Surprinsingly enough, we are to talk about a pedagogue, educator, physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, biologist, scientist, anthropologist and philosopher, the amazing profile of this Italian personality, born in 1870 and who died in 1952. To us, the first woman who ever graduated in Medicine in Italy is, as such, a great humanist and defender of women’s capabilities and of an egalitarian and creative education.
Her contribution to pedagogy is special and powerful, because although her ideas seem ordinary nowadays, they supposed a big revolution in her times. Despite opposition from her father, Maria Montessori continued her training in the above mentioned disciplines and actively, she joined the movement for the recognition of the social and private role of women. In time, she also became interested in the potential of children with mental disabilities.
By watching these children, deemed ” non educable”, Montessori determined the importance of stimuli (in activity, intelligence and personality) to enable people to develop their skills. So, for her, education is based on the environment in which the child is raised and in love (understood as teaching limits, responsibility and a structured behaviour with confidence, patience, kindness and empathy). Only then, the child can discover who they are and what person they may become: “The child is father to the man”, she used to say.
She presented her own pedagogical method, which is all about learning to be critical. Thanks to Montessori, children aged 3-6 years-old began to be educated. In a pilot project in the San Lorenzo House of Children, in Rome, the pedagogue achieve the amazing goal of these children to concentrate, to learn to read and to write naturally, and to behave with kindness and values. The academic world marveled at the result of enhancing the freedom, independence and creativity of children.
Montessori formalized this method in a series of guides and in subsequent years she expanded it with new educational centers worldwide. Fascism in World War II would curb her influence, but she continued to work in her method and to make it acknowledged, which earned her awards in several countries and to be nominated up to three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Among her books, we have ‘The Montessori Method’, ‘Pedagogical Anthropology’ and ‘The Secret of Childhood’. In them, a child is defined as a being with an innate ability to absorb knowledge and skills, guided by an adult who will provide the environment for this development with responsibility and love. Thus, Maria Montessori left us ideas like these:
Any unnecessary aid is an obstacle to development.
The first movement of the hand toward small things, the momentum of this movement, represents the effort of the self to penetrate the world.
The task of the educator can only be based on the normalization of the child to achieve the normalization of man and the renewal of society.
The child, guided by an inner teacher, works tirelessly with joy to build the man. We educators can only help… So we will witness the birth of the new man.
No one can be free unless they are independent; therefore, the first active manifestations of individual freedom of the child must be guided so that through this activity the child is able to reach independence.
If help and salvation are to come it can only be through children. Because children are the creators of Humanity.
The person being served, rather than being helped, is hampered in developing their own dependence. This concept is the foundation of human dignity. The child cannot be served because they do not want to be important.
The first task of education is stirring life, but leave it free to be developed.
Help me to do it myself.
Be free or die.
The child who has increased their own independence with the acquisition of new skills, can only develop normally if they are free to act.
I wish you a very happy week,