During the recent Montessori Teacher Training 2014 – LIVE!, (a live broadcast of the annual one-month intensive teacher training from Bozeman, Montana,) Age of Montessori Director and Master Montessori teacher, Mary Ellen Maunz made the following comment:
“Montessori is really a message, it’s not a method. And that message is the respect for the inner teacher within yourself and within the child, and that message calls a whole new way of behaving with children.”
Wow! I don’t know about you, but this certainly gave me pause. What do you think Mary Ellen meant by: “a whole new way of behaving with children”? And, I want to know more about these “inner teacher[s]!” Here’s what I think: the message is about self-improvement as much as it is about improving the lives of children. Perhaps it means that we–as teachers and parents–must continually strive to become ever-better caregivers, and we can do this by understanding and respecting the developmental differences between our own minds and those of
young children. While we adults cannot remember what it was like to have the sensitive and mysterious mind of a child, we can observe and learn from children just as Maria Montessori did:
“We ourselves have lost this deep and vital sensitiveness, and in the presence of children in whom we see it reviving, we feel as if we were watching a mystery being unfolded. It shows itself in the delicate act of free choice, which a teacher untrained in observation can trample on before she even discerns it, much as an elephant tramples the budding flower about to blossom in its path.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
The Montessori Method (and message) teaches us that from birth to about six years old, children are in an ‘absorbent mind’ stage. This means that they think and learn very differently from adults, who have ‘reasoning minds.’ This developmental difference must be observed, honored, and protected, which takes very careful preparation on the part of the the caregiver. Montessori tells us that the true preparation for becoming a teacher is our own, inner transformation.
As Randall Klein, Age of Montessori Master Teacher Trainer and co-author of Learning to Read is Child’s Play, explains:
“As Montessori teachers and students, training doesn’t stop when you get your diploma. There is a spiritual preparation that doesn’t stop. You are always trying to become a better person and caregiver. [Through Age of Montessori] teachers and parents can renew their inspiration, dedication, and commitment to becoming a better person tomorrow than today.”
In the true spirit of Maria Montessori’s message, Age of Montessori’s on-line training program places great importance on the spiritual preparation of the teacher. The course requires students to work on their personal psychology, an area often overlooked by other teacher training courses, but considered imperative by Maria Montessori herself: “The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self.” ~Dr. Maria Montessori
Why, you might ask, is this preparation of the teacher so important? As Victoria Brailsford, Age of Montessori Faculty Member and Montessori teacher, explained during the broadcast:
“Children are constructing themselves throughout the day [….] Sometimes we must back up and remember that the big goal is to support the child who is constructing himself through these experiences. Our job is to offer them the most rich, and beautiful, and well planned environment that contains these experiences. They are literally building the architecture of their brain.”
That’s a pretty big deal–the ‘construction’ of a child. Wouldn’t you say? Maria Montessori coined the phrase ‘mind in the making,’ meaning that the sensitive, absorbent, developing child’s mind is continually in the process of making itself and we must help this process to unfold, never hinder it.
“We have to always keep in mind what our real goal is. It is not that every child learns X, Y, and Z by the time they leave us, but that they have had the opportunity to connect with their own inner teacher, and that they are in the process of unfolding their true potential. It is a mindset that we have to keep with us all the time.” ~Mary Ellen Maunz
So, it seems that there is already something inside the child, a seed of intelligence, if you will, that we must allow to grow – and grow to its full potential. If you’d like a first-hand experience of this lively discussion, check out this 2014 informal video from the recent AoM Live!