“This program will be a perfect fit,” she assured me. “It is designed for children just like your son.”
By “like your son,” the Director of Special Education meant children with “high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” That is his label, his diagnosis if you will, but now let’s talk about the person. My child is a kind, intelligent, curious, energetic, stubborn, caring, friendly, and sometimes-bossy young person. He is growing, learning, and changing every day. He needs boundaries, positive discipline, and encouragement. And, like anyone else, he learns better from some teachers than others. He does best with teachers who have clear, consistent expectations and a kind reassuring voice, teachers that recognize and honor his potential as an individual on his own path to adulthood.
Sound like anyone you know? I’m likely describing the majority of all children and that is, more or less, my point. Label or no label, all children need the right teachers in order to thrive developmentally and academically, to become the person “who is not yet there.”
An ordinary teacher cannot be transformed into a Montessori teacher, but must be created anew, having rid herself of pedagogical prejudices. The first step is self-preparation of the imagination, for the Montessori teacher has to visualize a child who is not yet there, materially speaking, and must have faith in the child who will reveal himself through work.
~Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
In an effort to find that right fit, my husband and I transferred our child to a different school, the one with the program for children “just like” him. It’s a good program, theoretically. It consists of a staff of behavioral and academic specialists who support the “regular” teachers in providing as mainstream an education as possible for these not-so-mainstream children. The trouble is, like most any program, this one is only as good as the teacher. And my son’s teacher turned out to be, well, not exactly the perfect fit.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the part where I go on a tirade about my child’s education. Instead, it’s the part where I emphasize the huge importance of good teachers. No matter how great the school, the name, the promises, it really all comes down to the abilities of the teacher, his or her training, understanding, and preparation as an educator.
“The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self. The training of the teacher is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” This quote by Maria Montessori brings up a good point. What does it really mean to be a good teacher? Is it about knowing your facts and figures? Knowing the latest trends in discipline? Or is it all really based on a profound love for children, and you’ve either got it or you don’t? What exactly is the key to becoming a really good teacher (either as your profession or for the sake of your own children)? Maria Montessori summed it up beautifully,
“I believe that the work of the educator consists primarily in protecting the powers of the developing child and directing them without disturbing them in their expansion; and it is the bringing of man into contact with the spirit which is within him and should operate through him.”
Why listen to Maria Montessori? Where do I start? Maria Montessori, a brilliant physician and scientist, spent her lifetime discovering how children really develop: mentally, physically, and spiritually. But she didn’t stop there; she used this depth of understanding and knowledge to develop one of the most comprehensive and timeless educational approaches ever to exist.
Since that time, nearly a century ago, countless studies have validated Montessori’s methods. Modern day scientists such as Angeline Lillard, Dr. Steven Hughes, Kevin Rathunde, Donatella Pecori, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, and Adele Diamond have come to the same conclusions that Montessori documented long ago.
Maria Montessori really got everything right… She anticipated so much of what we know about neuroscience, brain development, and optimum models of education.
~Dr. Steven Hughes, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology
Jane Wechsler, founder of Montessori Family School in Berkeley, California, speaks about the currently education system in the U.S., “On some level people understand that every brain is different, but they are not willing to do anything about that.” She further explains that Maria Montessori developed a teaching method “that meets children where they are.”
The most important thing in Montessori education is that you are responsible for the lives of the future that are going to be responsible for this planet. It is not learning in the classroom that is the goal. The goal is the human being that the child will become, the adult.
British author and educator Sir Ken Robinson, an immensely popular speaker on TED.com, said this,
“Teaching is a creative profession. [The real role of leadership in education] is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility.”
Parents, teachers, and teachers-to-be can all benefit from Montessori’s ingenious approach, an educational method that enriches the child’s nature path of development through individual learning. Learn more about how you can become part of a Montessori teacher and parent community, moving early childhood and elementary education forward, at Age of Montessori.
The primary goal of Montessori education is to prepare the whole child to reach his full potential in all areas of life.
~ Dr. Maria Montessori