Belonging and Agency in the Montessori Environment

As Montessori educators, it is our goal to create an environment where children feel a sense of belonging and agency. 

Belonging is a sense of connection and acceptance within a community. It is the feeling of being welcomed, valued, and supported by others. When children feel a sense of belonging, they are more likely to feel safe, secure, and confident in their environment. 

Agency, on the other hand, is the sense of control and autonomy that individuals have over their lives. It is the ability to make choices, take action, and influence one's own destiny. When children have agency, they are empowered to pursue their goals, take risks, and overcome challenges. 

Belonging and agency are both crucial for children's development and growth, and it is our responsibility to cultivate these qualities in our students. 

The Importance of Agency in Child Development 

Supporting a child’s sense of agency and giving them opportunities to make choices is beneficial to their development in a number of ways. 

Exercising their agency promotes a child’s sense of responsibility. When they are given the freedom to make choices and take responsibility for their actions, a child learns to become accountable for their decisions and behaviors. 

Agency and autonomy also foster creativity and innovation. When a child is encouraged to take risks, try new things, and pursue their interests, they are more likely to develop a sense of curiosity and creativity. This can lead to greater innovation and problem-solving skills in the future. 

Finally, encouraging agency helps build the child’s self-esteem. Giving a child the freedom to make choices and pursue their goals shows confidence in their decision making. Experiencing this type of trust from others reinforces the child’s trust in themself and builds their self-confidence, which is important for success in all areas of life. 

Promoting Belonging and Agency in a Montessori Environment 

There are several ways to promote both belonging and agency in a Montessori environment. 

Create a welcoming and inclusive environment

One of the most important ways to promote belonging is to create a warm and welcoming environment where all children feel valued and included. This can be achieved by acknowledging and celebrating diversity, providing opportunities for children to share their cultures and traditions, and creating an atmosphere of acceptance and respect. 

Support independence and autonomy 

To promote agency, provide children with opportunities to make choices and take responsibility for their actions. Allow children to choose their own activities, encouraging them to problem-solve on their own, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. 

Encourage collaboration and teamwork 

Provide opportunities for children to work together on projects and activities, and encourage them to share their ideas and perspectives with others. This can help promote a sense of belonging and community within the classroom. 

Provide opportunities for self-reflection and self-evaluation 

Providing children with opportunities to reflect on their learning and evaluate their progress promotes their sense of responsibility, control, and accountability over their learning. One way to do this is to encourage children to set goals and track their progress. Giving children the tools they need to evaluate their own progress promotes their sense of agency and autonomy. 

Creating a sense of belonging and agency in the Montessori classrooms is crucial for students' growth and development. By promoting independence, autonomy, collaboration, and reflection, we can empower students to become responsible, accountable, creative, and confident individuals. As Montessori educators, it is our responsibility to provide students with a safe and inclusive environment where they can thrive and reach their full potential. By doing so, we can help shape the future leaders of our world.

Learn more about Montessori principles and methodology when you enroll in one of NAMC’s four Montessori Diploma Programs:
NAMC’s Montessori Upper Elementary Diploma Program

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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