By: Heather Brostron (5/3/12)
I was very lucky this past February to have the opportunity to attend the annual refresher course that is held by the Association Montessori Internationale (we refer to this organization as ‘AMI’, for more information you can visit http://www.montessori-ami.org/ or http://www.amiusa.org). I have now attended several of these conferences, as an assistant and now as a teacher, and they have been a source of inspiration for me every time! Not only are the speakers people that I admire and aspire to emulate, but I get to spend three days surrounded by people like me. People who believe, with every part of their being, that Montessori education is the answer to the problems we see in the world. That the children we work with each day are the future peace makers. I always return to the children and the environment inspired with renewed faith and new ideas. This year the topic for the course was “Montessori: Engaging the Human Personality”. I cannot begin to share with you all that I learned, what I do want to share with you however is what I feel like I understand now more than ever.
It is hard for us to remember sometimes, as the adults in our children’s lives, what our ultimate goal is. Each family has to examine this dilemma at length in accordance with their culture and values. I will tell you that as your child’s guide in the Montessori environment, our main goal is to help each child become the person that he or she is so very busy creating. I have often had people remark to me about the amazing academic strides that our Montessori children make, and rightfully so. They are certainly amazing!! I mean five and six year olds multiplying and dividing into the thousands? Four year olds reading and writing? Wow!
It is here that I will invite you to take a leap with me and imagine that the reading, writing and arithmetic that our children are doing each day are the amazing “by-products” of the more important work they are doing in the Montessori classroom. The challenge that we as their guides face is to remember what makes us different from the majority of the world they encounter. Here, with our prepared environment, beautiful materials, sense of community and trained adults we offer the children the opportunity to become whole individuals. Free thinking, optimistic, capable, healthy, trust worthy, empathetic, problem solving individuals. These individuals will have no problem co-existing in any community or society because at their core – they have become whole. They have created themselves as they should, in their own way, at their own pace and they have mastered the ability to be independent.
In no way do I want to underestimate the ‘academic’ aspect of the Montessori classroom. All of the lessons that the children work with are like a piece of a huge puzzle that they are themselves constructing. It is the idea of “Engaging the Human Personality” that has stuck with me so much. From birth we are set upon a journey to do just that, create our personality and take in the world according to it. It is upon this independent voyage that we gather and process the knowledge we receive, to in turn share it with those around us, as we can. Without first figuring out who we are, we cannot possibly share our understandings with others. This is what makes the world go ‘round, what makes progress possible – ideas! New and innovative, creative and thoughtful ideas. It is with this end in mind that we as adults can continue to be a bridge for our children to the world and its experiences. Help them to help themselves.
The other day in the classroom I fought back tears as an almost four year old boy encouraged a newly three year old boy to try and accomplish something he was not sure he could do. “Here,” he said in a sweet and loving tone, “you can do it. Like this, see? It’s ok!” I don’t know about you, but I think he was engaging a very human aspect of his personality, he has found a piece of who he is going to be.