Months ago the Montessori Madmen, a group of advocates for Montessori education, asked educators and parents to think of an elevator speech they would be able to pitch to people who didn’t know anything about Montessori. Their questions “what is Montessori?” or “why Montessori?” were to be answered in concise video statements with the purpose of “selling” Montessori to someone who had no prior knowledge of Montessori pedagogy. While I chose not to enter their contest, I’d like to share my answer to the question “why Montessori?” with you:
I believe in following the child. Children, like adults, have their own learning styles, interests, hobbies, friends, likes, dislikes, strengths, and areas for growth. Just because they are three or six or nine does not mean they “should” be doing this or that. There's no point in rushing a child; no point in holding back a child. It’s impressive to see what happens when adults allow children to work at their own pace, when they are ready, interested and invested.
I believe in teaching children about compassion, empathy and conflict resolution. It’s important to model to children how to act, what to say, and to explain what's hurtful to another person. It's vital that children learn how to feel what someone is feeling, to know why they are saying sorry and what the phrase "I'm sorry" truly means. Peace education is as significant as any other curriculum area and many educational systems do not place such a high value on these essential social skills as Montessori schools do.
I believe that Montessori classrooms are similar to real life experiences. Think about it: you’re an adult and maybe you work in an office. Your company is working on a big project or maybe just going through the day-to-day functions of the job. You have a part, as do all of your co-workers. Are you all doing the exact same thing at the exact same time? Probably not, and if you were your business probably wouldn't be that successful. You're each doing your thing, honing your skills, helping one another when you can, focusing when the environment is right, taking a break when you need it, coming together when it's important; you're building and creating and if you like your job (hopefully you do) you feel good at the end of the day. That's what it's like for children in a Montessori classroom.
For me, that’s “why Montessori”. Admittedly, it’s not the most concise response and my elevator ride would definitely need to be a long one. But I’d encourage you to think about this task and ask yourself the same question: Why Montessori?