“Rewards and punishments, to speak frankly, are the desk of the soul, that is, a means of enslaving a child’s spirit, and better suited to provoke than to prevent deformities.” Maria Montessori
Students will ask for my judgement or approval regarding their art, appearance, and behavior. My goal is for students to develop the ability to look for themselves, making their own evaluation. So my response to their questioning is usually a return question such as:
What do you think?
Do you like the work you did?
Do you think you did good?
In regards to behavior, children are often hard on themselves. I may remind them of positive points to help them balance their own evaluation. If there is some thing in their behavior they see was disappointing I may say something to the effect of “We are all learning at school” and ask “What could you do next time?” A child seeing themselves as bad does not serve their progression. Why should they try if they always fail? They need to see that they can choose to learn new ways of acting in which they achieve the results they want for themselves. They need to experience the success of evaluating their own behavior, choosing a new behavior and feeling good about that choice. In regards to rewards, this is their internal reward from inside themselves, which surpasses any sticker or sweet treat.
I spent the last ten years without the title: Montessori Teacher. Those that know me, know that it is rare to have an in depth conversation with me without the subject turning to Montessori Philosophy and the value it has had for me, not only when I was a teacher but in the way I desire to treat others.
My most recent job adventure was a sales position. I went to call on a couple of my friends who had started their own Montessori school. During the visit, I was perplexed by the comment regarding their disbelief that I was no longer teaching.
Then I asked myself, If it wasn’t about how much money you make, then what would I be doing?
Because I believe what Maria said,”Within the child lies the fate of future.”
About 12 years ago, a young first-grade student was writing in her daily journal and was obviously distressed and upset. She told me that she hated cancer. Cancer killed her dog and hurt other people in her family. I responded what do you want to do about it? This young person organized a school walk around the playground raising money fight cancer. Another student, in the same class, was upset that people didn’t have enough to eat and she organized a food drive for a local homeless shelter. I want to emphasize that they did it, these young people with their passion decided how to make difference. They were not shut down or even coddled, but guided at a young age to create change instead of standing idly by. With this beautiful philosophy, possibility stays open for these young people and they do not have to fall into status-quo because they experience ultimate freedom to choose and act.
I am now starting to see students I had over a decade ago evolve into young adults. Nothing gives me as much joy as watching as they blaze new paths, having had the background of Montessori education. They learn that they can try anything and that they can independently choose to make a difference in the world.
As a Montessorian, when I see a child or newborn baby I see possibility. All hope for the future lays in the child. Maria saw children as the way for peace in the world. If we do not help children learn to see themselves as possibility and instead limit them to a narrow path avoid of self expression, we are also limiting the potential of the world.
Much is discussed regarding the state of education today; however, it is not the only issue at hand in determining the success of a child. In true Montessori environments the teacher guides the child in such a way that the child can discover their own possibilities and their place as a world citizen who is up to much more than gaining a paycheck. In the world of technology, many children can be seduced by imaginary worlds and all the while world around them is passing by and ultimately being destroyed.
As Montessorians we should be reaching out beyond the walls of schools to encourage youth around the world to not only participate in the world, but actively join together to create a world in which they truly want to be part of and contribute to with new ideas and visions beyond our comprehension.
As I worked at different Montessori schools, one question always was in the back of my mind. Why don’t the adults within the school treat each other with the same respect that they give to children in the classroom?
After Montessori education, I went on to get my MBA. During my business studies I started developing ideas about how Montessori philosophy could be used in business communities. I imagined a work environment where the boss was more of a guide, encouraging and empowering employees instead of always giving all the answers and maintaining all control and power. I imagined everyone working together towards goals and each person giving contributions not for praise but to move the whole company forward, a place where people acknowledge their mistakes and learn from those mistakes without fear of punishment.
I want to encourage those who embrace Montessori philosophy to allow it to flow into all areas of your life. Help guide others to these ideals that promote peace and allow everyone to discover their contribution to the world. I want to continue to discover how to apply the Montessori Philosophy in ways that really empower others through continued learning and exploration.
Yes, there are Montessori High Scools! As like any other Montessori program, the approach is based on what the student needs. At the school I work at, Montessori high school students are involved in entrepreneurial activities, help plan their trips, and are actively involved in a year long project focused on their passion.
It makes sense to have a Montessori high school because the big picture of Montessori is to create world peace. Montessori philosophy carries throughout the full development of a human. The Montessori student is guided through through process of becoming independent and caring for others and the natural world around them. After adolescence, one who has had the opportunity to engage in Montessori throughouy their entire education should be able to take their place in the world as an adult who will truly contribute to a more peaceful and healthy world.
“The development of the senses actually precedes that of higher intellectual faculties, and in a child between ages three and six it constitutes his formative period.” (p.143 para. 4)
Montessori education focuses on helping the child develop naturally and during his Early Childhood years a child is growing and adapting to his environment around them. They are attracted primarily to discover things they can discover through their senses. What a key time to hone in on observation skills as well as discerning slight differences between stimuli! Often children in this age group truly enjoy the sensorial exercises where that practice sorting, organization, and grading exercises picking up on the smallest differences and elements that can attribute to their success in their future careers.
One example is the chef who may need to determine how much more seasoning to add to a dish using sight, taste or smell. A doctor may need to be able to pick up on various symptoms through observing with their senses such as listening carefully to heartbeat.
Montessori, M. (1972). Generalizations on the training of the senses. In The discovery of the child (pp. 143-152) New York: Ballantine.
“There naturally follows as the result of the repetition of this exercise a sharpening of the eye in making distinctions, a greater keenness in observation, and a greater attentiveness in carrying out a systematic operation; and this in turn stimulates the reasoning power, which notices and corrects its errors.” (p. 125, para. 2)
For those that have not had formal Montessori Training, the purposes behind the Montessori materials may not be realized. One mysterious work is the solid insets, more commonly called cylinder blocks. These blocks contain groups of ten cylinders. Maria discusses the composition of the insets in great detail down to the size in decreasing diameters, heights or both. An additional benefit of the exercise is that when the child removes and replaces the cylinder using the small knobs on top, they are using their pincer grip muscle, preparing the child for holding a pen or pencil.
The spaces inside the block act as a control of error for the student. In the cylinder set that differentiates itself in height alone, the child will notice when the wrong cylinder into the wrong space. It will be evident as the cylinder will either stick out too far or be swallowed up by the hole. In another set, where all the cylinders are the same height and differentiate by width alone, the correction may occur at the end when one cylinder is left that does not fit into the remaining hole. At this point, the child will need to look to see where the error was made. When the cylinder block contains cylinders of different widths and heights, the control of error still exists and the child continues to learn to distinguish different dimensions at a more complex level.
Montessori, M. (1972). The Exercises. In The discovery of the child (pp. 123-125) New York: Ballantine.
“Little children, in fact, touch everything they see, thus obtaining a double image (visual and muscular) of the countless different objects they encounter in their environment.” (p.116, para 2)
When a teacher presents the sounds of the alphabet to the child, she does so by saying the sound and tracing the shape of the sound with her finger. She then invites the child to do the same. The presentation of the lesson incorporates auditory, visual, and touch. The movement of the tracing develops muscle memory and connects their movement to the image they see. When children begin writing their muscles will remember the movements they traced when introduced to the letter.
Students grade, sort and match sensorial objects isolating the skills associated with differentiating objects using the senses. They work towards mastery and in some cases enjoy doing the matching using a blindfold. They enjoy developing the ability to see with their hands!
Montessori, M. (1972). The Exercises. In The discovery of the child (pp. 116-120) New York: Ballantine.
“This is our mission: to cast a ray of light and pass on.” (p. 111, para. 2)
Thoughts after read 7. The Exercises “How a Teacher Should Give a Lesson: Comparison with Older Systems”
The Montessori teacher provides simple lessons for the child. Every word in the lesson is thought out to provide factual information to the child with a limited amount of words. Too much information can be distracting and can take the focus off the purpose of the lesson. The teacher’s desire should be to spark interest and wonder in a child. If the lesson excites the child they will get the material out and work with it without being asked.
Maria describes situations in which a teacher will go on and on about their lesson to the child reaching beyond what they need to know. The child may become confused or get stuck in the story, never understanding the true meaning of the lesson. Maria gives the example of a traditional teacher teaching a child about the shape of the square. This teacher goes on about how many sides it has and the number of corners, making the square much more complicated than it has to be. In the Montessori Classroom this would be as simple as pointing at the square inset and tracing it with your fingers stating, “This is a square.” Maria points out that in this simple lesson the child is not even required to count to four. In this simple and precise manner, the child is not confused and understands the purpose of the lesson.
The teacher should be a rainbow to a child, gently casting light on lessons for the child to learn, opening them up to desire to reach their own understanding. Then the teacher fades back into the background while the child explores on their own. It is a beautiful dance in the classroom to watch, the teacher floating around the room casting light about her students encouraging them to sparkle from inside.
Montessori, M. (1972). The Exercises. In The discovery of the child (pp. 106-112) New York: Ballantine
“The training and sharpening of the senses has the obvious advantage of enlarging the field of perception and of offering an ever more solid foundation for intellectual growth.” (p.99, para. 2)
Thoughts after reading: 6. The Material for Development
The classroom itself is organized and aesthetically pleasing to the child. Having a beautiful environment for the child calls the child to work or activity. It also helps them develop a sense of care and concern for their environment. They water the plants, dust the shelves, sweep the floor, straighten books, and place objects where they belong. They feel that their classroom is their own and they are proud of the care that they give to the classroom. Children want a sense of belonging.
Montessori materials help prepare a young mind for science. The materials teach the child about order and categorization. Each sensorial material isolates a single focus for the child such as weight, size, length or color. If a child is using a material in which color is the focus contained needs to be the same. Everything else about the items in the exercise must be the same. Touch pads look the same, but have different textures. Color spools are all identical, but have different colors. Bells are the same, but have different sounds. After the child does the work, they must be able to self correct, using their own reasoning to identify their own mistakes and make their own corrections.
Limitation is key in the Montessori classroom. Not every student can do the same activity, but choose for themselves work that is available. If another student is using what they want they have the choice to observe, wait or select another activity.
Montessori, M. (1972). The Material for Development. In The discovery of the child (pp. 99-105) New York: Ballantine