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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Who is Montessori?

I have been asked a lot of questions about who/what the heck is Montessori.. Forgive me here, but indeed, not many people knows that Montessori is actually a human being.. Yeap, you hear me right!

Her full name is Maria Montessori, who was born in Italy in 1870. She broke traditional roles between male and female, teacher and student at a very young age and became the first woman doctor in Italy's history.

After graduation, she worked in a psychiatric clinic in University of Rome and was required to visit asylums in order to select patients for treatment in clinic. Dr. Montessori was involved to take care of feeble-minded children. One of the asylums, sad to say that the mentally retarded children were treated like prisoners and kept in under-nourished environment. No toys nor materials of any kind was given for them!! Based on her observation, she saw that the children would throw themselves on the floor immediately after meal, to search for crumbs!! It was an outrages behaviour - craving for a different and higher kind more than just food! Dr. Montessori believed that the only path for these children towards intelligence was through their hands.

She took them with great care and studied their behaviour and needs. She developed her sensory teaching materials and set out experiments and adapts strategies that best suited to meet the children's need.. Under her TLC, these idiots (as the public would named them) were able to take care of themselves. Their were able to read and write, and even passed examinations on level with normal children!! Here, she started questioning the calibre of a 'normal school'.

Convinced that similar method applied to normal children would construct their own personality as they interact with their environment, she quit her job at the Orthophrenic School and became the most influential pioneers in early childhood education.

Her first school was Casa Dei Bambini, where she made her discoveries through experiments and observations with these children. The children entered her program as "wild and unruly". Much to her surprise, they began to respond to her teaching methods. She always held them in the highest regard and taught her teachers to do likewise. From the beginning amazing things happened. Children younger than three and four years old began to read, write, and initiate self-respect. The Montessori method encouraged what Maria saw as the children's innate ability to 'absorb' culture. "...And then we saw them 'absorb' far more than reading and writhing...it was botany, zoology, mathematics, geography, and all with the same ease, spontaneously, and with out getting tired." (tHE aBSORBENT mIND)


Needless to say more, you can look for info about Dr. Montessori life's work on the net.
She was linked with Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the President's daughter during her work in the U.S.A, and also refused to work with Mussolini during the world war, which caused her to be kicked out from Italy. Here, she travelled around the world to conduct teachers training as to spread her discoveries, and being nominated Nobel Peace Price. She died in Holland in 1952, age 82 and but her work lives on through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization she founded in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1929 to carry on her work.

Her curiculums are such a system of Math learning materials for very young children was developed which allowed four and five year olds to explore their interests where otherwise told they were too young. Montessori was also the first in education to have child-sized tables and chairs made for the students. She believed that the learning environment was just as important as the learning itself. Because of this belief her schools were often peaceful, orderly places, were the children valued their space for concentration and the process of learning.

Imagine, our world without Dr. Montessori.... During our kindergarten / childhood, we will be sitting on an adult-sizes chairs, spoon, forks, plates... given no respect, or acknowledge our 'then' rights... This could apply to our children too.. aikss...

Oh ya, bear in mind that the name Montessori is not legally protected, and can be used by anyone, for any purpose; it is vital that anyone searching for a good Montessori school or teacher-training center be aware of this.

links: www.montessori.edu

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