Maria Montessori


Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method

Author Quotes

The tiny child?s absorbent mind finds all its nutriment in its surroundings. Here it has to locate itself, and build itself up from what it takes in. Especially at the beginning of life must we, therefore, make the environment as interesting and attractive as we can. The child, as we have seen, passes through successive phases of development and in each of these his surroundings have an important ? though different ? part to play. In none have they more importance than immediately after birth.

There is... in every child a painstaking teacher, so skillful that he obtains identical results in all children in all parts of the world. The only language men ever speak perfectly is the one they learn in babyhood, when no one can teach them anything!

The little child?s first movements were instinctive. Now, he acts consciously and voluntarily, and with this comes an awakening of his spirit? Conscious will is a power which develops with use and activity. We must aim at cultivating the will? Its development is a slow process that evolves through a continuous activity in relationship with the environment.

The peril of servilism and dependence lies not only in that "useless consuming of life," which leads to helplessness, but in the development of individual traits which indicate all too plainly a regrettable perversion and degeneration of the normal man. I refer to the domineering and tyrannical behavior with examples of which we are all only too familiar. The domineering habit develops side by side with helplessness. It is the outward sign of the state of feeling of him who conquers through the work of others. Thus it often happens that the master is a tyrant toward his servant. It is the spirit of the task-master toward the slave.

The teacher knows the fundamental symptoms and the obvious remedies - the theory, in fact, of treatment, and then it is she who does the rest. The good doctor, like the good teacher, is an individual, not merely a machine for administering medicine or applying educational methods. Details must be left to the judgment of the teacher who is taking her first steps on the new path, as for instance whether general disorder is best quelled by raising the voice, or whether it is best to whisper to a few of the children so as to rouse the curiosity of others and make them quiet.

The undisciplined child enters into discipline by working in the company of others; not being told he is naughty.? ?Discipline is, therefore, primarily a learning experience and less a punitive experience if appropriately dealt with.

There was no method to be seen, what was seen was a child... acting according to its own nature.

The first step we must take in our method is to call to the pupil. We call now to his attention, now to his interior life, now to the life he leads with others.

The material, in fact, do not offer to the child the content of the mind, but the order for that content.

The reaction of the children may be described as a burst of independence of all unnecessary assistance that suppresses their activity and prevents them from demonstrating their own capacities. It is just these independent children of ours who learn to write at the age of four and a half years, who learn to read spontaneously, and who amaze everyone by their progress in arithmetic. These children seem to be precocious in their intellectual development and they demonstrate that while working harder than other children they do so without tiring themselves. These children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying: 'Help me to do it alone!'

The teacher must bring not only the capacity, but the desire to observe.

The unknown energy that can help humanity is that which lies hidden in the child.

There would be all kinds of artistic occupations open to free choice both as to the time and the nature of the work. Some must be for the individual and some would require the cooperation of a group. They would involve artistic and linguistic ability and imagination.

The first thing his education demands is the provision of an environment in which he can develop the powers given him by nature. This does not mean just to amuse him and let him do what he likes. But it does mean that we have to adjust our minds to doing a work of collaboration with nature, to being obedient to one of her laws, the law which decrees that development comes from environmental experience.

The mind of one who does not work for that which he needs, but commands it from others, grows heavy and sluggish.

The real preparation for education is a study of one's self. The training of the teacher... is something far more than a learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.

The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. In our system, she must become a passive, much more than an active, influence, and her passivity shall be composed of anxious scientific curiosity and of absolute respect for the phenomenon which she wishes to observe. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.

The vision of the teacher should be at once precise like that of the scientist, and spiritual like that of the saint. The preparation for science and the preparation for sanctity should form a new soul, for the attitude of the teacher should be at once positive, scientific and spiritual.

Therefore this work which has built up civilization and which has transformed the earth is at the very basis of life and is a fundamental part of it. So much so, that it is, as we say, even in the child. Work has existed in the nature of man as an instinct even from birth itself... The study of society will be held to be a study of the life of the child which shows us in an embryonic stage this profound tendency of humanity and the mechanism by which society is built up.

The first thing required of a teacher is that he be rightly disposed for his is not sufficient to have a merely theoretical knowledge of education.

The mind takes some time to develop interest, to be set in motion, to get warmed up into a subject, to attain a state of profitable work. If at this time there is interruption, not only is a period of profitable work lost, but the interruption, produces an unpleasant sensation which is identical to fatigue. Fatigue also is caused by work unsuitable to the individual. Suitable work reduces fatigue on account of the pleasure derived from the work itself. Thus the two causes of fatigue are unsuitable work and premature interruption of work.

The role of education is to interest the child profoundly in an external activity to which he will give all of this potential.

The teacher must derive not only the capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. The teacher must understand and feel her position of observer: the activity must lie in the phenomenon.

The word education must not be understood in the sense of teaching but of assisting the psychological development of the child.

Therefore work on the land is an introduction both to nature and to civilization and gives a limitless field for scientific and historic studies. If the produce can be used commercially this brings in the fundamental mechanism of society, that of production and exchange, on which economic life is based. This means that there is an opportunity to learn both academically and through actual experience what are the elements of social life. We have called these children the Erdkinder because they are learning about civilization through its origin in agriculture. They are the land-children.

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Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method