Hi! Me again.
I want to talk about Montessori as usual. I also want to talk about the mismatch I think is undermining learners and learning for so many.
Over the years I found one thing in common with all the learners I came in contact with, that is all were still keen to learn. In fact, it has been my experience that people love to learn, but often struggle with education. There seems to be a conflict here, and in my opinion it is this; there is a mismatch between the way people learn and the way in which they are taught.
In all the conversations I have had with learners of all ages and abilities, they express a sense of not being good enough, not clever enough, the teachers didn’t have time to explain, and when they did, the learner felt stupid as they still didn’t understand. These difficulties expressed are compounded the further on the education journey the learner goes. Yet often these same people are skilled in many other areas. Again, a mismatch.
I believe this mismatch between the desire to learn and ability to learn starts early on in education, and the difficulties and deep anxiety about their ability to learn are experienced by many more people than is realised.
As a Montessori teacher, who uses predominantly multisensory, hands on methods to teach, I attempt to facilitate a positive learning journey, or undo poor learning experiences and support a new, exciting and fulfilling learning journey.
It starts with the belief that all learners continue to learn life long, and want to do so, but they don’t necessarily want to be ‘educated’.
I feel learning is of value and the person who wants to learn can do so, at their own level and pace. Older learners often come with learning barriers that take time to remove and they may have an idea that the teacher is ‘clever’ and themselves not clever. So the relationship of teacher pupil has to change to one of facilitator and seeker. The teacher facilitates the learning journey of the seeker who actually still wants to learn, but often is deeply anxious about the process, or believes they can’t.
It may mean backtracking to the last point of learning fun, to take a different route, but that new route hopefully leads to a different and more exciting, fun-filled journey for the learner as well as teacher.
As a Montessori teacher, I’ve spent my working life following this philosophy, and believe that the learner who presents themselves to me still has the spark that compels them to try again to learn those things they wish to, and I likewise, feel compelled to support them to the best of my ability to learn the way they need to.
In all the work I have done, I have always used Montessori methods and philosophy as my foundation and starting point.
So, what IS Montessori?
Maria Montessori was a real person and was a significant influence on education. She developed the Montessori method of education and philosophy.
There are many other aspects of Montessori philosophy which are vital to the whole, of which I am passionate advocate, but for now let me talk about 3 fundamental principles.
• The Absorbent Mind
The absorbent mind is the mind of all children. Up to about three years of age we talk about the child as the ‘unconscious creator’ and older learners as ‘conscious workers’. This means that what- ever challenges they may have, learners absorb ALL input from every available sense. That also means that all adults too have an absorbent mind, but this is more conscious.
From the input we all receive, our minds, our knowledge, and ultimately our brains are created. Nothing is wasted, but it is not all apparent. It is like the inner framework of a building which is fundamental to its stability and strength, but which is not visible. The mind seeks stimuli to create itself and it will get this through all the sensations to which it is exposed, and the more positive stimuli the better.
The concept of movement is deeply attached to the absorbent mind. In Montessori this concept is based upon the fact, that, try as we might, children can’t stop moving. Why should they? Their muscles are developing, they are gaining mastery over every aspect of their bodies, and movement is fundamental to the human condition.
We look eagerly for ‘normal’ movement in our babies, and often the first sign is the hand reaching out. Montessori said “The hand is the tool of the mind” and indeed we often hear parents say “Don’t touch!” when they enter a shop or building where things may get damaged by immaturity of movement, because the child is reaching out to explore their environment. Montessori believed, and science proves, that the child, and indeed ALL learners, who move while learning, using all senses available to them while doing so, develops stronger links to their learning. They are more able to retain and retrieve information and make links with all other learning and areas of life. The ability to make links and develop understanding is called transference and this skill is vital to the child and older learner, developing cognitive skills that are global, not separate pockets of information.
The concept of freedom and discipline is one that is often misunderstood, but it essentially means this.
For the child to gain true self-discipline he must have freedom to learn, to learn he needs to develop self-discipline, to manage him/herself in such a way that they CAN learn.
To learn is to make mistakes, and develop a positive attitude to recognising, owning and correcting the mistakes. This applies to all aspects of their interaction in the classroom, not just behaviour.
In a Montessori classroom independence of movement and responsibility for action is introduced from day one, as they make choices as to what they do and how they do it. Children who make choices are more likely to learn from them and refine their choices as they grow in confidence. Freedom learned this way develops self-discipline as the child moves freely around the classroom, working on the prepared environment, using their whole bodies to learn. This freedom of movement is limited only by the child’s own ability to learn from the actions they perform, but it is always supported and carefully extended or scaffolded by the teacher who understands the limit of the child’s current development. This freedom continues to the older child who chooses what aspects of the curriculum they are going to do in the session, and how they are going to do it, guided by their teacher with whom they discuss their time table. Yes the child will make mistakes! However in a Montessori classroom those mistakes are valued and empower the child.
Using all three of these fundamental concepts, within the framework of the Montessori philosophy, and the prepared environment of the setting, Montessori teachers implement learning, create learning environments suitable to all learners, no matter what the challenge is and empower all learners.
This is what I am passionate about.