The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self. The training of the teacher…is something far more than a learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.— Dr. Maria Montessori
What is Montessori?
Maria Montessori, one of greatest educators and scientists in 20th century, developed her own child-centered educational philosophy and approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Montessori method of teaching is a innovative and scientific way of being committed to laws of nature with children to support their true natural development. This distinctive new education first emerged from the scientific research and discoveries of Dr. Montessori while observing young children in Rome, Italy in the early 1900’s. Dr. Montessori’s method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.
In 1907, Dr. Montessori observed children given freedom to interact with a variety of self-teaching materials. In this way, she discovered they changed from the ordinary pattern of disorder, inattention and fantasy to a totally different state of spontaneous self-discipline, love of order, peace, attachment to reality and complete harmony with the environment. The consistency of this transformation led her to conclude that she had discovered the children’s true normal way of being. She referred to this transformation as normalization, and the new children as normalized. After 1907 until her death in 1952, she sought to help others bring about this same new reality in normalized children by following an approach of scientific education which eventually came to be known as Montessori teaching.
Working with institutionalized and inner-city youngsters, Dr. Montessori was struck by how avidly the children absorbed knowledge from their surroundings. Given developmentally appropriate materials and the freedom to follow their interests, they joyfully taught themselves.
The goal of Montessori education is to foster a child’s natural inclination to learn. Montessori teachers guide rather than instruct, linking each student with activities that meet his/her interests, needs, and developmental levels. The classroom is designed to allow movement and collaboration, as it also promotes concentration and a sense of order.
Since Dr. Montessori never detailed the particulars of her approach, would-be practitioners soon became confused and frustrated in trying to put it into practice. Many sought guidance by rigidly following Dr. Montessori’s direct advice and personality as a model. Others simply accommodated Montessori teaching to the conventional philosophy, beliefs, and standards of their own particular culture. However, since neither of these types of personality or culture Montessori teaching exactly duplicated Dr. Montessori’s original scientific experiment, they couldn’t fully bring about the same normalizing phenomenon or effects.
Montessori teaching is a scientific approach to children to discover and free their true nature. It is an experimental way of being, testing the premise that all children have a perfect inner guidance for their self-directed development. This new way of being follows laws of nature instead of a conventional teacher-directed curriculum. As a Montessori teacher, you are therefore functioning to control the environment, instead of the children. Montessori teaching deals with misbehavior by removing the detrimental influences around the central child in question. For academic development, the Montessori teacher provides self-teaching materials that allow children to learn in a free and independent manner.
But Dr. Montessori recognized no method to her experiences, focusing instead on details of the nature of normalized children, and the self-teaching materials that are involved with her approach. Montessori teaching has therefore been largely misunderstood and misapplied due to a serious lack of basic knowledge about its actual practice with children.