How to Remain True to Dr. Montessori in Today’s Environment

remaining true to Montessori in today's environment.Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels.
If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future.
—Maria Montessori

Teaching in today’s climate is a challenge. So many questions abound

  • Is it safe to re-open school?
  • Do we have to wear masks?
  • Do children have to wear masks?
  • How do we enforce distancing with children?
  • How do we clean the materials?
  • Can we have our snack area?
  • How do we offer a Montessori experience and education remotely?

Perhaps the most important question teachers are asking time and time again is “How do we remain true to ourselves and Dr. Montessori’s philosophy in the midst of a global health crisis?”

The Core Montessori Principles

Montessori core principles.

These core principles are the foundation of Montessori philosophy and education. What makes an environment a Montessori environment is not the materials on the shelf but the preparation and readiness of the teacher. I have been in Montessori environments that have every material and extension on the shelves only to find children working from prescribed workplans and workbooks with the materials forgotten and neglected. I have also been in public school classrooms with not a single Montessori material in sight, where the children were working independently on projects they chose themselves, as if the teacher did not exist. You see, what makes Montessori Montessori is not the materials but the teacher.

"An ordinary teacher cannot be transformed into a Montessori teacher, but must be created anew, having rid herself of pedagogical prejudices."
—Maria Montessori
Education for a New World, p. 67.

Our training, the classrooms we observe, and our reading cause us to form ideas of what Montessori should look like. However, now is the time to reconsider our preconceptions about Montessori. The world we live in does not look like the world did when Dr. Montessori developed her methodology, and we need to create our teaching practices anew as we are faced with the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to hold fast to the core principles that work in today’s environment while at the same time being open to new ideas that help children flourish.

remaining true to Montessori in today's environment. Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels.

I have been amazed at the ingeniousness of Montessori teachers who are creating amazing online communities for their students and families. They have found new ways of communicating, involving parents, creating ways of being hands-on at home, and following the child even if it is from a distance. When I first began my Montessori teaching career, teachers were loath to share ideas. Now, online communities of Montessori teachers and parents are willingly sharing information and resources. They are setting aside differences and concentrating on what is best for the children, which is what Dr. Montessori set out to do in the first place.

The past few months have been challenging and the immediate future holds no certainty that this will be behind us soon. Yet Montessori teachers will prevail because they put the needs of the children first.

There are no good answers to the above questions, only good practices.

Michelle Zanavich — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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