What Becomes of a Montessori Child?
By Dr. Wendy Agnew
What becomes of a Montessori Child? ‘That is the question’ … (to paraphrase the bard). whether to embrace this particular pedagogy or opt for a myriad of other methods be it public or private.
In my time as a teacher and teacher educator, I have flirted with a variety of educational systems. I come back to Montessori for a several reasons. First, Maria Montessori refused to patent her name because she saw her work as open-ended, ‘not a method but a philosophy, modelled on the natural growth phases and instincts of humans in the evolving universe’- hence her concept of a ‘cosmic curriculum’ designed to support and inspire the learning and growth impulse intrinsic to all beings. Second, Maria Montessori created her system to reflect a participatory democracy and a vibrant ecosystem. By mixing ages and providing an enriched, ‘prepared environment,’ she focused on the marvellous mentoring abilities of a thriving human and humane community. She preferred to call her schools ‘Children’s Houses’ because in them, learning is not institutionalized but seen as an inalienable right. Third, Montessori believed the work of education was not only to prepare children for the adult world, but also encourage them to embrace and cultivate an appreciation for cultural diversity, ecology, and peace. I have never seen any other system in which freedom of movement, thought, and communication produces such a harmony of wills.
Montessori’s philosophy underlies a series of robust initiatives that ‘follow the child’ by promoting an atmosphere of curiosity, exploration, and self-directed learning. This is of particular interest when asking the question, ‘What becomes of a Montessori Child?’ All enriched educational systems produce famous graduates, but most of these gravitate to a particular field of expertise. Montessori alumni excel in a vast spectrum of professions and vocations. “The youngest Noble Peace Prize nominee is a Montessori graduate. The youngest Rhodes Scholar is a Montessori graduate. The youngest artist to exhibit at the United Nations is a Montessori graduate.”
The underlying theme of Montessori education is not predicated on the potency of its materials, although these are powerful in their ability to promote independence and visceral understanding of intellectual concepts. The strength of Montessori education is in its flexibility to adapt to the multiple needs of each student - in both local and global communities. Instead of molding children, we facilitate. Montessori education is ‘response-able’…able to respond to the hopes, dreams, passions, and talents of its children. It is a gateway to the self, and to the world.
Such illustrious graduates as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Anne Frank, Jimmy Wales, Julia Child, George Clooney, Beyonce … are fine advocates, but I think validity is best proven by the happiness of our children. ‘This is our place’ should resonate throughout the Montessori environment as children take control of their future in a caring and fertile field of ideas, actions, and collaborations. We are not a method, we are not an institution, we hope that we are truly - a place to become…