The Montessori Classroom
Maria Montessori was a brilliant doctor, a visionary, a Pulitzer Peace Prize nominee, living in Italy from 1872-1952. Dr. Montessori overcame many obstacles to educate herself during a time period when a woman would not have been accepted in this world. Her vision for the future of humanity was awe inspiring, taking peasant children running wild in the streets of Italy, into her classroom. Dr. Montessori created her curriculum based on utilizing all of the child's senses for concrete learning. Because of this, the child was allowed to learn naturally, in as many ways as humanly possible. The modern Montessori classroom is still based on the principles that children learn through their senses and are sensitive to both direct and indirect stimulus of the purposely, planned environment. Through this environment the children are able to absorb and act upon materials presented and available. The Montessori teacher carefully plans and presents materials that provide beauty, function and relevance when considering the classroom environment. The classroom is prepared deliberately, with meaning and purpose.
Role of the Teacher
In the Montessori classroom there is no front of the room and no teacher's desk as a focal point. Stimulation for learning comes from the total environment. Dr. Montessori always referred to the teacher as a "directress" because her role differs considerably from that of a traditional teacher. She demonstrates the correct use of materials as the children chooses them individually. The Directress carefully watches the progress of each child and keeps a detailed record of his/her work. Each teacher has been trained to recognize individual periods of readiness. The Directress is a guide or facilitator whose task is to support the young child in his or her process of self-development. The Directress is foremost an observer, unobtrusively, yet carefully monitoring each child's development, recognizing and interpreting each child's needs. On a broader level, the Directress provides a link between the classroom and the parent, meeting with each child's parents to discuss progress and communication about our school community.
Also unique to Montessori programs is multi-age classrooms. Our preschool program is for children between the ages of 3 to 6 years old. Younger infant, toddler and preschool children learn by becoming excited when watching their older role models. The older children develop self-esteem by becoming leaders when helping their younger preschool, toddler and infant peers. Both younger and older children are also able to socialize together, if they choose, in this environment. Dr. Montessori's approach to multi-age classrooms allows children to choose their friends based on common interests, not just age.
"Discipline" in the Montessori Classroom
Discipline is the second pre-requisite condition for learning. Montessori discipline is an "inner discipline", an inner control that the child develops from his/her own behavior with the help of Montessori materials and in partnership with his/her home environment. Dr. Montessori noted that many so-called undisciplined children were really frustrated by the lack of proper stimulation and or inadequate opportunity to achieve. She noted that young people become happier and more self-controlled after a period of time in a Montessori class. They experienced challenging tasks, which not only absorbed their energies, but also resulted in a sense of achievement.
"Our task is to show the way to discipline. Discipline is born when the child concentrates his attention on some object that attract him and provides him with a useful exercise but with a control of error." Maria Montessori from The Absorbent Mind
"Free the child's potential, and you will transform him/her into the world." Maria Montessori
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