Engaging with multiple perspectives

I’m pretty sure most Montessori teachers, especially in preschools, have gotten down on their knees to get a child’s eye view of things. Our job is to make work available and inviting. Beautiful even. I, however, have wondered who the judge of what “beautiful and inviting” is. My idea of beautiful seems so different from so many of the people I work with. Who then will decide what is beautiful?

We are taught so many things in Montessori about how thing “should” look, and rightly so I suppose. We want beauty, but not flashy. Quality and not quantity. The right pictures on the walls at the right height. But let me ask this…. do we usually ask our coworkers opinions about how things look or do we ask a child? I don’t pretend to know what is the right (or wrong) thing to do. It’s merely a question for reflection.

Perceptions do not only depend on what is there in front of us. It is not solely dependent on sight. The word means how we comprehend a thing. I know that my comprehension, the way I perceive thing changes all the time. I see many things differently as someone in their 50’s, than I did when I was in my 20’s. Not to mention when I was 5!
That two people can perceive the same exact thing in two different ways is inevitable. Sure, we will agree on a lot, but it won’t be exactly the same. If we are interested in “getting it right” or achieving the most accurate understanding of something then the more perspectives we consider, the better. And, after all, in Montessori we are interested in presenting the multicultural aspects of the world; considering other cultural perspectives so to speak. We focus on how everything hangs together. To promote peace we need to respect the perception of others and share our own as well. We will want to expand how each of us perceive what we are investigating. The greater the perspective the greater the understanding. To do this we have to be open and honest. We have to be humble. 
If what we perceive is based on, not only our position in space and time, but our experiences as well, imagine that of a child. A new human, if you will, with so relatively few experiences. It’s easy then, to see how a child can be captivated by the simple things we generally take for granted. This is one of our tools in our toolbox. Connect this to the concept of sensitive periods and you have pure magic!
To best understand the child’s perspective, it is perhaps best that we understand how our own perception is developed. What influenced you to believe what you believe? Have you ever considered it? Was it your culture, your gender, the times you grew up (in which decade)? So many factors influence how we perceive things that I guess we can’t know them all. When we take a closer look at ourselves, we begin to grasp that there is no one correct way to see things. Nor is there in fact any way that is completely incorrect either. This is very useful to remember when we communicate with parents as well. I know many of us do this already. We can call it empathy. Similar concepts yet different. Perspectives also apply when observing nonliving things. 
I learned long ago that I could always be wrong. Even things you are 100% certain of, there is a chance that your conclusion is based on something everyone got wrong. For example, after it was finally proven that the Earth orbited around the sun and not the opposite, it still took 150 years for this to be accepted by the masses! So the more open we are, in heart and mind, the more perspectives we can grasp and the greater our understanding.

Everyone has his or her own unique perspective and no one perspective is totally correct or incorrect. If we grasp this, we will be open to other’s perspective and increase our own understanding of what we wish to learn about or act upon. If we want to be better guides, peace workers or human beings we will benefit greatly by doing our best to look at as many perspectives as we can, using what we can and letting be that which we can not, so that our actions rise from the greatest clarity we can obtain at the time. Peace.

Robert Fischbeck is a Montessori practitioner from Norway. He is married and has 2 children. Rob has a diverse interest and has worked in wide variety of jobs, from a sewer worker to fish cleaner; from kitchens to preschools. He studied Montessori with Waterpark in Oslo and has been working at Bambini Montessoribarnehage in Hamar, Norway since 2004.