Montessori Method of Teaching
In 1907, Dr. Maria Montessori discovered the child’s true nature by observing young children in their free activity with self-teaching materials. Her further research revealed this nature as consisting of various normal qualities, such as spontaneous self-discipline, love of order and perfect harmony with others. Discovering this fundamental truth logically provoked Dr. Montessori to study how to consistently allow this to emerge in practice. In time, this practical scientific research was referred to as “Montessori teaching”.
Soon after 1907, however, Dr. Montessori found she could not fully bring about her original experience of true normal being in a consistent, reliable manner. Montessori teaching, therefore, came to be largely understood in a conventional context of personality, culture, or other ideas that fundamentally distorted its original experience, purpose, and effect.
Experience and Wisdom
Over time, true normal being was lost and confused with other ideas, the experience was rejected entirely as an impossible fantasy, practitioners forgot or distorted any experience of the child’s true nature according to an understanding and knowledge that developed and became rigidly fixed thereafter. Experiencing absolute truth, however, requires a quality of natural wisdom and humility that extends far beyond any particular body of knowledge or understanding on the subject.
Dr. Montessori, therefore, gradually abandoned her original experience and scientific approach to true normal being, establishing in its place a relatively fixed understanding built around curriculum, materials, and certain broad general concepts, such as observation, preparation of the environment, and individual liberty. She conveyed this restrictive type of Montessori teaching through training courses for teachers, issuing certificates to graduates to qualify them for setting up schools using the name “Montessori”.
In 1929, Dr. Montessori established an education organization, known as Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), to exclusively represent and support her work by granting Montessori teacher certification, recognizing schools, and publishing her books and writings. Unfortunately, this activity became less about research and learning through new experiences, but more about defending a fixed understanding and body of knowledge associated with prescribed certification, curriculum, and specific learning materials.
Before Dr. Montessori died in 1952, E. M. Standing wrote an impressively detailed biography, “Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work”. In the book, he attempted to explain the underlying philosophy and scientific foundation of Montessori’s discoveries. After 1952, however, no one seriously followed up on Standing’s line of research until the current writer started his own investigation into the subject in 1969. Through classroom teaching and later by training Montessori teachers, he came to discover how Montessori teaching brings about true normal being.
What Would Dr. Montessori Say?
People wonder what Dr. Montessori might say now to new experiences and discoveries about her original approach with children. Among the few people still living who knew her personally, one claimed she would be “exasperated” by anyone asserting new knowledge about her approach, viewing it as unnecessary or insignificant. For example, Dr. Montessori might argue that “Skilled teachers already know how to conduct my approach” or “You really don’t understand it”. She would probably urge the persistent researcher to enroll into one of her authorized training courses to obtain a proper understanding of her approach.
Conventional educators often speak most highly in favor of objective, scientific research in the study of children and education. However, in practice, they tend to quickly reject any findings that contradict their own strong beliefs on the subject. For example, conventional educators tend to view true natural Montessori teaching as antiquated, saying, “We know so much more since the time of Dr. Montessori. The library is full of more up-to-date research.”
What is the key distinction between various types of Montessori teaching nowadays? This is a challenge to all of AMI educators.