Ann Ribolini


As a director and owner, I am speaking out to address any questions you may have about the goals of MECEU. The Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators United (MECEU) project is a campaign to respond to the needs of early childhood educators and providers. MECEU is working to create a state-wide work force or union – which includes administrators like me – to negotiate with the state for adequate funding for early education and for our participation in policy decisions. Both of these goals are important to me and, I presume, to you. The union is involved in advocacy and lobbying for these goals; it brings the clout of this powerful national educators’ organization to our aid.  
This union is unique. MECEU is not at all about pitting teachers against administrators. On the contrary, it is about everyone working together to bring more resources to our profession. I agree with this approach. I want to change many state regulations to be in alignment with Montessori philosophy, and I would be very happy to see increased funding for early childhood education around the state.
I founded Copper Beech Montessori in Jamaica Plain over 20 years ago because I love the Montessori philosophy. It’s a fantastic way to be with kids. But in Massachusetts, the rules and regulations pertaining to early childhood schools and centers sometimes conflict with our philosophy. On our last licensing visit, for example, my licenser informed me that children could not be allowed to put their shoes on the wrong feet. If they put on their shoes inaccurately, she said, we are supposed to correct them and have them do it “the right way.” She had the same reaction when a child mis-buttoned his coat. I was shocked! To Montessori teachers, these “mistakes” are wonderful. Look! the children are so independent, we say. So what if the button doesn’t go in the right buttonhole! Then when the children notice and fix things, they have a learning experience.
I believe that when you do everything for children, they perceive that they’re unable to do it themselves. But my licenser doesn’t see it this way. She thinks these are health and safety issues. She also told me that an adult should walk a child to the bathroom. Every time! I would need one teacher dedicated to walking children to the bathroom all day. And why? We have a safe and open space, we keep an eye on everyone. But we don’t believe that children should be under lock and key in our center. The freedom we provide for the children is perceived by our licensers as dangerous and inappropriate.
I don’t know where my licenser gets her ideas about what is safe and unsafe. Montessori looks at a situation and says, “This is fantastic.” My licenser says, “You’re neglecting the children.” I know that is not true and certainly our parents support our philosophy. There has to be a balance.
I go to all the EEC meetings. But I always leave thinking, “That has nothing to do with how I run my school. That is all about regulations and ‘meeting criteria,’ it’s not about children. If it were about children, the rules would look different."
It’s time for providers who are passionate about children to get involved in the regulatory process. That is one reason I feel very comfortable and hopeful about MECEU and its vision for what we can accomplish together. If you would like to contact me, I am happy to talk to you about why I support this group.
Ann Ribolini, PhD
Copper Beech Montessori
179 Amory Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130