This enthusiasm and self-discipline is not inherent in all children, nor is it something that happens “overnight”. Dr. Maria Montessori said it best: “Free choice is a higher activity: only the child who knows what he needs to exercise and develop his spiritual life can really choose freely. One cannot speak of free choice when every external object calls the child equally, and the child, lacking in directing willpower, follows everything and passes from one thing to another without end.”
Children Thrive in a Well Prepared Montessori Environment - A Mathematical Example
So, how do we as Montessori educators move children from merely flitting from one material to the next to purposeful, concentrated work? A well-prepared Montessori teacher and environment are tantamount to sparking interest. Not only must the environment be physically appealing, lacking in chaos and clutter, but the very nature of the lessons must be so well prepared as to spur the children to further follow up and research. The Montessori teacher who is enthusiastic and demonstrates a sheer love of knowledge has the ability to bring out these same characteristics in her children.
I recently gave a math lesson on adding integers (signed numbers) to a group of Upper Elementary Montessori students. This concept, though new to all of them, became a fun experience as we explored together how this math worked. I assigned some required practice, with the expectation that it be finished in two days, our next scheduled meeting. An overwhelming percentage of the students not only finished what I had asked, but had done twice the amount of work by the next morning. These students came rushing to me to show me what they had accomplished, then, surprised me by asking for “more, just like it”, which they then ran to complete. One of the girls surprised me further by coming to me after school and asking for “harder” homework!
This was not a “magic” lesson. There was no song and dance. There were no promised rewards for completing more than what was requested. So, what happened? There was an enthusiastic Montessori teacher with children whose minds were ready to learn something new. If we remember that though we may have given these lessons countless times, this is uncharted territory for our students. It is exciting to learn something new! How wonderful it is to have a safe environment in which to practice and further explore this newly acquired knowledge.
For details on Montessori curriculum resources and diploma programs, visit the North American Montessori Center online.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, May 9, 2007.