By: Elizabeth Wells
When I was tasked with writing an article about “Why Montessori Matters”, I was immediately overwhelmed. I have been a Montessori teacher and the mother of a Montessori child for almost a decade and I was a Montessori student as a child. Praising Montessori comes easily to me and when asked a more direct question on the subject, I will talk endlessly about the research, the science and from my own extensive experience. However, this does not ask a direct question, it is open-ended and is open to interpretation. It is a wonderfully ‘Montessori’ question. It allows me freedom to answer in a way that is meaningful to me.
As I began formulating my answer, I could not get into my head but rather kept going back to my heart. Why does it matter? What could matter more! The education of our children is paramount; they are our greatest asset and our very real future. Whomever we trust with this task must do it well, thoughtfully, fully, and with an eye for the adult our children will become.
It is a daunting task to be a teacher. Great teachers are everywhere. Praise and appreciate them wherever they are. I speak as a Montessori teacher and this is why Montessori matters to me. Because every child that walks into a Montessori classroom, including my own, is greeted by a teacher or guide who follows the following litany:
To respect children – in return to be worthy of their respect.
To praise much and blame little.
To emphasize their successes and minimize their failures.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING TEACH ME
To make no promise to children that I cannot keep. To have unbounded faith in them. To know that they have great potential. To have the patience and wisdom to bring it forth. To allow children the dignity of their own personality and individuality. To refrain from making them over to our desire.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING HELP ME
To be cheerful and ready to smile and often to laugh. Children love and thrive on cheer.
As teachers, we have no right to inflict our moods on children. (Happiness is an outward sign of inward spiritual grace.)
To have infinite patience with children and to make allowances, knowing there is so much for them to learn and knowing that I myself am not so very wise.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING GUIDE ME
To protect the child always from my nerves and from our own irritability, prejudice, pessimism, fears – showing and practicing in their presence only the opposites.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING AID ME
To help them choose their life’s work that they are suited for. To stir up the gift that is in them. To discover the talent or talents that they truly have – the inner pattern they came with.
MAY REAL UNDERSTANDING LEAD ME
To bring fresh energy into the schoolroom engaging all with keen alertness, interest and enthusiasm. To help children to meet life bravely, honestly, independently.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING SHOW ME
To give the children freedom and to never confuse liberty with license, as these two words are not synonymous ever. To show my friendly interest in each child. To consciously care for their progress, but to attain this by warmth and love rather than by rigid cold discipline. To manage children by the pleasantest of methods, with intelligence and affection and never by condemnation and fear.
MAY LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING TEACH ME
To educate truly, by drawing out rather than spoon-feeding. To guide them instead of driving them. To direct their energy instead of repressing it.
To try always to understand them, instead of sitting in judgment of them: and through all misdemeanours, both trivial and serious, to let them know it is the action we deplore and never the child.
OH LEAD ME, OH TEACH ME, OH GUIDE ME
As Adopted from the IMC – ENews, Teachers’ Section Newsletter of September 2005
Montessori based her method of education on the scientific knowledge that children are wired to learn. They crave knowledge and new experiences and when these are presented with respect and guidance -students keep this knowledge and seek out more. Students not only learn in this environment; but more so, they love learning and this is a gift that can span a lifetime.
The verses above speak to respect, honesty, independence and tolerance. Skills that we can all agree lead to a better future. If my child takes this model into her own life and approaches others as our teachers approach each student then we have truly educated her. I encourage you to replace “children” with the word “people” and find that this litany can speak to everyone.
Does Montessori have great academics? Absolutely! I would be happy to show you the research, the science and speak from my extensive experience on this subject. Nevertheless, why does Montessori matter? Because, through its teachers and its approach it guides children to become the amazing adults we know they are capable of becoming.
When children are happy, they learn. When children are respected, they show respect. When children are shown tolerance, they become tolerant. When children are given independence, they become independent both inside and outside the classroom. This is why Montessori matters to me.
Elizabeth Wells, Montessori Elementary II teacher at E. C. Montessori & Grade school, is credentialed in primary through age 12. Montessori Education Week is celebrated this week (Feb. 26 – March 3rd) by Montessori schools throughout the world.