The Montessori method is an alternative educational method based on the principle of self-education and is put into practice with the help of the so-called “Montessori materials”.
The Montessori method or method of self-education
According to the Montessori philosophy, the child is not an empty vessel in which the adult has to insert notions, concepts and abilities: the child is full of potential, which already contains its own abilities. The adult’s job is to help him get them out.
In order to achieve this, it is very important that the child is autonomous.
If he is physically independent, he will know how to take care of his person without the help of the adult (dressing, washing, going to the bathroom, eating alone, etc.) and will gain self-awareness and therefore self-confidence.
If he is intellectually autonomous, he will know how to be persevering and therefore he will be able to pursue his goals and to use all his potential.
Three fundamental elements contribute to achieving the aforementioned autonomy.
1. The Montessori school environment
The Montessori school is furnished according to the child: everything is of size within his reach, of a weight that allows him to manoeuvre objects to use them effectively and with simple workmanship, so that everything is easy to clean and keep in order (furniture without plugs, grooves, convolutions, etc.). Naturally, everything is pleasantly coloured, to offer a cheerful environment in which children feel at ease.
The care of the objects can be entrusted to the children: this is the only way to learn.
Each object is unique within these schools. There are no duplicates: in this way, the children learn to manage to wait, and with it, they abdicate that role of little tyrants that is natural in the first years of life, and they are introduced to democracy.
On the other hand, when they use an object, they can do it for as long as they want and thus enjoy the calm that the creative process needs.
Inside those walls, the child feels at home. He can choose to move from his own class to the classroom of practical life, to the classroom of religion, and to freely choose the activities to be dedicated to. The day is however marked by fixed appointments: work, free play, lunch etc. Therefore, freedom of choice does not translate into joyful confusion, nor into total anarchy, but into a system of organized freedom.
2.The role of the teacher in the Montessori school
The role of the teacher in this context is very different from that of a traditional teacher. His role is not central, he does not have a chair that stands in the middle of the class. The teacher teaches the child not to need the adult, but to do things by himself.
Learning takes place through materials, and the teacher’s task is to propose the right material at the right time and explain its use.
What is suitable for one child, it may not be for another: the teacher’s intervention, the proposals he will make, will be designed specifically for each student.
The teacher is the figure that mediates between the child, the environment and the materials, his action is never imposing, nor judging. There are no grades or tasks in class in the Montessori school, and the term “you are wrong” does not exist, which hurts the child from within.
Calm, patience, charity and humility are the indispensable virtues of the teacher, according to Maria Montessori.
3.The Montessori material
Montessori materials are basically games. They start from the sensoriality (touch, smell, sight, hearing), to abstraction (abstract learning).
Its fundamental characteristic is to be self-correcting: the children become aware of themselves when they make a mistake because the material is made in such a way as to make them understand the error. In this way, they can go back and repeat until they get the correct result, without anyone from outside telling them “you were wrong”.
The materials are divided into six categories, corresponding to:
- practical life,
- sensory material,
- cosmic education,
For each of these categories, there are materials suitable for children (from 3 years) and older (up to 6 years).
How do I understand if a school is really a Montessori school?
Unfortunately, there seems to be no Montessori “official” certification. In any case, a school cannot be called Montessori if it does not present all of these aforementioned characteristics.
Some reliable information, including the list of Montessori schools around the world, can be found on the website of the Association Montessori Internationale.
Discover more about the Montessori method by working or volunteering at a Montessori school
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