A Personal Reflection
When people apply for our UMA teacher training, they are always asked "What attracts you to the Montessori method of education?"
Often they relate where their own journey with Montessori began. They may be a parent who has enrolled their child in a Montessori school and has observed how children interact. Or they didn't know a thing about Montessori but began to work as an assistant in a classroom. Or they had only heard about Montessori from a friend and went to a class as a casual observer. Perhaps they came across an article or read one of Dr. Montessori's books. Whatever the reason, what they saw STUCK and they were hooked.
Thus began their own trek to seek out what makes this method so unique for a child's learning. Something significant often happens along this journey. Many realize that Montessori education offers a way of looking at life for not only the child but for the adult.
My own journey with Montessori education began when I met Trudy (my wife). She kept talking about the unique giftedness of each child and their desire to freely explore this world, learning how to enjoy and cherish it. And how, through this unique method, a child learns to freely give back and actively contribute to others and to this world. But Trudy didn't just talk about it. She lived it in how she treated children and adults, with a level of respect and dignity. There was something different just in the way she would ask me a question or carry on a conversation with a child or a group of children. It was about appreciating the journey together, exploring answers, and marveling at our world!
So I began to read about Dr. Montessori and her writings. I guess you could say I had a revelation about my own early childhood while reading The Secret of Childhood. She wrote how a child, if given a nurturing environment, has a natural desire for independence, self-discipline, order, dignity, concentration, and so much more. I was struck by how my own childhood learning seemed so different. There was very little self discovery and more trying to figure out the "facts and knowledge" adults had in their possession.
As I reflected back on my childhood, I realized that my expected role was to simply open my head and let them (teachers, parents, adults) pour it into my little brain. Then, somehow, I was to regurgitate it back out by what they wanted to hear or by my marks on a quiz or exam. Okay, I am over-simplifying but you get my point. Learning didn't involve my own appreciation and exploration but someone else's expectations. Educationally, I felt as if I were trapped. My only way out was to tell someone else what they wanted to hear.
Reading Dr. Montessori's own discoveries in working with children was my turning point. From that time on, I was personally touched by how her concepts were not just a method of education but a helpful guide in the way I looked at and perceived life. It gave me something more than a method of education or how one goes about learning or guiding others to learn. In Dr. Montessori's teachings, I found why this way of learning is foundational to who we are as human beings.
Why do I believe in Montessori education?
- It teaches me respect for others and for this planet which we are called to enhance and help renew for generations to come.
- It respects me as a life long learner who has much to receive as well as much to give.
- It offers a real, hands-on way to view life with dignity and to value others as participants in discovering goodness and peace, whether in the classroom or outside of it.
- It places emphasis is on my continual inner preparation as an adult.
First Things First
So often students enter our course eager to start learning about the child, classroom setup, creating materials, working with staff and parents... We begin by channeling this eagerness by re-orienting them to, first, a process of self-examination and what they can learn about themselves in order to cultivate a healthy outlook for the child.
"Here we must insist on the fact that an instructor must be prepared inwardly, and must consider one's own character methodically with a view to discovering any defects within oneself which might prove obstacles in the treatment of the child." Dr. Maria Montessori
Some students may struggle with this different orientation. But then, over time, they get it! They tell us how they have become more grounded inwardly and how it effects their work with children. Now learning involves their own self-discovery while helping children do the same.
At UMA we strive to cultivate each student's understanding of the child and their environment, coupled with a clear mindfulness about oneself. We believe Montessori education begins with YOU and your understanding of your own growth as a child. Discovering what affected you and how you learned during your early childhood helps you create a deeper connection to children, allowing them to reach their highest potential.
What attracts you to Montessori method of education? Where does your journey begin?