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 AffirmationAt 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.
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
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, December 22, 2009.