The Montessori movement takes its name from its founder, Dr Maria Montessori who began the first “casa dei bambini” or childrens house in Rome in 1907. Today Montessori is the single largest educational philosophy in the world with 22,000 Montessori schools in more than 100 countries on six continents.
The Montessori classroom is a thriving community of learners where everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
The community of learners – infants, children or adolescents and their adult guides – learn from each other and because of each other, develop skills to cooperate with people of different ages, respect and celebrate each others efforts and take care of themselves, others and their environment.
Children have daily opportunities to learn and use practical life skills that enable the young child to develop concentration and prepare them for more focused work. The young child is provided with real implements and given real responsibilities in the care of the environment and care of themselves and others. If a Montessori child cooks – they cook food that can be shared with classmates. Flowers are arranged by the children to beautify the room, windows are cleaned, shoes polished, tables scrubbed, decks swept – all activities that young children relish, becoming competent develops a strong sense of self esteem.
Montessori teachers are skilled in “following the child” – responding to the changing interests and needs of each child as a unique individual. Montessori teachers know the children in their class very well and can respond to their unique interests and needs, often engaging parents in this process. Each childs individual needs are assessed through observation so that he is introduced to new concepts when he is developmentally ready and new knowledge is always built on what he already knows. The learning opportunities in the classroom are frequently changed to cater for the needs and interests of the current group of learners.
Dr Montesssori observed that competition is an ineffective tool to motivate children to learn. Montessori children and students learn to collaborate, rather than to compete to meet external standards set by an adult. In Montessori, learners compete only against themselves. They are not afraid of making mistakes and know that they can use mistakes as an opportunity to learn. Each child can take pleasure in being able to share their knowledge and their ability to help classmates.