v. Traditional Education
While organizing my files, I came across several charts comparing Montessori education with traditional education. One of the differences arises from the viewpoint of the educational system: child-centered or teacher-centered
Montessori Environment: Child Centered
Children complete works
Children learn by doing
Children choose their materials
Children set their own pace
Children work out of joy and curiosity
Children stimulated by curiosity and love of learning
Children free to work independently
Children help each other
Emphasis on self-control and self-discipline
Traditional Environment: Teacher-centered
Children interrupted by teacher or end of period
Teacher as source of answers
Teacher chooses curriculum
Teacher sets pace for entire class
Teachers tells children to work
Teacher motivates children
Teacher stimulates children to learn
Teacher guides children
Teacher helps children
Teacher as disciplinarian
When working within a Montessori classroom, the teachers are trained and reminded to think of ways to remove themselves as obstacles to the child’s learning; whereas in traditional classrooms teachers are the bearers of the information to be learned.
The way traditional schools are set up, with textbooks, testing, grades and traditional modes of implementing and thinking about education; can lead to teacher-centered classrooms. The way that Montessori schools are set up, with manipulatives, self-paced learning and individualized work; can lead to child-centered classrooms. However, I have been
in Montessori classrooms that are teacher-centered and in traditional classrooms that are child-centered. These black and white comparisons leave little room for the reality of teaching: It is always a mixture of the two types of systems.
Please keep this in mind when thinking about the
As we continue into our second year as a Montessori, child-centered school, I witness the ways that the teachers are
quickly making the adjustment from teacher-centered to child-centered education. A large part of this has been due to the training they received over the summer. As some parents have realized, this training is intense. During the summer it
was three weeks of 8 hour days and has continued for four weekends with many more weekends and another three weeks next summer to come.
Part of the training is learning the use of the materials, the sequencing of lessons and the mechanics of Montessori. The deeper part of the training shapes one’s thinking to enable teachers to create materials for student use and how to touch the inner spirit of each child to enable them to re-awaken their own motivation. Additionally, we have daily conversations about how to be “Montessori” and child-centered within our setting and situation.
With many students coming from a more teacher-centered environment and perhaps adult-centered homes, we have seen some students struggle with things like setting their own pace or working independently. As we continue to provide the support needed, students are re-claiming their love of learning, ability to work independently and with a renewed motivation. Additionally, some students struggle because it may have felt or been easier to work in a teacher-centered environment where they didn’t have to make a decision, keep themselves focused on a work or resolve conflicts with each other.
There are many expectations put on our students to be able to have the freedoms offered in a child-centered environment, but as they are able to live up to these expectations, we see the students become what Maria Montessori called the normalized child. The characteristics of a normalized child are:
. Love of Learning
. Love of Silence
. Concern for Others
These goals can be realized in a Montessori school.
What can you do to help your child in this environment? Look at ways to make your home life child-centered. Just starting
with an awareness of whether the ways things are done in your home promote the goals listed above can begin to change your thinking, routines and daily life. As always, I stress the need for balance. Allowing your children the freedom to be independent should not abdicate your own right to make family decisions and your role as the parent; just as we, as teachers, don’t turn over control of the classroom to the children in all situations.
Many people learn visually. We invite you to observe and witness our child-centered environment over the course of the year. I think you will find our staff and students continuing to move from one end of the spectrum to the other, but keep in mind, that nothing is static. At times, and in certain circumstances, we may move closer to the teacher-centered
characteristics, when the situation calls for it. Throughout the year, we discuss among ourselves and with the students how we maintain a balance between the needs of each student within the community of the classroom.