Who is Dr. Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was an individual ahead of her time. She was born in 1870 in Ancona, Italy, to an educated but non-affluent middle class family. She grew up in a country considered most conservative in its attitude toward women, yet even against the considerable opposition of her father and teachers, Montessori pursued a scientific education and was the first woman to become a physician in Italy. As a practicing physician associated with the University of Rome, she was a scientist, not a teacher.
The Montessori method evolved almost by accident from a small experiment that Dr. Montessori carried out on the side. Her genius stems not from her teaching ability, but from her recognition of the importance of what she stumbled upon.
As a physician, Dr. Montessori specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry. She taught at the medical school of the University of Rome, and through its free clinics she came into frequent contact with the children of the working class and poor. These experiences convinced her that intelligence is not rare and that most newborns come into the world with a human potential that will be barely revealed.
Montessori’s prime productive period lasted from the opening of the first Children’s House in 1907 until the 1930s. During this time, she continued her study of children, and developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level as well. Montessori schools were set up throughout Europe and North America, and Dr. Montessori gave up her medical practice to devote all of her energies to advocating the rights and intellectual potential of all children.
The Montessori Methodby: Dr. Maria Montessori
Ours was a house for children, rather than a real school. We had prepared a place for children where a diffused culture could be assimilated, without any need for direct instruction…Yet these children learned to read and write before they were five, and no one had given them any lessons. At that time it seemed miraculous that children of four and a half should be able to write, and that they should have learned without the feeling of having been taught.
We puzzled over it for a long time. Only after repeated experiments did we conclude with certainty that all children are endowed with this capacity to ‘absorb’ culture. If this be true – we then argued – if culture can be acquired without effort, let us provide the children with other elements of culture.
And then we saw them ‘absorb’ far more than reading and writing: botany, zoology, mathematics, geography, and all with the same ease, spontaneously and without getting tired.
And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.
My educational method has grown from many revelations given by the children. All the details included in the method have come from the efforts to follow the child. Anyone who wants to follow my method must understand that he should not honor me but follow the child as his leader.
Dr. Maria Montessori