What are the main differences between Montessori and traditional schools?
Montessori schools stem from the philosophy of education for peace and education for life. While Montessori offers outstanding opportunities for academic achievement, it includes an expanded vision in which there is a deep concern for children’s social and emotional growth, leading to the development of character and self-esteem.
Traditional early childhood programs prepare children for kindergarten and for grade one. Montessori primary programs prepare children for grade one as well as give them advantages that will last a lifetime.
Recognizing that children each learn differently and are each on a natural timetable for their own development, Montessori environments are warm, supportive communities where children can develop at their own pace. Learning in a Montessori classroom is self-directed. The goal is for children to enjoy the work they select, actively engaging in learning rather than passively waiting to be taught.
Traditional schools are typically highly competitive, challenging children to compete with each other for grades and special rewards. Using competition as an artificial motivator for learning and high achievement is simply ineffective. It teaches children to do only as much as required by the teacher rather than striving to reach their personal best. In Montessori schools children demonstrate collaborative effort and learn out of interest and enthusiasm rather than for superficially imposed grades or prizes.
What outcomes can be expected of a Montessori education?
Montessori children tend to be empathetic and compassionate, often growing up with a moral sense of social responsibility. They tend to be exceptionally respectful and appreciative of the work of others. Adults who had a Montessori education as children are typically lifelong learners, intrinsically motivated to seek academic challenges for the enjoyment and satisfaction of attaining skills. They are often creative, confident, competent, successful people who will share their knowledge and ideas, taking great satisfaction in self-expression.
What is the history of the Montessori Method of education?
Dr. Maria Montessori was the first woman to attend and graduate from medical school in Italy. She was a doctor of medicine, psychiatrist, and anthropologist who became interested in the field of education through her experiences with patients, colleagues and educators. Dr. Montessori opened the first Montessori classroom in Rome in 1907. She based her method of education on scientific observation of children’s learning processes. She equipped the classroom with developmentally appropriate activities, guided by her discovery that children learn through their senses, teaching themselves as a result of their environmental experiences. The Montessori Method soon appeared in classrooms all over the world as word spread of the remarkable results of her program.
The first Montessori class in Canada was in the Bell home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 1917, where seven Bell grandchildren attended. At the time, Alexander Graham Bell was president of the Montessori Educational Association. Many other famous people were influenced and inspired by Dr. Montessori’s work. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development was profoundly influenced by Dr. Montessori’s observations. He was president of the Montessori Society in Switzerland for many years.
Sigmund Freud once wrote to Dr. Montessori: “My daughter…considers herself one of your disciples,” and “I would be pleased to sign my name besides yours…brilliance radiates from it.”
Thomas Edison was also one of Montessori’s most loyal and supportive followers. Mahatma Gandhi also knew Maria Montessori and visited her classes in Rome in the 1930’s.
What are the qualifications of the Montessori teacher?
Extensive training is required for a full Montessori primary credential. Entrance requirements to approved Montessori training programs require a minimum of a university degree or a diploma in early childhood education. To be certified, Montessori early childhood teacher students must have passed written and oral exams relating to the Montessori philosophy and the presentation of Montessori materials in each of the curriculum areas. They must have education in child development for the ages 2 ½ to 6 years and practice as a student teacher at an authentic Montessori school under the supervision of an experienced Montessori teacher.
Montessori teachers are trained to recognize a child’s readiness for new lessons according to age, ability and interest. They prepare to guide individual progress through extensive observation and record keeping. In the classroom a Montessori teacher will give lessons, ensure that the environment is prepared to meet the children’s needs and act as a demonstrator, resource person and role model.