Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Learning about Montessori

This post doesn't really deal with the Storytelling project, but it affects it in a way: SRVS is using Montessori methods in their day center. As far as we know, this is the first instance of Montessori being used for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It's exciting and innovative - and something I knew next-to-nothing about. While browsing at the library a few weeks ago, I figured it was time for me to do a little learnin' on my own.

I found Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elizabeth G. Hainstock and checked it out. The book was first published in 1968, so it's a little out of date, but can teaching styles really grow stale? All I wanted was some background to develop a general understanding of the method. Since this book is to help parents implement montessori teaching in their own home, I figured it'd have some good example activities to help me understand how it works.

The book begins with a brief overview of how children learn - it is geared towards two- to five- year-olds. Here are some of the most interesting tidbits I came away with:

- "Montessori felt that if the child was bored and did not react spontaneously to his work, it was not his fault, but rather the fault of the way the work was presented to him."

- "She presented the teacher as an observer, always ready to guide and direct, whose purpose was to keep alive the child's enthusiasm for learning, without interfering with the child's efforts to teach himself."

- "each step is a preparation for a step that follows"

- "The child is given a free choice of activities, and the materials are designed to correspond with his natural physical and physiological development. The teaching method is divided into three parts: motor education, sensory education, and language. Great emphasis is placed on a thorough development of the five senses."

- "If a child is continually interrupted and discouraged in his activities during this time [ages three to six], his character development will reflect this disorganization.

- "Never do for a child what he is capable of doing for himself."

- "Be patient. What seems easy for you is of course not necessarily easy for a three-year-old. Remember that the role of the Montessori teacher is that of an observer. In watching your child make an error while attempting to do something, the mother's first impulse is to interrupt with a well-meant 'Here, let me show you.' Restrain yourself and let him see for himself. He will."

- "The child should be permitted to choose what he wants to work with and to repeat or stop as he pleases. However, each task must be completed before the material is returned to its place. He must not be allowed to stop simply because he has lost interest. Perseverance is a good lesson in self-discipline."

In fact, only one statement stood out to me as being outdated: "For practical-life training the Bissel Little Queen set is ideal - it contains an apron, carpet sweeper, mop, broom, sponge and dustpan. It may be found at any toy shop or obtained with trading stamps." And here I had been saving up my trading stamps!

It all seems like common sense when you read it, but it also made me realize how drastically different my own education was. Teachers were teachers, they had the authority, they corrected you and graded you. There was little to no encouragement to learn what you wanted - they had lesson plans and tests to score highly on. These particular statements stuck with me because I can see all of this being implemented in the learning center already. This is how the classrooms run at SRVS, and it really seems to work with this population.

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