By Ms Nithya Kalyani, Montessori Education Expert
Before proceeding on explaining why and how the Montessori Method has been successful in the corporation schools and balwadis
I would like to define a few terms like freedom, responsibility and discipline, which we have been commonly using.
Freedom of will is the ability to exercise control over our actions, decisions and choices. But, more often than not what we think of as our free choice is actually programmed by society. If somebody questions our belief/decision we may begin to get confused. Now the mind that believed begins to question. You critically analyze, reason and resolve. Being free and living without contradiction entails being able to rationalize.
Similarly responsibility is not something that our teacher, father or society wants us to do, not something that is our duty. It should not be binding. Being responsible is not doing something because somebody told you to do so. Being responsible is something that comes from within. It presupposes thoughtfulness or mindfulness.
Coming to discipline, discipline does not mean obeying. To quote J.K, “Discipline comes from the word ‘disciple’. A disciple is one who is learning..not conforming..”. A disciple listens, questions and acquires knowledge. If I have to drive a car I have to learn how to use it. To learn I must be sharp and alert.
In all that has been explained so far there is one common factor. All three require a questioning mind, a mind that is awake. When I am aware and sensitive of/to everything around me I am absolutely responsible and disciplined. To be aware means not to just look, but to ‘observe’. I am not careless. I train my mind to ‘be conscious’.
The Montessori materials do just that. They train the mind to be conscious, to be sensitive, to be alert. Give eg. maybe, sound cylinders.
To explore and be active is a natural urge of a child. Activity is crucial to self development. When the activity is meaningful, learning happens faster. Learning is not left to chance. While free activity is available at home, structured meaningful activity should be available at school.
When activity is given a frame work it helps the child to work within the structure towards a fixed goal. When there is goal, the mind automatically works to achieve the goal. Thinking becomes compulsory. Focus becomes essential.
Is structured learning important? Let’s take the example of a mother taking a child out for a walk. The child sees a lot of things.
His mother gives him lot of names. But, there is no order. If impressions are not stored in a meaningful manner they are difficult to access. It is like a disorganized library. Data becomes useful only when it is labeled and classified. There is no knowledge if it cannot be accessed and available for later use.
Knowledge is the foundation for creativity or the application of awareness. All explorations start from a base camp.
Why follow ground rules?
Following ground rules is an exercise in being aware and careful. It is an exercise in being meticulous. Everyone wants to be systematic. Everyone wants to produce perfect work. One job well done gives more confidence and satisfaction than ten jobs that are incomplete or improperly done.
Why are sensorial materials important?
Sensorial materials are scientifically designed after thorough research. The beauty of the sensorial material is that they teach abstract concepts like colour weight etc. in isolation ie. to the delineation of any other attribute an object may have. Thus, concepts are perfectly understood.
In all activities there is a need for careful observation and critical thinking.
Reasons why the Montessori Method has been successful in the corporation schools and balwadis:
1. The children have an array of materials which they are free to use.
2. The materials are attractive. They are not necessarily colourful. But, they satisfy the innate urge to develop cognitive and life skills.
3. The children have shown their love for meaningful activity by ignoring toys and play materials and choosing activities that involve fine motor movements and are intellectually challenging.
4. Children readily follow handling techniques and try to achieve the set outcome.
5. One cannot miss observing the order and responsibility in the classroom. If we show the children how to maintain and use materials properly they understand and follow these rules with sincerity, not out of fear.
6. They love the teacher for respecting them and having faith in them and for treating them like an adult.
7. Even if the teacher is not watching, or goes out of the room work will carry on.
8. Materials are rarely misused or lost.
9. Even the balwadi and corporation teachers who felt that children are noisy and unmanageable and needed to use authoritarian means say that the Montessori teacher is calmer and her job more relaxing. They too prefer this method.
Even when the Montessori teacher is absent they prefer to let the children work with the materials. They say, “Mat pottal pasanga amaithiyaagi viduvanga”
10. New children settle down very quickly.
11. Children show great eagerness to work with the materials.
12. Because of individual teaching and communication with child teacher enjoys a good rapport with every child and gets in depth knowledge of the aptitude and attitude of every child.