True Montessori

Module 1: Montessori Philosophy

Montessori Directress

Montessori Directress

“The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas.  It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” – The Absorbent Mind, Page 132 

To be Montessori directress, it needs constant and continuous preparation. Such a scientific preparation which needs to be continuous, and constant is what we refer to as Montessori Training. Any training should be intense, conscious, and deliberate, the most essential ingredient will be ‘freedom’, The training should include freedom to think, question, discuss, ruminate, and clarify. The training should not be merely theoretical and made up of preconceived ideas and, therefore, the training cannot be done by correspondence. The stronger basis the training has, towards real life experiences and realities, the better it will be. The training programme will devote itself in helping self-training. 

Man has in him, an inherent nature of developing himself inwardly and outwardly. It is this inner urge that makes him unique among living beings. This urge starts from birth and lasts through life. The child who is in the process of building himself depends on the adults for assistance. This assistance is lofty in significance and has to be enormous. 

Only on adult who has taken it as her vocation to spend the life in service of the child can/will provide the assistance scientifically and lovingly at the same time. It is only she who can deliver the goods. But this has to be preceded by a deliberate and conscious training that is undertaken by the person to become worthy of the child. This is true especially with regard to person who aspires to become worthy of the child. This is true especially with regard to a person who aspires to become a Montessori directress. The training does not stop when the formal training is completed, and valid certificates obtained. It continues further in acquiring independence and an attitude of self-confidence. Thus, she may become really and truly worthy of the child. 

Such training undertaken by one’s self may be classified as spiritual, intellectual and technical or physical. The classification is done to categorize the types of preparation. The attempt at training in all these fields needs to take place simultaneously. Without conscientious and conscious training, it would prove to be a futile effort in helping the child. 

Spiritual preparation starts when the person understands that her concepts about the CHILD and his true nature may not be entirely based on scientifically discovered truths. Consequently, some need to be unlearnt. This preliminary step though extremely difficult, is inevitable. As the process of unlearning is undertaken those ideas have to be replaced by truths scientifically proven. This selection of all that concerns child and childhood has to be done objectively.  Avoiding any possible intervention of a prior judgement in the decisions made methodically and deliberately, is inevitable. 

Opening oneself to receive from the child can contribute greatly to one’s continued development. The incentive, the help and the challenge is offered only by the child. Clearing or cleansing of unscientific presuppositions becomes a steppingstone to the development of humility is assisting the Child. This humility should not be misunderstood as sheer subservience but that the needs of Child have to be given higher priority in comparison with the adult. To be able to realize that satisfying the needs of the Child is more urgent than anything is of utmost importance. This realization comes as a sequence to the knowledge of the true nature and the function of the Child in the cosmic plan and the inexorability of the autonomous laws that govern development. 

Subsequent to this realization an attitude of service could be invoked in the person who offers help. It could be likened to the attitude of a servant in a feudal household who would wait in the background but all alert to render help when necessary and only when necessary. The help is offered without the recipient feeling the weight of the hand that offers it. The help is not imposed on the child according to arbitrary decisions taken by the adult educator but comes as an answer to an expression of a need or in anticipation of it. The extent and the intensity of such assistance are to be limited to what is necessary and sufficient. 

The assistance is offered with the choice of acceptance or refusal remaining with the child. The attitude of service could be considered healthy only if it is rendered without the expectance of anything but pure joy. That would provide help to the receiver and a sense of fulfilment and upliftment in the giver. If all this should be possible the whole exercise will be based on love which would be all embracing. Love that sees everything would be directed to an individual for his development as a person and a member of a developmental community. 

At the intellectual plane the adult educator has to equip herself with the knowledge of the child and his true nature. Gaining knowledge about what, when and how the child needs help to live his life is essential. The study must be comprehensive by reaching for the scientific information already gathered by pedagogists, educational psychologists and others who have devoted their time and energy in discovering the child. It would be necessary to study these but not sufficient. 

It could be good source of knowledge. To work with children and observe them consciously, objectively and intelligently in a specially prepared environment that offers assistance and freedom. The children, in such environments, live their lives according to the natural laws that govern development. To receive knowledge from such humane children would depend on the humility and the desire of the educator. 

Such knowledge would pertain to the real nature of the child, his human task, his needs, and his powers, inherited and acquired. The directress, on the technical plane, should train herself in the techniques of rendering assistance. This would include a complete understanding of the means of development specially prepared for the Montessori House of children. One of the very important aspects of the child’s using the materials as means of developing himself is the way he works with them. It should help him lay a sound basis for an integrated personality. But the efficacy of the exercise lies in the proper contact being established between the child and the means of development. There lies the crucial role played by the adults in charge of the House of children. The technique of resenting the materials should be learnt, practiced and kept in  practice. These techniques have to be adopted to every child, his capacities and readiness. 

This needs a prerequisites skill in assessing what the child has already mastered in that field of activity. The nuances of offering help, keeping in mind the individuality and the individual rights of the child and the essential need of freedom have to be consciously and conscientiously learnt, The directress jealously guards the rights of the child by limiting her assistance to what is needed and not extend more. Extreme care should be taken not to step out of her position. 

If the fundamental rights of the child to live according to natural laws is to be reckoned, the assistance rendered by the directress should be nonviolent and, therefore, quite indirect. That way each and every child blossom into a healthy individual. The Monto will be “1 must decrease so that He may increase.” 

Relations with co-workers, parents: 

There is a wide gap in the experience as a learner or a trainee and being in the midst of children applying the knowledge obtained. The first year of working  with the children proves to be real challenge because it constantly poses a struggle between the ideal and the real. The compromises hurt. To use proper  judgement and not to compromise on the true principles of the Montessori method needs courage. To be able to find out what is to be done, when and how,  needs a constant reminder that we need to continue to be learning. 

Taking the House of Children as an example, we recognize three agents in  rendering assistance. The specially prepared environment is the most discreet  and least imposing and, therefore, nonviolent agent. This becomes the first  choice of the directress in selecting a medium through which necessary  assistance can be provided. The preparation, organization, decoration, and the constant maintenance in the state of the preparedness will be the responsibility  entirely of the directress. The stimulation to work and the enrichment of the  personality that ensues are what the prepared. environment and social  intercourse within the members of the development community can contribute. 

The means of the development are organized in such a manner that the child  not only gets help in achieving the developmental purpose they are meant for  but also other forms of assistance which cater the enhancement of the human personality. The freedom to choose, the freedom to judge his performance,  stimulation of an attitude of give and take within his community of peers, scope  to exercise his incipient Will are some of the not so obvious benefits. Conscious efforts have to be made by the Montessori directress to promote the different  avenues of personality development via the means of development. 

The directress is in charge of the first two agents of education. Yet she has to keep in mind the development of the child as an individual and as a social being.  She has to withdraw to the background and remain a third agent in priority. She learns the responsibility to be an auxiliary and subsidiary agent. She comes to  the forefront only if it is absolutely necessary. Her intervention is called for only when it becomes necessary owing to the other two agents failing to render the  assistance. This contributes to the approach being indirect and, thereby,  assistant. 

One such instance could be when the child needs to be protected. The  disturbances could be caused by outside factors of the environment or, perhaps,  by children. It is also possible that certain children need to be protected from  themselves, their deviations and deficiencies. It becomes the exclusive  responsibility of the directress to ensure the protection of the child. 

Another extremely important task, which the other two agents cannot perform,  is that of establishing intelligent and purposeful contact between the child, the  environment and the means of development. The fruitful use of the Montessori  equipment depends entirely on what is offered to the child, when and how.  Whether the aims to be achieved by the child working with the materials are  within sight or not depends of the right type of contact established at the right  moment. If this contact is not made properly it could prove to be detrimental to  the progress of development. The dynamic role of the directress is very evident  here. The directress having brought the child and his means of development  together and having ensured the freedom of the child in working with them  withdraws to be able to observe and assess. 

The importance of observation by the directress can never be overemphasized when we talk of the Montessori method. The instrument of preparation and  functioning of the adult is that of observation. It is of supreme importance while  considering the assistantial approach to education. Each individual child of the community has to be observed closely if the assistance rendered has to be  beneficial. The regular presentation of the Montessori equipment and  development of the material and method have to be based on the observation  of the child and his activities. 

Apart from various other things there are two aspects of the child which need  the concerted attention of the directress. The child as an individual human  personality and the child as a member of the developmental community  functioning in an environment specially prepared for a particular group of  children. All the judgements and consequent decisions depend entirely on the  quality of observation. The art of observing objectively, scientifically,  intelligently and deliberately is to be acquired and developed. This is a singularly  delicate art, which has to be consciously cultivated. The Montessori method of  assisting the child lays emphasis on this type of observation that has to precede  action. As a Montessori directress in a House of children where children spend  part of their early childhood, one depends entirely on the observation she has  to make. During this period the children cannot be expected to be very explicit  about their needs as they are still within the influence of their nonconscious  powers. 

It is very good practice to keep records of what is observed. Working in a House  of children where one has to deal with several children working different areas  of activities the directress would find it extremely difficult to keep in her memory  the details about all the children in her care. So it becomes imperative that  suitable, concise yet comprehensive records maintained. Writing records on  various details and points of view adds merit to the work and makes it  dependable. It will be a great help especially when the House of Children has  more than one directress in charge. 

Observing, assessing and deciding and translating to action forms an integral  part of the role that the directress plays in a House of Children. Certain actions  and movements are demonstrated to the child in view of helping the child know  how he has to perform the activity in a manner that helps self-formation. This  forms the conscious, direct assistance to the child. These actions and  movements are essential to the child’s development and concern all aspects of  human behavior. This brings home the necessity of the directress performing  them all the time she spends in the House of children in the manner the child  needs to perform. Deeply intentional effort has to be made by the directress so  that these actions become a second nature to her and there obtains a constant  continuous presentation in favour of the children. 

Even when one starts offering presentations in a House of Children it is found  that many details are ignored. The shaky beginner becomes skilful because of repetition. Repetition is the key to success. It may be fruitful to try to give the  same presentation to several children. At the same time make a mental note of  the presentations given and try to give different presentation. If some are  ignored for a length of time it tends to become rusty. 

As the directress encounters knowledge, acquires it and repeats for  consolidation she must also be able to evaluate the performance of work done.  Bringing in new things, practicing new activities, renewal of older materials and  presentations, constant input of ideas and modalities should be the lifeline of the  Montessori adult. Constant awareness of one’s own development as an adult in  a House of Children cannot be overemphasized. 

Though a large of part of working hours is spent in practicing the implementation, periodic revision of the philosophy and the science of Montessori method should be continued. The science of the method should be  reinforced many times. 

Even as the children are admitted to a House of Children the parents need to be  oriented towards the philosophy and the practicality of the Montessori method. Preparing talks to be given to parents, attending Montessori workshops and  seminars, joining and conducting refresher courses, volunteering to give talks  outside the Montessori circles can be very useful in keeping abreast of newer  knowledge and findings. 

It is very treacherous situation when one feels quite confident of having acquired  a considerably deep knowledge and is able to practice the method with certain  amount of proficiency and additionally, reap a sense of joy. This may lead to  complacency. To combat such a situation arising, the full-fledged Montessorian  keeps alert in continuing to refine her own abilities. 

Personal growth in the manner of self-actualization by deepening the content of  knowledge through formal and informal means, widening the span of learning,  recreating interest in the hobbies, becoming involved in social service in order to  learn to cooperate with others can be different areas of self-development. 

A very useful and interesting situation arises when the House of children recruits  new teachers who need guidance in their venture. They need knowledge clubbed  with guidance. They also need confidence and encouragement. This can be a  good occasion for the experienced Montessorian to renew her experiences. 

Sharing ideas and experiences with other working Montessorians gives the  necessary fillip to the work one does. Mutual support by visiting other Houses of children goes a long way in this direction. 

As the advancement in knowledge grows it should lead to a deeper sense of  humility “one cannot be a good Montessori adult if she is not seeking self advancement in developing the personality”

A Montessori directress should be a part of the Montessori movement by  contributing to the society. She/he should constantly keep in touch with the  movement. This can be achieved by attending seminars, conferences, talks etc. organized by the authentic organizations. 

Propagation of the well-tested experiences that she has acquired in this field of  human activity has to become the vocation of the Montessori directress. There  is nothing like personal involvement, which can provide authenticity to one’s  words. This can carry a long way in disseminating the Montessori ideas to the adult humanity. It is then that the right type of assistance to human development will reach the CHILD. 

Dynamic link: The directress is the only source from which the child can receive  a direct assistance in getting introduced the developmental activities at the right  time for the right purpose in the right manner. 

Systematic observer: The only tool in the hands of a Montessori directress is  the science and art of observation. On the basis of systematic observation only  she can work for the development of the child and thereby for the betterment  of her work as directress. 

Experimenter: Dr. Maria Montessori based all her work on the experiments she  conducted with children under various conditions all over the world. The  Montessori directress bases her work on the experiments with her children. The  experiments are conducted in an absolute spirit of a scientist without any  preconceived notions. 

Programmer: Even as she follows the child the – directress cannot afford to let  the child live in absolute freedom. The child is allowed to enjoy freedom to work  every day but the overall organization in directing monitoring the programmes  for the child. 

Evaluator: The job of evaluation is, perhaps, a minute-to-minute work of a  directress. It is not only with one child in the environment but every child in the  environment. This task of evaluation is the basis on which the directress can  determine what presentations are to be given, how, when and to whom. This  depends heavily on the evaluation of the performance of the child his  achievements and the paths to further conquests.  

Protector: The directress is in charge of ensuring protection may be, from  outside elements, (people or things) from other children and sometimes form  the children’s own deviations. 

Supporter: The child needs the presentations as introductions to activities. It is  necessary but not sufficient. He needs continuous and continual support to work  in freedom so that he can reach the state of independence. The freedom is offered after working conditions are established and continuously maintained.  The directress takes care of the much-needed protection. 

Facilitator: This responsibility is all encompassing, It pervades all areas of action  of the directress. The environment, the means of development, the organization of day-to-day work by ensuring continuous supply of necessities, all aspects of  public relations are only a few examples of such a task. 

Role model: This not only includes the direct presentations but also the indirect  presentations. The indirect presentations have a greater impact on the child’s  life in the use of Children. The directress will be responsible for the behaviour of  herself and also all the adults in the environment even if they were visitors. 

Demonstrator: Presentations are ‘breathing life into the inanimate thing’s which  are considered the means of the child’s development. Presentations need to be  offered after considerable number of rehearsals that they do not look like  casual introductions but as practiced demonstrations. Sometimes they include  dramatization. 

Peacemaker: This task becomes necessary only when the child is deviated from  normality, offering constructive work suitable to the abilities and the stage of development help the child to get back to the normal path, if he had strayed  away. This is the basis on which the directress becomes the person who ensures  peaceful work of all the children in the House of children. 

Diagnostician This is a very sensitive and a necessarily sensible task of the  directress in a House of children. Much energy has to be spent in resisting the  desire to label children as deviated. To be an able diagnostician the directress  needs to exercise extreme patience and wisdom. On a positive note the  directress needs to experience the disappearance of several deficiencies or  inaccuracies. Extreme caution will have to be taken before any diagnosis is made and much more if it has to be expressed. We need to remember that many deficiencies disappear just by passage of time and performance of  developmental work.

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Child Development
Montessori Philosophy

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