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That is why the child's psychic manifestations are at once impulses of enthusiasm and efforts of meticulous, constant patience" (1963, p. 223).
Empirical observations suggest that children want and need guidelines and rules to help them understand what is expected of them in terms of behavior, but they desperately want to be able to learn on their own and achieve a sense of accomplishment through their own endeavors - this is how people grow and learn. In fact, this is one of the most important aspects of the Montessori approach to helping children develop: "In the special environment prepared for him in our schools, the children themselves found a sentence that expressed this inner need. 'Help me to do it by myself!' How eloquent is this paradoxical request! The adult must help the child, but help him in such a way that he may act for himself and perform his real work in the world" (Montessori, 1963, p. 224).
Such inner-driven desire to learn is assumed to be carried over to the adult life and will result in one's confidence in his/her abilities and a satisfaction with work and life in general. Spirituality so understood can then be defined as the development of the individual's self-concept. For example, in her book, the Secret of Childhood, Montessori writes: "The child strives to assimilate his environment and from such efforts springs the deep-seated unity of his personality. This prolonged and gradual labour is a continual process through which the spirit enters into possession of its instrument" (p. 33).
The traditional school method, of course, employs extrinsic type of motivation; one based on grades, credits, and rigid structure (with no room for spontaneous learning, rooted in memorization and recitation of facts). By nature, the traditional school ignores and, in fact hinders, the child's natural propensity for learning. Essentially, this discussion is about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation in the learning process. Finally, it is also similar to the lines of Maslow's self-actualizing individual or Piaget's concept of "inner equilibrium."
Like these human development theories, Montessori also concluded that while adults were in a good position to help children develop, they must "walk the walk" as well as "talking the talk" to achieve true development and self-actualization, to use Maslow's term. For example, Montessori emphasizes that the child "must carry out the work for his development alone and he must carry it out in its entirety. No one can take over his task and grow for him. To become a man of twenty he must take twenty years. It is indeed precisely the characteristic of growing childhood to follow just a programme and time-table unerringly, and unsparingly" (1963, p. 220).
To the extent that teachers "teach to the test," then, is the extent to which they will likely fail to take into account young people's natural tendency to want to learn and ignore the potentials that could be realized through a more sensitive approach to the delivery of educational services: "The child does not grow weary with work, but increases his strength. He grows through work and that is why work increases his energies. He never asks to be relieved of his labours, but on the contrary he asks to be allowed to perform them and to perform them alone. The task of growth is his life, he must truly either work or die" (Montesorri, 1963, p. 223). While a death by such an approach might take longer than the doctor suggests, a metaphorical educational death awaits those young learners that are confronted with classrooms that fail to provide them with such learning opportunities. As Montessori points out, her educational methods can help avoid this "death-by-lecture" eventuality. For example, in the Montessori Method, she emphasizes that, "Truly our social life is too often only the darkening and the death of the natural life that is in us. These methods tend to guard that spiritual fire within man, to keep his real nature unspoiled and to set it free from the oppressive and degrading yoke of society" (1964, p. 376).
As noted above, these are revolutionary - if not inflammatory - concepts, and it is little wonder that she has attracted both support and opposition to her ideas. If her methods were widely used, Montessori maintained, society's ills could be solved by children who would enter adulthood as spiritually enlightened and eager members of a new social order committed to freedom and equality. For example, she writes that her approach to the delivery of educational services "involves a conception of life more usual in religious fields than in those of academic pedagogy, in as much as it has recourse to the spiritual energies of mankind, but it is founded on work and on liberty which are the two paths to all civic progress" (Montessori, 1964, p. 369).
Unfortunately, most busy teachers in today's mainstream classrooms may not enjoy the luxury of such personalized attention to 25 to 50 young and eager learners from a wide range of sociocultural backgrounds, and the best that they believed can be hoped for in these situations is to help as many children as possible be promoted to the next grade level where their unique childhood developmental and difficult-to-discern-but-vitally-important spiritual problems will become someone else's concern. Nevertheless, the most effective leaders in any setting - educational, military, corporate or otherwise - recognize that careful attention to followers' needs and wants is an integral component of their jobs. It is reasonable to assume that most teachers would prefer to take the time required to achieve superior academic outcomes but resources are by definition scarce and providing individual attention to every student in a No Child Left Behind classroom can be tough.
To overcome these constraints, Montessori believed that a complete restructuring of the current emphasis on the adult world was going to be required, with more consideration given to what children needed and wanted to help them learn more effectively. Equating the young learner to a "spiritual embryo," Montessori emphasizes that in sharp contrast to mainstream classroom settings today, "Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission. It is in this that our conception differs both from that of the world in which the adult does everything for the child and from that of a passive environment in which the adult abandons the child to himself" (1963, p. 224).
The research showed that spirituality is a fundamental aspect of being human and is one of the things that set people apart from lower animals. Just as ancient mankind looked at the stars and sought answers through mystical interpretations, children take what they know and use it to understand the world around them in ways that may be difficult for adults to understand, but which will contain such a spiritual element from birth. In truth, it may not be possible or even desirable to seek to intimately understand what a particular child may think about the world in terms of its spiritual nature to recognize that this component exists, and what role it plays in the child's growth and learning. The same holds true for adults as well. While everyone can be said to share some common perceptions of the world (e.g., the sun rises and sets every day and people need air, food and water to survive), just about everything else is up for grabs in the spiritual interpretation department and it is impossible to know what others think about their place in the universe without substantive investigation and personal involvement.
Indeed, even after decades of marriage, some people may not know what their spouses think about such things on the level needed to help them grow and mature. In this regard, Montessori concedes that the challenge is tall but her approach to the delivery of educational services provided a framework in which teachers could be trained for this purpose: "The treatment of the child is so complex and so delicate that it needs something more than an awakening in the mother, or the training of new types of nurses and teachers. The response to the child's needs must be a mental renewal of education, which will be the centre of many collateral sciences, till the crowning result is achieved, a new philosophy of life" (pp. 225-6). In this regard, the research also clearly showed that understanding the spiritual nature of the childhood experience provides an important and useful framework in which teachers can identify opportunities for further development according to the child's individually expressed desire to learn: "The adult who is unaware of this secret cannot understand the child's work. and, in fact, he has never understood it. That is why he has always prevented him from working, supposing that what the child…[continue]
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