudly line up their math bead chains on their rolled-out carpets, proclaiming confidently “I will do it myself,” I was overcome with awe and inspiration. I found myself taking mental notes about the simple yet profound ways that Montessori allows its students to grow creatively. Over the course of the summer I’ll be bringing you along on my journey as I explore what makes Westmont such a unique and inspirational place.
Looking back on the first week of camp, the phrase ‘respect for others’ immediately comes to mind. As we hear this phrase repeated in workplaces and schools, I’ve found that it often washes over me as an adult. It seems too big of a phrase to unpack even as adults. The meaning of ‘respect for others’ is clear at Westmont; respect fills the intention of every child, teacher, staff member, and Junior Counselor’s actions. I found that little interactions I observed this week both simplified and reminded me what ‘respecting others’ truly means. For example, I heard two children laughing in Extended Day Camp. I could tell right away it was one of those laughs that has you doubled over with joy—the best kind of laugh. When I asked what they were up to, one of the children looked up at me and explained, “I’m making him laugh. It’s nice to make people laugh.” The simplicity of her words and empathy instantly inspired me. The empathy came from a simple place—the desire to create joy for another person. Similarly, when a child asked for help opening his Play-Doh, an older child sitting beside him instantly offered, “I’ll help you!” before I could even get a syllable out. I think that’s one of the unique components of Westmont and the mindset it cultivates. When it comes to solving a complicated problem, children are taught to think long and hard about it and to take their time considering which path to take. When it comes to respecting others, however, Westmont emphasizes simplicity, making kindness and respect long-lasting habits. I’m grateful this week to be reminded of that. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store.