What do you think is the best system available today for educating and teaching children?
I really enjoyed listening to Tricia as she divulged the latest advances in early childhood development in America.
As a secondary school science teacher with an understanding of much of the makeup of our world Tricia was always interested in alternatives …
One day she visited a school and upon entering – it changed her whole focus. Because, the classroom was literally a quiet hum of activity - where children
were totally focussed on their learning experiences. It was the Montessori Method that made her realise that there most definitely is another way to
enhance a child’s existence, where they are fully integrated into life.
Maria Montessori, born in Italy in 1870 was a physician and an educator - a pioneer for women’s rights as she was an active member of the suffragette movement.
She started in teaching by working with children with mental difficulties and impairments to learning. Being empathetic and aware, she developed specific
new tools for learning.
She was hired as a teacher by some tenement owners in the slums in Italy to school the tenants wayward children who were damaging the property when their
parents were away working during the day. So she brought in these learning ‘tools’ that she had used for those with impairments and combining these
with her other skills the children quickly became very engaged and at the same time, completely absorbed in their learning. This led to the students
experiencing their own internal changes, they became calmer, self-disciplined and able to concentrate on their work for sustained periods of time.
At a preschool level, the child is in a process of ‘forming themselves’ – it’s not just a case that they learn their language, or the names of things.
There is another dual process happening as well - there is an inner growth - that includes learning about the outside world.
When the child is in an environment which is stable, and supports them being engaged and interacting positively with their environment – it helps them
to have an organized internal state also. The result is a well-resourced child who is very able, independent and responsive to life.
Maria Montessori said that she did not invent the Montessori Method of teaching, she said that ‘I discovered the child.’ She noticed that after students
had engaged in a period of deep concentration with a learning activity, she saw that they would put their things away, and then have a phase of inner
contemplation before going on to the next activity.
Maria Montessori engendered much interest and excitement with her discoveries, not only within Europe, but around the world so that people came from all
over the world to learn from her and there was great demand from teachers to be taught the Montessori ‘method’. It is true that no matter where the
children are on earth, they all have the same abiding interest and engagement when enjoying a Montessori learning environment.
Montessori for Adolescents
Tricia spoke about her recently acquired Montessori qualification which she completed in August 2015. There at her AMI Montessori adolescent guide training
course in the U.S. she met superb teachers who care deeply for children and for the future of our planet.
Not far from Cleveland in Ohio there is a Montessori farm school for adolescents, that connects children with animals, growing things and working alongside
nature. Including understanding economics and how everything is interconnected. The value of food and produce and costing things out, as well as understanding
both buying and selling. All aspects of economics are covered in a direct hands on practical way, including doing the books, doing the accounting,
calculating the profit and loss of the various enterprises. Teaching and factoring in responsibility as the greatest freedom we can experience, and
also eating what they have grown.
This farm school for adolescents was called by Maria Montessori “Erkinder”, which means “children of the earth (soil). They have a program where they board
on the farm – they live and work, but not in the same way a New Zealander would grow up on a farm and go off to school. They have an integrated experience,
this includes a deep connection to mother earth, work with animals everyday and this awakens their love and connection to all creatures. Including
harvesting of food – be it honey or goat’s milk. All to do with allowing the children to connect and also realise what it is to survive. Engaging them
in the commerce side, it shows how dependent on the earth we really are.
Montessori schools are based on having 3 ages in the one class together. At preschool 3, 4, up to 6 year old students are all in the same class together.
For the new infants, the 5 year olds model the correct behavior, whilst the teachers are engaged in showing how to use the various materials.
The closer you can tie freedom and responsibility together – the better. (An interesting dialogue regarding this is in this radio interview.) Too much
freedom and no boundaries is not responsible – leading to poor behavior. Children who are given responsibility within boundaries have clear expectations
of them to bring about success, as long as teachers are included in this equation, and appropriate behavior is role modelled by their peers.
Maria Montessori has created some innovative learning tools – bead chains from 1 to 10, and a spindle box to show 0. All Montessori materials are physically
manipulated by the students and kinesthetic learners benefit from experiencing these hands on learning materials.
In looking at the present main-stream factory model of education this different approach in Montessori becomes very insightful.
We are living in a world where jobs are going to disappear faster than they can appear as new technology comes on stream. Because innovation towards smart
technologies are going to make huge numbers of people become redundant. Companies are doing away with workers across the board – one of the more recent
examples being supermarket check-out machines.
Hurry up and wait!
MainStream education is about ‘Hurry up and wait’. From the age of 5 to 18 children are being told to ‘hurry up and wait’ – It is inculcated in people.
This is conditioning them to be not well integrated and inner resourced, but to do as they are told and be compliant. Tricia gives a powerful analogy
of what this means as children are programmed to be told to queue and wait, then hurry up, and then cue and wait. Setting us up to become victims if
we are not strongly inner resourced to see ourselves as empowered individuals who can slot into the world at our will.
The key to the Montessori Method is heart and soul, which is included in the whole process of having children feel that they are connected. Otherwise learning
is just an intellectual exercise that you can easily forget as soon as it is done. There has to be an emotional connection. ‘Know thyself’ is part
of the learning process in Montessori as a child becomes a fully integrated and loving human being.
The Montessori Method has as a part of it, ‘Cosmic education’, where students include the bigger picture into their learning.
The Montessori Glass Classroom
The Montessori Glass Classroom is an event where the classroom has no walls and adults and those interested can look in at any time and watch how the classroom
operates. Witnessing the focus and engagement of the children, and how the teacher guides the students in their learning experiences in the classroom.
This interview gives us an important insight into an ever evolving system of teaching and learning. Especially in regard to assisting and empowering little
minds to be well resourced and prepared in our ever changing future.
Tricia is organizing a Montessori Glass Classroom at the Auckland Baby Show 19th, 20th and 21st of August at the ASB Showgrounds in Epsom Auckland from 10am to 5 pm each day.