Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method
Italian Educator, Physician and Humanitarian, Creator of the Montessori Method
To collect one's forces, even when they seem to be scattered, and when one's aim is only dimly perceived - this is a great action and will sooner or later bring forth fruit.
We cannot know the consequences of suffocating a spontaneous action at the time when the child is just becoming active; perhaps we suffocate life itself.
We must not dwell on his limitations but focus on his possibilities.
To do well, it is necessary to aim at giving the elementary age child an idea of all fields of study, not in precise detail, but on impression. The idea is to sow the seeds of knowledge at this age, when a sort of sensitive period for the imagination exists.
We cannot make a genius; we can only give each individual the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities to become an independent, secure, and balanced human being.
We must support as much as possible the child's desires for activity; not wait on him, but educate him to be independent.
To give a child liberty is not to abandon him to himself.
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.
We must take into consideration that from birth the child has a power in him. We must not just see the child, but God in him. We must respect the laws of creation in him.
To give the whole of modern culture has become an impossibility and so a need arises for a special method, whereby all factors of culture may be introduced to the six-year-old; not in a syllabus to be imposed on him, or with exactitude of detail, but in the broadcasting of the maximum number of seeds of interest. These will be held lightly in the mind, but will be capable of later germination, as the will becomes more directive, and thus he may become an individual suited to these expansive times.
We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
We must therefore turn to the child as to the key to the fate of our future life.
To have a vision of the cosmic plan, in which every form of life depends on directed movements which have effects beyond their conscious aim, is to understand the child's work and be able to guide it better.
We found individual activity is the one factor that stimulates and produces development.
We ourselves have lost this deep and vital sensitiveness, and in the presence of children in whom we see it reviving, we feel as if we were watching a mystery being unfolded. It shows itself in the delicate act of free choice, which a teacher untrained in observation can trample on before she even discerns it, much as an elephant tramples the budding flower about to blossom in its path.
To keep alive enthusiasm is the secret of real guidance, and it will not prove a difficult task, provided that the attitude towards the child's acts be that of respect, calm, and waiting, and provided that he be left free in his movements and experiences.
We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself. The scientist is not the clever manipulator of instruments, he is the worshipper of nature and he bears the external symbols of his passion as does the follower of some religious order. To this body of real scientists belong those who, forgetting, like the Trappists of the Middle Ages, the world about them, live only in the laboratory, careless often in matters of food and dress because they no longer think of themselves; those who, through years of unwearied use of the microscope, become blind; those who in their scientific ardour inoculate themselves with tuberculosis germs; those who handle the excrement of cholera patients in their eagerness to learn the vehicle through which the diseases are transmitted; and those who, knowing that a certain chemical preparation may be an explosive, still persist in testing their theories at the risk of their lives. This is the spirit of the men of science, to whom nature freely reveals her secrets, crowning their labors with the glory of discovery. There exists, then, the "spirit" of the scientist, a thing far above his mere "mechanical skill," and the scientist is at the height of his achievement when the spirit has triumphed over the mechanism. When he has reached this point, science will receive from him not only new revelations of nature, but philosophic syntheses of pure thought.
We recognize the immense power, the unconscious forces existing in the child on the threshold of life. For many years we have been proclaiming that it is necessary to educate the child from the moment of birth. We have traced, through study and practical experience, the ideal path leading to the world of children, of these beings whose social status has as yet not been determined, whose rights have not been recognized and who nevertheless represent the men of tomorrow.
This is our mission: to cast a ray of light and pass on. I compare the effects of these first lessons the impressions of a solitary wanderer who is walking serene and happy in a shady grove, meditating; that is leaving his inner thought free to wander. Suddenly a church bell pealing out nearby recalls to himself; then he feels more keenly that peaceful bliss which had already been born, though dormant, within him. To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the first duty of the educator. For such a delicate mission great art is required to suggest the right moment and to limit intervention, last one should disturb or lead astray rather than help the soul which is coming to life and which will live by virtue of its own efforts.
To make it clear whether or not a child has understood, we should see whether he can form a vision of it within the mind, whether he has gone beyond the level of mere understanding.
We habitually serve children; and this is not only an act of servility toward them, but it is dangerous, since it tends to suffocate their useful, spontaneous activity. We are inclined to believe that children are like puppets, and we wash them and feed them as if they were dolls. We do not stop to think that the child who does not do, does not know how to do. He must, nevertheless, do these things, and nature has furnished him with the physical means for carrying on these various activities, and with the intellectual means for learning how to do them. And our duty toward him is, in every case, that of helping him to make a conquest of such useful acts as nature intended he should perform for himself.
We see no limit to what should be offered to the child, for his will be an immense field of chosen activity.
This is the treasure we need today - helping the child become independent of us and make his way by himself, receiving in return his gifts of hope and light.
To prepare teachers in the method of the experimental sciences is not an easy matter. When we shall have instructed them in anthropometry and psychometry in the most minute manner possible, we shall have only created machines, whose usefulness will be most doubtful. Indeed, if it is after this fashion that we are to initiate our teachers into experiment, we shall remain forever in the field of theory. The teachers of the old school, prepared according to the principles of metaphysical philosophy, understood the ideas of certain men regarded as authorities, and moved the muscles of speech in talking of them, and the muscles of the eye in reading their theories. Our scientific teachers, instead, are familiar with certain instruments and know how to move the muscles of the hand and arm in order to use these instruments; besides this, they have an intellectual preparation which consists of a series of typical tests, which they have, in a barren and mechanical way, learned how to apply. The difference is not substantial, for profound differences cannot exist in exterior technique alone, but lie rather within the inner man. Not with all our initiation into scientific experiment have we prepared new masters, for, after all, we have left them standing without the door of real experimental science; we have not admitted them to the noblest and most profound phase of such study, ? to that experience which makes real scientists.
We have in ourselves tendencies that are not good and which flourish like weeds in a field. (Original sin). These tendencies are many; they fall into seven groups, known of old as the Seven deadly sins. All deadly sins tend to separate us from the child; for the child compared to us, is not only purer but has mysterious qualities, which we adults as a rule cannot perceive, but in which we must believe with faith, for Jesus spoke to them so clearly and insistently that all the Evangelists recorded His words: Unless ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall nor enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. That which the educator must seek is to be able to see the child as Jesus saw him. It is with this endeavor, thus defined and delimited, that we wish to deal.