Maria Montessori, montessori, montessori difference, montessori teachers, teachers as guides, teachers as observers
As a Montessori parent for almost 30 years and an educator practicing in the Montessori world for more than 20 years, I sometimes forget that others do not have the advantage of the Montessori perspective. I came across a blog that fully supported Montessori education, yet tried to find a way to adapt it to other school settings. While I appreciate this thinking and am thrilled with the endorsement, it’s just not that simple.
The blog endorsed student choice, supporting independence, mixed age groupings, focusing on the whole child and individualized lessons. Yes, and… While those are all essential elements of Montessori education and, we could argue, elements of the best standards of all educational models, there is so much more. Each of these elements may be visible to outsiders. What isn’t visible is the underlying structure which is the essence of Montessori education.
The Montessori philosophy and pedagogy are based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s study of children, specifically noting the planes of development: infancy/preschool, elementary, early/late adolescence and maturity/adulthood. Every decision about what materials are on the shelves, which lessons are introduced and what expectations are established is a result of a strong understanding of the students’ development at those ages. Nothing is happenstance. This was all established through Dr. Montessori’s scientific approach as she developed each material, each lesson, and the setting in which they occur.
A critical element in Montessori classrooms is the preparation of the teacher. All teachers receive additional training beyond their college coursework to earn certification as a Montessori teacher. But that is just the beginning. Maria Montessori stressed that teachers need to be prepared each day to work with the children where they are – not where the next lessons states they should move. Montessori teachers are observers, always watching to see not only how successful the child is in a particular lesson, work project or assignment, but also to see how he or she interacts with the lesson. The how cannot be ignored as it leads to the why and the next steps in learning. In short, the teacher prepares a space (classroom) that is ready for use by all members of the community and steps back to observe the interactions and guide students through what is needed at the appropriate time. The teacher is there to provide what is needed when it is needed and not interfere with the student’s process and learning. This allows children to develop focus and concentration, and it builds intrinsic motivation, rather than the necessity of external rewards, such as grades, in order for children to feel a sense of accomplishment.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. These qualities and so much more are interwoven into each lesson, each interaction and each moment of the day. Montessori education has what many schools are searching for. Those of us who are lucky enough to practice in the Montessori world each day recognize the wonder of the method and encourage others not to pick aspects of it to incorporate into a traditional setting, but instead adhere to all of its tenets to afford children the very best opportunity to ignite their passion for learning and develop their full potential.
Phillip Montessori said:
Your school is a great example of what a Montessori school should be.
I’m sure you have made the lives of the children you have taught better by giving them an opportunity to live a more productive and prosperous life.
I believe you will benefit many more children in the years to come.
I wish you all the best and continued success as you move forward.
Beautifully written. I am both Montessori and State certified teacher. There are major differences between both and trying to integrate some aspects into a public school setting just does not work because of one of the key ideas Maria Montessori put in place for her schools which is following the child. It is very hard in a public school setting to do that as well as teach to the test or a set curriculum. From seeing both types of educational systems, I would always choose Montessori over public. I just feel like it creates a more well rounded child on their own level.
Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world – DR. MARIA MONTESSORI
A Montessori classroom is a thoughtfully designed environment to offer children opportunities to develop their own capabilities. Each classroom is filled with developmentally appropriate activities that encourage children to interact with specific learning materials, as well as to work cooperatively with others. The combination of independent, partner, small-group, and whole-group lessons and activities introduces children to different learning relationships and interpersonal dynamics—valuable skills for their interactions outside the classroom.