Irrespective of what professional training we may have had as Montessorians, we can all recall the hard work of having to “normalise” ourselves to the Montessori environment. The trainings for apparatus practice were rigorous, and we meticulously followed our albums making sure every move was calculated and done with precision. And it was all needed… By the time we came to our classrooms, we were full of these ‘dos’ and don’ts’ that we had learnt in our training. How many times have we prevented a child from doing an activity just because it was not presented to him? Oh but we mustn’t let the child explore it, as he may learn to use it in a wrong way. Or it wasn’t allowed in my training….Really?
We look at the child pouring the water from the jug onto the activity tray, and we make a mark in our minds of his incompetence. We in fact have check lists evaluating his level of competence in pouring. As Montessorians we say we are process-oriented, and yet we don’t realise how product-driven we can sometimes be. If we chose to remain curious, we could possibly observe the scientific mind at work. How much water do I need to pour to cover the base of the tray? What if I poured it from a different height? How much water will the sponge soak up?
There is no question that a strong structural base and sense of order needs to be built for our own exploration as practitioners. However, may we flavour it with curiosity or we are bound to miss real learning opportunities for ourselves and for the children.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for dogmatic adherence to beliefs, but remember they are not an end in themselves, but only the beginning. They prepare us for real organic life in the classroom. Just like the little birds that safely snuggle in the nest their momma has prepared for them. Those “nests” of rules and beliefs that were prepared for us by those before us play a huge role in our own learning and development. And we must master them. At the same time remind ourselves that they form merely the first part of our life as practitioners, and there will come a time when we will have to use our own wings to fly. We must ask ourselves then: Will we stay in our nests or will we soar?
“Learn the law very well, so you will know how to disobey it properly” – Dalai Lama.
Sid Mohandas is a Montessori practitioner from the UK. He received his training at Montessori Centre International (MCI), London.