In a recent interview between Tammy Oesting and Dr Philip Gang for the P2P Summit, Gang reflects that the essence of Montessori is “not about getting children ready for tests, it isn’t about ‘have I done the pink tower three times’ … it isn’t about memorising…” Instead, he suggests that “if Montessori is done in the right way, you are seeding the essence of the new human and an understanding of cosmic consciousness” (Gang, 2020).
Montessori’s world was torn apart through two wars and her hope for a better world lay with the children. In her eyes, “the child is the constructor of man, and so of society” (Montessori, 2019: 7) and she suggested that the primary goals of education “must be the realisation of the values of the human personality and the development of mankind” (Montessori, 2007a: 50). In The Absorbent Mind, Montessori describes education as “a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution…” (Montessori, 2007b: 15). In order to do better, the child is our hope, and it seems that, in our present climate, that is still as relevant as it was in Montessori’s time.
In England, the revised non-statutory curriculum guidance document for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Development Matters, was published on 3 September. It states that it “offers a top-level view of how children develop and learn… [and that it can] help you to meet the requirements of the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage” (DfE, 2020: 3). For those not familiar with the document, it provides a list of what children at different ages (between 0 – 5) should be able to do and how to support the development of these skills. It does remind practitioners that it “is not a tick list for generating lots of data” (DfE, 2020: 3); in practice however, this is exactly what this document, along with other tracking systems used in early years settings, becomes and they are used, not only to assess what the child can (and can’t!) do, but also to plan what the child should be doing next. And in doing so, we completely disregard the individuality of each child, their unique journey, taking away from them the opportunity to do what they must for their own development.
Montessori believed that the child must be at the centre of any educational method and that it was paramount that the child was seen for who s/he is, not who the adult believes s/he should be (Montessori, 2007a). She advocated for a method that allowed the individuality of the child to shine, guided by an adult who truly understood the natural development of the child, and wouldn’t get in the way of this “by dictating his activities, or by forcing him to act without taking his needs into account” (Montessori, 2007a: 72). Gang, in his interview, speaks of the radiance the first generation of Montessorians had and encourages us to “radiate, do not teach” (Gang, 2020). As the interview comes to a close and he is asked what he would like to share with those Montessorians who would like to step away from the “outcome driven teaching of education” he shares what Mario Montessori Jr shared with him when he asked him that same question:
“Have faith…. Have faith in the child”
Join us on Tuesday 8 September at 7 pm (BST) as we explore the essence of Montessori further with Tammy Oesting in our Challenging our Practice webinar. Register here.
Wendelien Bellinger, September 2020
Department for Education (2020) Development Matters, Non-Statutory Curriculum Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage London: DfE (available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/914443/Development_Matters_-_Non-statutory_curriculum_guidance_for_the_early_years_foundation_stage__1_.pdf)
Gang, P. (2020) Bringing Montessori Back to Montessori P2P Summit: https://www.trilliummontessori.org/p2p/
Montessori, M. (2007a) Education and Peace Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (2007b) The Absorbent Mind Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (2019) Education for a New World Delhi: Aakar Books