Maria Montessori was born on the 31st August 1870 in the town of Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father, Alessandro, was an accountant in the civil service, and her mother, Renilde Stoppani, was well educated and had a passion for reading.
The Montessori family moved to Rome in 1875, and the following year the young Maria enrolled in the local state school on the Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino. As her education progressed, she began to break through the barriers which constrained women’s careers. From 1886 to 1890 she continued her studies at the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, which she entered with the intention of becoming an engineer. This was unusual at the time as most girls who pursued secondary education studied the classics rather than going to technical school.
Upon her graduation, Montessori’s parents encouraged her to take up a career in teaching, one of the few occupations open to women at the time, but she was determined to enter medical school and become a doctor.
In 1898 Montessori’s work with the asylum children began to receive more prominence. The 28-year-old Montessori was asked to address the National Medical Congress in Turin, where she advocated the controversial theory that the lack of adequate provision for retarded and disturbed children was a cause of their delinquency. Expanding on this, she addressed the National Pedagogical Congress the following year, presenting a vision of social progress and political economy rooted in educational measures. This notion of social reform through education was an idea that was to develop and mature in Montessori’s thinking throughout her life.
Montessori grasped the opportunity of working with normal children and, bringing some of the educational materials she had developed at the Orthophrenic School, she established her first Casa dei Bambini or ‘Children’s House’, which opened on the 6th January 1907. By the autumn of 1908 there were five Case dei Bambini operating, four in Rome and one in Milan. Children in a Casa dei Bambini made extraordinary progress, and soon 5-year-olds were writing and reading. News of Montessori’s new approach spread rapidly, and visitors arrived to see for themselves how she was achieving such results. Within a year the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland began transforming its kindergartens into Case dei Bambini, and the spread of the new educational approach began.
Her last public engagement was in London in 1951 when she attended the 9th International Montessori Congress. On 6th May 1952, at the holiday home of the Pierson family in the Netherlands, she died in the company of her son, Mario, to whom she bequeathed the legacy of her work.
THE MONTESSORI TEACHER
The Montessori teacher needs special training and a different formation, being the guardian responsible for the environment and materials used during the activities. He should deal with children in a caring way, and must be worried about their behavior so as to promote relaxation in the classroom and self-knowledge; it is believed that through this cognitive development will be achieved.
The teacher should create an environment in which the kids are able to concentrate, avoiding external interference, as well as from classmates. Relaxation and calmness should be cultivated.
Montessori teachers are trained to offer the best from themselves and create the ideal environment to stimulate development and interaction.
MONTESSORI METHODOLOGY’S PRINCIPLES
- The school must be nice and agreeable, since the kids need order in order to release their potential;
- The vitality of the kids should be considered so that they can learn through practice;
- Respect to the child’s needs;
- Respect to individuality, personalities, and the child’s totality;
- Development of perception, exploration, communication, and abstraction;
- Attention to the first plane that extends from birth to around six years of age. During this period, the child undergoes striking physical and psychological development.
- Stimuli to self-control and self-perfection;
- Stimuli to habits such as: love, self-care, attention to the adults, life-family practices, and life in society.
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who differ from each other.
All Montessori classrooms have low height and accessible shelves so that the kids can reach by themselves the materials they ought to explore and manipulate. That also helps educate the senses, logic, and build the bases of the learning process.
INCLUSION (SPECIAL EDUCATION)
The structure of the classroom allows kids from different backgrounds to interact and learn from each other. It promotes personalized teaching and learning. The classroom promotes diversity, making it easier to infants with special needs to interact with others. That reinforced the principle in the Montessori Method that each child has their own needs and some have special needs. Montessori schools developed years ago what we now call inclusion, or, special education.