The following is one of my all-time favourite quotes from Dr. Maria Montessori, because I feel like it really helps explain our Montessori Program's evolution to where we are today.
Five years ago, our program began a major shift in how we offer the Montessori Method, including our decision to merge it with the Developmentally Appropriate Practices for the Preschool Child.
When I joined SJMS, I was constantly being amazed by the beautiful symmetry between the Montessori Method and DAP's, and began thinking about how I could merge them, to increase the quality of education offered to each student. This began the transition to merging the two methodologies, and was the rebirth of SJMS.
As new Educators joined our new team, including Haley and Tuesday, we built a core educational team that not only saw the vision, but together - built it into reality.
At the time, we received a lot of negative feedback about this decision, mostly from fellow Montessorians, which revolved around the idea that we are no longer offering a "traditional" or "authentic" Montessori classroom. And it is a comment we still receive to this day.
Hearing this always makes me pause, as from my own exploration of Maria Montessori - her background, her first experiences teaching a class, and what she learned through that journey - I believe our program is more in line with EXACTLY what Maria spoke about than many others, who advertise "authentic" Montessori programs.
She was first and foremost a scientist, a doctor, and an observer; she spoke passionately about the NEED to continue evolving and adapting as educators, and that the Montessori Method is NOT a "curriculum" to be followed by future educators; it is a set of observations and learning materials, that must be used with purpose and intent, based on when each child was ready.
It was never intended to be a "checklist" of Lessons, that the educators would Present, then "tick off" a list. She provided the education world with ideas, suggestions, and materials that she observed worked for children, and noted that children learned best when they were engaging all of their sense.
She then urged others to use, adapt, and most importantly - to EVOLVE their teaching methods to meet the needs of each student in their care.
I truly believe that Maria would approve of our program merging Montessori with DAP's, as she was an avid proponent for the continued search for new understandings of a child's development. I believe she would embrace the proven child development domains that Early Childhood Educators know to be valid; that the Preschool Child requires stimulation and opportunities for growth in all Four Domains: Physical, Cognitive, Social, and Emotional. I believe that Maria, like us, would see the beautiful symmetry between the Montessori Method and DAP's.
One of the biggest concerns from Montessori parents who need to enroll their child in traditional elementary and secondary schools after Montessori programs is the difficult transition their child encounters, as they leave one environment, and enter into another. But through the act of merging these two styles, we have been able to support each student in this transition, through the dedication to teaching Kindergarten Readiness Skills.
As Maria said in the above quote, it is our role, our RESPONSABILITY, as educators to look at a child's entire educational journey; from preschool through University. This means we MUST be open to including the skills each student will need during their upcoming educational transitions and settings, while also building the foundations of intrinsic self-motivated learning with our Montessori lessons and environment.
This doesn't mean you incorporate random methodologies into your program; as the quote says, we cannot seek new methods for the arid transmission of knowledge. But there ARE many methodologies that science has proven best meet the needs of the Whole Child (such as DAP's), and the responsability is on us as educators to research, research, research - and if, after careful reflection, we see merit to the methods - find ways to use them in your program, and enhance your students experiences in your care.
In my honest opinion, Montessorians need to be willing to set their egos aside, and allow themselves to consider that alternative teaching methods can hold educational merit for their students. And be willing to incorporate those meaningful methods into their classrooms.
Maybe this will make others call you "nontraditional", or "not authentic Montessori". But at the end of the day, you will be TRULY meeting your students' needs.
And I'm pretty sure Maria would approve.