As a trained Montessori teacher, I know that the first job of the teacher is to “follow the child”. If we act as guides, children will use the Montessori materials found in the prepared environment to guide their own open-ended research and follow their individual interests.
Montessori also said that:
We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.
Being a Montessori trained teacher and believing in the Montessori method, made it challenging for me to be the parent of a Montessori student.
Making Connections Between Montessori and Traditional SchoolWhile all of my son’s classmates were conducting science experiments and researching early humans, my son chose to curl up in a quiet corner and read. Rather than explore geometric theories and analyze grammatical structure, he chose to develop his artistic ability. When, I wondered, would he take his education seriously? My husband and I met frequently with his teachers to develop ways to help him with his time management skills. He worked with his teachers in goal setting and completing work that was started. As he got older, I started to wonder how he would make it in a traditional school setting.
As there are no Montessori schools nearby, my son started attending the local public middle school this year. At first, the transition was difficult. Getting used to a schedule with seven different classes and seven different teachers was a challenge. Learning to read and use textbooks was not as fascinating as reading non-fiction. The hardest though, was learning about deadlines and due dates. Again, we met with his teachers and explained in more detail what he had experienced in his Montessori schools. We asked how we could work together to help our son succeed. Then, it happened. His work was being done correctly and turned in on time. Tests were thoroughly studied for and passed with high marks. He started asking what he could do to learn more. He began taking an interest in the materials I was creating for my Upper Elementary Montessori classroom and wanting to work with, and learn from that material too.
His dad and I couldn't be more proud of him. His teachers have commented time and time again about the change that has occurred. All of the years in the Montessori classroom were a direct preparation for where he is now. By allowing him to blossom and grow, and to follow his inner pace, he is now experiencing the joy of learning. As a Montessori teacher, I had hoped that he would find this joy earlier. However, each child is unique and it is up to us, as Montessori teachers, to follow and support the child along his journey.
There are three stages of learning:
Stage 1 - introduction to a concept by means of a lecture, lesson, something read in a book, etc.
Stage 2 - processing the information, developing an understanding of the concept through work, experimentation, creation.
Stage 3 - “knowing", to possessing an understanding of, demonstrated by the ability to pass a test with confidence, to teach another, or to express with ease.
“How do we all fit together?” That is the question that my teacher asked me. The answer is this: we all fit together like kids in a school, stars in the sky, and presents on your birthday or Christmas. We are all building blocks of society.
. . .
Humans share the Earth, its natural resources, the environment and all the animals. We are all responsible for the stewardship of our planet. Working together, side by side, we interact with our environment. We fit together like pieces of a puzzle.”
As a Montessori teacher, I have spent my fair share of time reassuring parents that their children will reach the third stage of normalization and learning, and that their children will be successful when they leave the Montessori classroom. While I believed in what I was saying, I had a hard time trusting my words in my own situation. I’m glad I kept reading and listening. When my son was truly ready, he knew what to do.
Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments, such as gluttony, vanity, or self-love, in order to foster in him a spirit of work and peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts. I then urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary prizes and punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and to confine themselves to directing them gently in their work. – Maria Montessori
Further reading: Transitioning from Montessori to a Traditional School
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, November 28, 2008.