Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Montessori New Year's Resolution: Philosophy and Affirmation

NAMC montessori new year's resolution philosophy affirmation child high five
If I had to list one of my favorite movies of all time, it would be the 2004 animated film, The Polar Express, based on the Caldecott winning book by Chris Van Allsburg. It’s a coming-of-age story of a young boy on the cusp of adolescence fighting the child-like desire to believe in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas, and the need to grow up and find “the truth”. As the boy journeys one Christmas Eve to the North Pole on the Polar Express train, he vacillates between belief and disbelief, and it is only at the last moment of his imaginary journey that he chooses to believe. We find later that he holds on to his belief throughout his life, experiencing the pure joy of the magic of Christmas long past those of non-believers.

I mention this because I am able to see parallels between the boy in The Polar Express and my own Montessori journey. Over the years I have found myself in situations where I have doubted the Montessori Method both in my classroom and in my home. I've struggled with children who are not yet normalized, parents who speak “Montessori” but want rigid structure and homework, assistants who refuse to do any thing other than play with the children, and even my own preconceived prejudices regarding children’s behavior. I've spent many sleepless nights wondering what was wrong in my Montessori environment and how I could fix it. And only after worrying and fretting and doubting it could ever work, I returned to the works and words of Montessori to be gently, yet firmly, reminded to believe in the child. She tells us to prepare the environment so that the child may freely choose that which interests him and to closely observe what happens next. She cautions us not to interfere unless absolutely necessary as that stifles creativity. She tells us that our own ego has no place in the classroom and that we must wait upon the children as a servant to a master.

A Montessori New Year's Resolution: Philosophy and Affirmation

At the Fall 2009 AMS conference, Jonathan Wolff pointed out that “We need a paradigm shift back to Montessori philosophy.” He said that when adults are pushed to their limits, they often revert back to the methods we experienced as a child – both at home and at school. We need to step back and ask ourselves, “Are we controlling the child or are we creating an environment which creates self-awareness and empowerment to gain life skills?”

When I bring Montessori back into my classroom, I find that there is peace. There is a sense of calm and purpose. When I use Montessori’s techniques of grace and courtesy and respect, I find that my classroom works as a harmonious whole with kind, engaged children who enjoy learning. I find I am not dissimilar to that boy who summoned the courage to believe when others around him were cynics.
NAMC montessori new year's resolution philosophy affirmation looking at class pet
As we return to our classrooms, let our New Year’s resolution be to return to the words of Dr. Montessori and find ways to bring her good works back into our Montessori classrooms. Only when we truly believe and implement the words and works of Maria Montessori will we discover the true joys of helping guide children along the pathways to independence and knowledge.

Happy New Year and may peace prevail on earth!

Some suggestions for further reading:
  • The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori
  • The Secret of Childhood, by Maria Montessori
  • Discovery of the Child, by Maria Montessori
  • Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius, by Angeline Stoll Lillard
  • The Tao of Montessori: Reflections on Compassionate Teaching, by Catherine McTamaney
  • Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful, by Donna Goertz
  • The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, December 22, 2009.

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