Hanna and some of her students outside their Montessori school in Syria
A Montessori Teacher’s Account of Teaching During War - Montessori in SyriaI have always liked to “feel” the children; to observe them and understand their personalities in order to offer each child what he or she needs from a psychological point of view. I try to offer them affection and sincere admiration because each one represents an important member of our society and our future. I make an effort to always explain “why,” and I try to make lessons and activities as interesting as possible. Our curriculum is not easy, as we offer lessons in both Arabic and English and we have French once a week. And before being accepted to our private primary school, the children have to pass exams in English, Arabic, and math — exams that can last up to 2 hours each for a first grade pupil. The children must make a great effort from an early age, so our job is to make learning as positive as possible. I must say that the children always seem to be grateful for this; every small gesture we make is appreciated by these little people with their big hearts.
However, it seems that the children have changed this year because of the general confusion and tension we are experiencing. Their defense systems are up and they are not as trusting and easy to please as usual. It seems as if they cannot concentrate and they are less willing to cooperate than they use to be. They show this two ways: either they appear far away and completely detached during the lesson; or they become hyperactive. As a result, the teacher faces a great challenge and has to be more inventive and understanding as she guides the children. This is not always easy as the teachers are affected by the situation, too.
The children most affected are those that have experienced something extreme. For example, we have two refugee girls in our classroom whose families had to remain in the basement of a house for two days until being able to flee the conflict zone, and others who had to run away in the middle of conflict on the streets. What I feel as being their greatest need now is lots of fun and laughter, free time to play and do whatever they feel like, but it is not always easy to provide such an environment. Many of the parents understand, but others wish to continue the strong focus on intellectual achievements. And as we are a private school, offering what the parents expect is often necessary.
My hope is that the children’s natural innocence, joy of life, and loving nature will conquer the unpleasantness that life may bring — including this war. We, as adults, can learn a lot from these little people who have huge hearts, full of forgiveness and compassion. They have a natural urge to please, to love, and to be loved. I feel that the greatest gift that I have been offered is the honor to work with children, which stimulates me to be a better person and return to the peaceful nature of childhood.
This article is a humanitarian piece, reflecting the individual experiences of one student and the children in her classroom. It is not intended as political or religious statement in any way.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, October 9, 2012.