Montessori method of teaching is the most loved and practiced method. Ironically these methods were not derived from any extant pedagogical wisdom. Marie Montessori who is the founder of Montessori Education Method had sidestepped the more traditional education path for women, teacher’s training, in favor of science. But as an astute scientist and quick minded observer, she has soon discovered some important and revolutionary principles about children and the process of learning.
She said that children have an innate drive to learn, and that all on their own they are capable of amassing an incredible amount of information and wisdom about the world around them. She further discovered that children’s innate power for learning worked best when they were turned loose in a safe, hands-on-learning environment. Given furniture, equipment, and supplies that they could access and work all by themselves, they were self-motivated to explore, experiment, and reach new understandings. She found that if children were put into groups with other children with a small range in ages, they would not only work together but also help teach each other.
Montessori also found that children of all ages thrived when they were given the opportunity to experience mastery of real life skills and knowledge that was appropriate to their age and stage of life. Thus preschoolers thrilled at being allowed to assist in the kitchen and felt pride and increased self-esteem at being able to help set the table and use appropriate manners and verbal expressions. Meanwhile self-confidence and joy of young teenagers was bolstered by mastering basic home economics, and by learning information about running a business, or building furniture or a home. These young teens also did best when the primary emphasis in their learning process was practical and action oriented, rather than purely intellectual. Montessori believed this was because this age group was under so much psychological and physiological pressure that the surging swings of emotion made it harder to focus on purely abstract studies.
The most significant discovery of Montessori was the awareness that it is the teacher who must pay rapt attention to the students, not the other way round, a notion utterly contrary to the expectations of those days. But she found that by observing how the individual children responded to various lessons and materials , she could easily figure out what lessons or experiences to present next. And by acknowledging that each child is an individual, with individual needs and abilities, she could apply this method to guiding particular children to fulfillment of their potential.
Many of us are not even aware that the tern “Montessori” is not patented, due to which many so-called Montessori schools seem poorly acquainted with the philosophy of learning promoted by Maria Montessori. Some appear to believe this method is all about toys being put away neatly on shelves or about old-fashioned style puzzles and manipulatives purchased at exorbitant fees from specialized distributors. Montessori herself felt that the crucial ingredient was learning to be a good observer of children, learning to deduce and intuit children need, both in general and as unique individuals, in order to develop to their fullest potential.
In my next post I will be sharing different planes of development and Montessori education practices. So stay tuned……….