The Montessori Method & Philosophy
is an approach to educating people that has challenged & continues to challenge our most popular teaching systems. It was invented by an incredibly progressive, rebellious, and innovative educator, Maria Montessori.
Whether the masses are consciously aware of it or not, since 1907 the method has influenced millions of growing minds, also including the work cultures of some of the most innovative organizations to ever exist like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Tesla.
What’s wild, is that many people still haven’t heard of it, or they have and view it as some weird education cult. Even parents that have children in daily attendance at one struggle to see the value in keeping them enrolled beyond 6 years of age. From my own experiences, the coolest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching and spending time with where those that went all the way through the program until high school. Sadly, there’s hardly any Montessori high school’s in the world to discover those impacts.
Anyway, these public misconceptions exist because the global Montessori community has yet to unite under a well marketed brand, with a clearly aligned message track. Instead, every Montessori organization (similar to the way organized religions behave) has their own interpretation of the philosophy, which sadly has resulted in every public/private/chartered Montessori program you see being vastly different than the next. These random deviations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, it just makes it a really hard sell.
One of the biggest differences between Traditional versus Montessori schools comes from Montessori removing the pressure and distraction that grades bring into the classroom, and gives the possibility of grade-stress not coming into homes as well.
As a product of the public school system, I vividly remember how good grades defined exactly who you were, who you were going to be, and what opportunities you were allowed to have access to. Your future rested in the hands of every teacher that did or didn’t like you. The only way around it was to be exceptional at sports, or be born into a wealthy family. It didn’t matter if you actually learned the material. There was zero benefit to actually mastering the concepts so that you could apply them throughout your life. All that anyone cared about was what your GPA and standardized test scores were so that you could be sifted through the education system’s filters. The best grades gain access to the best schools, hang out with the best people, acquire the best internships, and then finally get the best job offers as a result.
This allows our politics to completely disrupt the potential of every single child.
When evaluating how we should reform the education system (or any system) it’s best to look closely at our incentives. Incentives are what dictate the actions and norms of the people in our society. They define the game. If you provide the best rewards for getting good grades then learning becomes secondary. When learning is secondary, students will do literally anything to get good grades. Instead, if we become champions of learning and mastering the skills & material, then you’re suddenly creating a much more organic system that can naturally evolve, grow, and continue to scale into the future.
I believe the Montessori Method has perfected many of these organic systems. It’s a teaching method that prioritizes learning by giving teacher’s the tools they need to assess the mastery level of each child. The assessments are based on the child’s current capabilities, skills, and interest levels on any given topic or skill. The teacher considers all of this information, then guides the child as to what they should consider doing next — rather than forcing them to do what the school boards have planned for every student in their state’s to do. For the most successful outcomes, teachers need to be well versed in almost every topic, or have the capacity to quickly learn the essence behind every topic. They also need to be observant, self-aware, and ready to adapt to the individual needs of each child on any given day.
Certified Montessori teachers are in fact trained to do these things, which I found to be pretty Jedi-like.
Montessori offers students the freedom of choice, which empowers the learner to have control over what they learn, who they learn it with, and how fast they go. Within the Montessori classroom, teachers become observers and guides, rather than grade enforcing lecturers by utilizing self-correcting, hands on materials called shelf work as their predominate teaching technology.