Dr. Maria Montessori
Educator and Philosopher
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator, the first women to receive a medical degree at the University of Rome, Italy, in 1894. Born in 1870, she developed her method of education over a forty year period of observing children and working with them. She devoted her life to the education of children and was honored and respected throughout the world at the time of her death in 1952.
The Montessori Concept
The Montessori method of teaching allows children to experience the job of learning at an early age and provides an environment in which intellectual, moral, physical and social growth flourish.
It is the approach to education which recognizes the potential of the young student and which attempts to develop this potential by means of a prepared environment, utilizing specially trained Montessori teachers and special teaching apparatus. While the practical side of Montessori teaching is emphasized in the early years with specific materials, the basic philosophy of Montessori education is carried through the preschool, primary, intermediate, junior and senior clusters at The Blake School. Students are carefully “weaned” from the basic materials while maintaining the same insight into the joy of learning as they progress through the grades, preparing them for adapting to future educational programs.
Montessori education provides the vehicle whereby students may attain inner discipline and control. He becomes the intelligent, responsible master of himself while developing a feeling of genuine caring for himself and others. Independence and interdependence are natural forces – vital to the life of the student as well as mankind.
The world of the student is full of sights and sounds, which at first appear chaotic, and from this chaos, he must gradually create order and learn to distinguish the impressions that assail his senses. Slowly, but surely, he gains mastery of himself and his environment. Dr. Montessori developed what she called “The Prepared Environment”, and classrooms at The Blake School are designed along this concept. The student is able to develop at his own speed in a progressive order, according to his own capacities in a non-competitive atmosphere.
The method by which the students are taught at The Blake School might well be called “Structured learning”. Since the student has learned to work by himself in the prepared environment, he is ready to enjoy the presence of other students without necessarily working directly with them. The teachers, therefore, are able to work with each student individually on a one-on-one basis.
The structure of learning and training at The Blake School involves the use of many materials with which the student may work independently. Many of these materials were painstakingly and scientifically developed by Dr. Montessori during her lifetime period of work and observation.
Where traditional education deals primarily with visual and auditory inputs, Montessori methods include tactile experience. For instance, the number ten can be seen, heard and felt, giving a broader realization in mastering the concept.
Dr Montessori found that the only valid impulse to learning is the self-motivation of the child. Children move themselves toward learning by nature. Adults often intervene, with the best intentions, and place obstacles to learning in the student’s path. Students will learn because of or in spite of the adults in their world. To this effect, Dr. Montessori stated that any unnecessary help given to the student hinders him in growth. Teachers at The Blake School prepare the environment, direct activity, function as the authority and protector of the student and environment, and offer work according to the readiness and need of each student.
If the Montessori student is free to learn, it is because he has acquired from experience with both physical and mental order, the “inner discipline” which frees him. He becomes aware not only of his freedom, but also of his corresponding responsibility to himself and to others. The aim of Montessori is to develop the whole student. Intellectual, physical and emotional development are of equal value within the prepared environment. The teacher strives to encourage and guide the student to help realize the balanced, happy, aware personality that will perpetuate into his life as an adult.