Maria Montessori


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

Author Quotes

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 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 to realize about these exercises of practical life is that their aim is not a practical one. Emphasis should be laid not on the word 'practical' but on the word 'life'. Their aim (as of all the other occupations presented to the children in their prepared environment) is to assist development.

The more the capacity to concentrate is developed, the more often the profound tranquility in work is achieved, then the clearer will be the manifestation of discipline within the child.

The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music.

The teacher must have faith that the child will reveal himself through work.

The work of the child is essential to all humanity; this work is the construction of the man or woman of tomorrow. She observed and identified the natural characteristics of young children: Spontaneous interest and deep concentration. Desire for purposeful movement. Love of repetition. Love of order. Desire for freedom of choice. Preference of work to play. Indifference to rewards or punishments. Love of silence. Sense of personal dignity. Early interest in reading and writing. Spontaneous self-discipline. Interest in the cosmos and the interrelation of all things. Education... is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. [paraphrased]

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.

The fundamental principle in education is the correlation of all subjects and their centralization in the cosmic plan.

The most difficult thing to make clear to the new teacher is that because the child progresses, she must restrain herself and avoid giving directions, even if at first they are expected; all her faith must repose in his latent powers.

The school where the children live, or rather their country homes, can also give them the opportunity for social experience, for it is an institution organized on a larger scale and with greater freedom than the family. This organization could take the form of a private hotel as far as the management and control are concerned.

The teacher must not content herself with merely providing her school with an attractive environment; she must continuously think about this environment, because a large part of the result depends on it. The teacher, therefore, must: a) keep the didactic developmental material in perfect order. If this is not the case, the children will not take an interest in it and if they do not, the material becomes useless, as the entire Montessori method is based on the spontaneous activity of the child which is aroused precisely by the interest the child takes in the material. b) make sure that every object used by the children has a place of its own that is easily accessible to them.

The work of the teacher is to guide the children to normalization, to concentration. She is like the sheepdog who goes after the sheep when they stray, who conducts all the sheep inside. The teacher has two tasks: to lead the children to concentration and to help them in their development afterwards. The fundamental help in development, especially with little children of three years of age, is not to interfere. Interference stops activity and stops concentration. But do not apply the rule of non-interference when the children are still the prey of all their different naughtinesses.

These conquerors of themselves have also attained freedom since they have rid themselves of those many disorderly and unconscious tendencies that necessarily place children under the strict and continuous control of adults.

The fundamental principle of scientific pedagogy must be, indeed, the liberty of the pupil;?such liberty as shall permit a development of individual, spontaneous manifestations of the child's nature.

The most urgent task facing educators is to come to know this unknown child and to free it from all entanglements.

The secret of good teaching is to regard the child?s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.

The teacher must not limit her action to observation, but must proceed to experiment?In this method the lesson corresponds to an experiment?The lessons? are individual, and brevity must be one of their chief characteristics?Another quality is its simplicity...The third quality of the lesson is its objectivity. The lesson must be presented in such a way that the personality of the teacher shall disappear. There shall remain in evidence only the object to which she wishes to call the attention of the child?The teacher shall observe whether the child interests himself in the object, how he is interested in it, for how long, etc., even noticing the expressions of his face. And she must take great care not to offend the principles of liberty?The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child?s whole personality.

The world of education is like an island where people, cut off from the world, are prepared for life by exclusion from it.

These results seemed almost miraculous to those who saw them. To me, however, the boys from the asylums had been able to compete with the normal children only because they had been taught in a different way. They had been helped in their psychic development, and the normal children had, instead, been suffocated, held back. I found myself thinking that if, some day, the special education which had developed these idiot children in such a marvelous fashion, could be applied to the development of normal children, the miracle of which my friends talked would no longer be possible. The abyss between the inferior mentality of the idiot and that of the normal brain can never be bridged if the normal child has reached his full development.

The greatest of the human personality begins at the hour of birth, so education must start from birth.

The mother who feeds her child without making the least effort to teach him to hold the spoon for himself and to try to find his mouth with it, and who does not at least eat herself, inviting the child to look and see how she does it, is not a good mother. She offends the fundamental human dignity of her son,?she treats him as if he were a doll, when he is, instead, a man confided by nature to her care.

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