Well, but don’t you think…?
…preschool children need fantasy play?
…children need to be taught to be competitive?
…children need to know how the measure up against their peers?
…grades and standardized tests are important assessments of children’s progress?
…Montessori’s methods are antiquated given all the current educational research?
My answer to all of these is a profound No. Not if you believe that the Montessori method of education works and is the best method for educating children.
Trust in the Montessori Method - Why We Believe in MontessoriMontessori teacher training students may sometimes experience the feeling that what they know from their own experience opposes what they are learning in their Montessori training. They ask me about this, hoping I will tell them that it is alright to pick and choose those pieces of Montessori that they feel most comfortable with and leave the rest behind. Montessori observed this, too, and determined that it is because many adults see children as lacking knowledge and experience. We feel it is our job to ‘fill up’ these little empty humans with what we have learned and experienced.
The adult has become egocentric in relation to the child, not egotistic, but egocentric. Thus he considers everything from the standpoint of its reference to himself, and so misunderstands the child. It is this point of view that leads to a consideration of the child as an empty being, which the adult must fill by his own endeavors, as an inert and incapable being from whom everything must be done, as a being without an inner guide, whom the adults must guide step by step from without. Finally, the adult acts as though he were the child’s creator, and considers good and evil in the child’s actions from the standpoint of himself….And in adopting such an attitude, which unconsciously cancels the child’s personality, the adult feels a conviction of zeal, love, and sacrifice. (Montessori, The secret of childhood)
Becoming a Montessori teacher is much more than just learning the content of the curriculum. Montessori said that “The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self; the training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of the character; it is the preparation of the spirit.” (Montessori, The absorbent mind)
Montessori wanted teachers to find a “different starting point” from which to work with children. (Montessori, The secret of childhood) She made it very clear that in order to understand and support the development of the child, the teacher must humbly put her own preconceived ideas about education aside - for the good of the child.
So firmly did Maria Montessori believe this philosophical tenet that she worried about how a conventionally-trained teacher could transform herself into a Montessori teacher. “An ordinary teacher cannot be transformed into a Montessori teacher, but must be created anew, having rid herself of pedagogical prejudices.” (Montessori, Education for a new world) She called her teachers to put the needs of the child first. “We must master and control our own wills.” (Montessori, Spontaneous activity in education: The advanced Montessori method) She called teachers to examine what, within themselves, would impede children from developing naturally and peacefully.
I use all of these citations from Dr. Montessori’s own works to show that in order to become a Montessori teacher we must look within ourselves and let go of our preconceived notions of raising and educating children. We must look to the scientific research and lifetime of observations of Dr. Maria Montessori and focus on our own internal and spiritual preparation. If we truly believe that the Montessori method is the best way to educate children, we must trust in the method and practice it to its fullest, not manipulate it to suit our needs.
Montessori, Maria. Education for a new world. Madras: Kalakshetra, 1946/1963.
—. Spontaneous activity in education: The advanced Montessori method. New York: Schocken, 1917/1965.
—. The absorbent mind. Wheaton: Theosphical Press, 1964.
—. The secret of childhood. Calcutta: Longmans, Ltd., 1963.
Related NAMC blogs:
- Montessori and Imagination: The First Plane of Development
- Montessori and Imagination: the Second Plane of Development
- Academic and Social Competition in the Montessori Environment
- Measuring Student Achievement in the Montessori Classroom: Grading
- Elementary Standardized Testing and Montessori Education - Is Testing Right for Your Classroom?
- The Montessori Method and Philosophy Explained - Why Choose Montessori?
- The Subtraction Snake Game - How Montessori Materials Help Students Learn to Love Learning
- The Montessori Movement: A US Historical Perspective
- STEM Educational Initiatives and The Montessori Method
- NAMC Elementary Mastery Checklists: Blending Montessori with State Standards
- Montessori and Brain Research: Moving Forward