A Montessori Quick Bite

A Montessori Quick Bite –

Do Montessori Schools Teach Enough?  Do Montessori Schools Teach Too Much?

from The Center for Guided Montessori Studies

There are so many myths about Montessori. On a trip to Vietnam I once encountered a public school principal concerned that Montessori wouldn’t work there because, she said, “Montessori is all about the individual, and here we believe in cooperation.” I have heard the opposite, too, of course. A father from Texas told me with perfect seriousness that the big flaw with Montessori was that “the kids don’t have to learn anything, they can just ask another kid for the answer.” Besides, he told me frankly, he didn’t want his son at a school where “they just sit and talk all day.” In contrast, a few months ago I met a mother who happened to visit a normalized classroom at a period of intense concentration. She decided that she didn’t want her child in such an “eerily quiet” environment.

Every child is a natural Renaissance master, exploring all of creation without the boundaries of disciplines. They leap from interest to interest with a passionate inquisitiveness. As Montessorians, we nurture their inquiries into the beauty of our world’s mysteries. This makes them more, rather than less prepared to navigate the messy complexities of the real world. We are often reminded that Dr. Montessori developed her method by observing children’s natural behavior; it should be no surprise that it helps the child harmonize so well with the real world.

Dr. Montessori’s science of childhood revealed a universal approach that works equally well for children in the slums of Rome, an African village, a New Jersey suburb, or the capital of France. There are wonderful Montessori schools on every settled continent, and like the countries they inhabit, each classroom has its own culture. If there is anything that ties these superior schools together it is this – they respect and understand the needs of their children.

In a Montessori classroom, children will learn to cooperate. They will also learn to work alone. They will socialize. They will focus on their individual work in utter silence. They will do these things because they are human beings, and because the prepared environment gives them the opportunity to act as such.

In the modern workplace a key predictor of achievement is being able to work well in teams. This is recognized by academics, for example, two researchers from the University of Minnesota said that “learning to work together in a group may be one of the most important interpersonal skills a person can develop” . The importance of collaboration is also recognized by the public at large, as in a 2003 study by the University of Connecticut which concluded that most workers agreed that “being a ‘team player’ is of paramount importance in the workplace”. Montessori schools allow children to develop these essential collaborative skills from the earliest ages. Perhaps at times the world is noisier and less ordered than a Montessori classroom. What of it?

Mainstream theories of pedagogy assume that the teacher’s job is to shape the student. But children are not delicate constructions assembled by teachers. Children are consummate engineers. Remarkably, even in impoverished environments, in time most children manage to assemble themselves into functional adults. With the enriched environment provided by Montessori, what might they become? It should be no wonder that a strong foundation may help children develop into remarkable adults.

So, do Montessori schools teach enough? Do they teach too much? Do they prepare children for the messiness of the real world?

These questions all misconstrue what the Montessori method does. It does not “teach”, in so far as teaching is thought of as filling empty heads with knowledge. Instead, it allows children to acquire knowledge in a natural way, while nurturing those critical skills necessary for both individual concentration and team collaboration.