From the Dean’s Desk

News from the Dean’s Desk at

Montessori Teachers College on October 22, 2013

 

CCMA Conference:  Some of us attended this very stimulating event and enjoyed presentations by Molly O’Shaughnessy, Director of training at Montessori Centre of Minnesota, and Adele Diamond, Canada Research Chair Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at University of B.C.  See picture attached of 2 MTC faculty attendees Helen Traicus and Carolina Mix.

Carolina and Helen

The Montessori Academy of London:  I had the pleasure of visiting our intern, Lisa Otto on Monday.   See picture of Lisa and her Supervising Teacher: Shonagh Stevenson-Ramsay.   Special thanks to Kathy Work-Schlattman who took time to share lunch with me.

Shona and Lisa

Article:   It can be a challenge to answer the question “What is the Montessori Philosophy?”    A recent article on The Unique Characteristics of the Montessori Philosophy is included at the end of this blog.

The Word Lady:    Saturday, October 26.   We are looking forward with great interest to Catherine Barber’s presentation on Saturday, October 26.   Time: 10.30 a.m. – 12 noon.  Catherine is recognised as one of the foremost authorities on Canadian English.  She has called her presentation:  “Why is the English Language so Wacky?”

Montessori Method for Dementia™:

Two Day Workshops:   Debbie Couture, Director of Training for this programme will teach at Montessori for Seniors, 16 Coldwater Rd. North York, ON on the following dates:

                              November 11 & 12 and December 9 & 10

To register:     Registration forms available on MTC website.  You can also contact

                             Debbie Couture at MTC:  416 640 1565

 

What is the Montessori Philosophy?

The Montessori Philosophy is an approach to the education of children based on the observations of Dr. Maria Montessori (1860 – 1952).  Those of us working in the Montessori field are constantly delighted to discover that the observations of Dr. Montessori are as relevant today as in her time.

Unique characteristics of a Montessori Classroom

Dr. Montessori discovered that children enjoy a structured environment where they can work undisturbed with activities of their own choosing.   We call this classroom a Prepared Environment.  It is a unique place where the children work with specially designed materials that develop their cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills.  Many of these materials were scientifically designed by Dr. Montessori following her observations of children and her discoveries of how they learn.  The activities of the children in the Montessori prepared environment are process oriented rather than result oriented.   The environment is a place where the children’s inherent interest in “doing” is fostered.  Dr. Montessori observed that children learn though experiences and through their interactions with the environment.

Another unique feature of the Montessori Prepared Environment is that the children are of mixed ages.  For example, there may be children aged two and a half, 3, 4 and 5 years in the same environment; or children aged 6, 7 and 8 working together.  These mixed ages allow the children to form a community in which the older children assist the younger ones and the younger children learn from the older ones.  This community of mixed ages develops fundamental skills such as respect for one another and an awareness of cultural diversity.

A basic principle within the Montessori environment is the fact that discipline is developed from within the individual child rather than being imposed by an outside force such as a teacher.  Freedom in the prepared environment allows the children to develop spontaneous discipline.  Dr. Montessori  observed that children can solve their conflicts peacefully.  She observed “they have shown us that freedom and discipline are two faces of the same medal because scientific freedom leads to discipline.”  The development of discipline is directly related to the amount of freedom the child experiences.

A further unique feature of the Prepared Environment is the integrated curriculum.  This means that the exercises the children choose are all related to another part of the curriculum.  Each activity prepares for a further activity by refining and developing the child’s understanding. Dr. Montessori observed that children love repeating an activity.  And in this way, children perfect their movements and deepen their knowledge.

Dr. Montessori also observed that children experience sensitive periods, also known as times of optimal learning.  During these transitory times, children learn with interest and intensity. For example, the development of language and the perfection of movement occur during these times of special interest.  She also observed that the younger children learn through their senses, whereas the elementary children learn through their imaginations.

The Montessori curriculum provides children with a holistic, creative learning experience that is built on a structured freedom.  Individual freedom of expression is welcomed such as talking, writing, singing and other forms of musical expression, and in art such as drawing and painting. The elementary curriculum is research based.  The elementary children complete projects on a subject of interest that integrates all the curriculum areas such as mathematics, geometry, history, geography, science, language including poetry and creative arts.

Dr. Montessori called her teachers Directresses because she believed that the adults working with children in a Montessori environment needed special training.  This comprehensive training recognizes that children are natural learners. It includes components on Montessori philosophy, child development, practical life skills, education of the senses, literacy skills, science subjects such as zoology, botany, mathematics, creativity in drama, art, craft and music, and contemporary issues such as health, safety and special needs.   A major portion of the training is the internship period that includes observation of children   It is important that the trainee Montessori teacher is open to experience a “change of heart.”  By that I mean that the trainee is willing to see the world through the eyes of a child.  This can mean letting go of preconceived notions and developing keen skills of observation.  It also means recognizing the beauty of the child’s spirit, and supporting the child’s efforts to self-develop.

Current research by scientists and educationalists worldwide recognizes that Dr. Maria Montessori was a genius, scientific observer of children.  She believed that social discord could be eliminated by educational methods that meet the needs of children.  She believed that children can contribute to peace and that they are the hope for the future of mankind.  “Our principal concern must be to educate humanity – the human beings of all nations – in order to guide it toward seeding common goals.”

 

Paula Glasgow, Dean Montessori Teachers College