Montessori education is a child centric method of education that caters to the complete development of the child. The preparation of the directress in on three levels – spiritual, mental & physical; all done simultaneously. On spiritual preparation, she has to be suitable to guide the children & prepare a secure & loving atmosphere for the child.
- The first task of the directress is to forgo her ego & prejudices & meet the child without any pre-conceived notions about his abilities & potentials.
- She should accept that the child is her only guide & in order to help him, she must follow and understand him & be willing to learn what the child reveals.
- She should patiently observe the child & ask herself what she needs to do next to help the child.
- She should love the child in truest sense & not expect anything in return. This love comes from a deep respect & understanding that children will absorb her movements, actions, calmness & integrity just by watching her & not follow or do what they are told to do.
- She should be a mature adult with a smile on her face & not bring her personal problems in the class.
- She should be humble & offer help to the child without crushing his spirit. She should understand that she cannot mould the child but can only help him to follow his inner urges.
- She should not judge herself by the child’s work, but should constantly attempt to better herself in the awareness of the needs of the child. She should awaken her true consciousness & realize the human, social & spiritual importance of the child.
- She should be confident but not over confident & should have the ability to be impersonal & listen to the child.
- She should exercise self control & not laugh or ridicule the child. She should treat him with dignity. She should be careful with her language in front of the children. She should not whisper to other adults in the room & pass sarcastic comments.
- She should be willing to listen & understand the parents & the children. She should always bend down on her knees to have eye contact with them.
- She should be consistent & lovingly firm with the child to prevent him from becoming disruptive.
Lastly, she should be kind & not cruel to the children. Always be punctual & have self discipline & not loose temper. To be intellectually prepared, she should study the basis of Montessori philosophy & apply it in her day to day dealing with the children. She should be aware of the universal rights of the children & try to safeguard them.
Children are curious by nature & ask a lot of questions. The adult should have good general knowledge to answer his queries so as to keep the child’s interest alive. She should bring into the prepared environment all items of human culture. She should have a sound knowledge of all Montessori materials, their purpose & usage. Her movements should be exact, precise & orderly with clarity so as to show the purpose of each activity. She should know when to intervene & when to be passive so as to help them become independent. She must keep a record of her presentation, do the planning for the day, week, month & the year.
She should constantly strive to deepen her knowledge & be in touch with the current research in the field of education & have a healthy attitude towards other schools of thought as it would help her become stronger in her belief. To be physically prepared, she should have proper behavior, appearance, personality & manners as it influences the children. She should have graceful movements and should be able to move the furniture if need be without noise & make only necessary movements. She should be pleasant & neatly dressed. Her tone of voice should be calm & clear & should speak softly.
She must be hygienic & maintain cleanliness. All aspects of her physical personality i. e. movement, voice, mannerism, speech, dress, appearance should be positive. The work of the directress is three fold. She is the guardian of the prepared environment & must always maintain it in its state of preparedness. She should keep on developing the environment as per the pace, rhythms & needs of the child. She should be aware of her environment throughout the day & make sure it is in order. She should clean & repair any broken material. Make sure all the sets are complete and in their proper place.
She should not allow misuse of any material. She must create conditions in the atmosphere so that the children can work with concentration. She should make the Montessori materials come alive with her presentation but she herself must be detached from the outcome. While conducting group presentation, she should know how to call the group, how to conduct it & how to disperse it. She must not occupy the center stage & must be present as a helper & guide. As an observer, she is responsible for the child as well as the group. She should observe scientifically, unobtrusively & record with patience.
Then she would know who needs help & in what direction. She is also responsible to the parents & should share her knowledge about the child’s development & needs with them. The Prepared Environment By two & half years, the child has achieved many tasks to a great extent & overcome many challenges that he faced at birth. He can now walk, talk, co-ordinate his movements & reflects the behavior & culture of society with distinct stamp of an individual. Now he needs another environment besides home, family & social environment. This is called as the Prepared Environment.
It is a specially prepared environment which supports the growing need of the child. We must keep in mind certain points while preparing the child’s environment.
- We must remember that the child is in first stage of development. We must be aware of his tendencies
- The activities we provide should involve the child physically, mentally & emotionally. The activities should be intelligent, purposeful activities.
- Objects should be concrete & factual. There must be efficient tools that the child can use & explore his environment.
- The tools begin with the concrete which offer his intellect via his senses & movements. Gradually the child will try to move further towards the abstract e. g. geometry cabinet
- Materials are in classified form to bring clarity & order in the child’s mind.
- We should arrange the environment in such a way that the information is conveyed to the child’s mind as the child has an absorbent mind.
- We must consider all the sensitive periods & satisfy them. Order is important for orientation & security. Order should be provided in every sense i. e. where the materials are kept, how they are used. We must not change their place.
- Activities must be purposeful as the child’s attention is focused on the activity for a period of time.
- The environment should encourage the child to think creatively & logically. It is not enough that he takes in information but he should be able to apply it in his environment.
- The environment must help him gain inner discipline & self control
- It must help him develop at all levels i. e. spiritual, physical, emotional, social & mental. It is an all rounded development.
Actual preparation of the environment Adult has to prepare this environment & give the child all forms of assistance that she can offer
- Adult must see that the environment does not have any obstacles, that is not vitally needed by the child otherwise it will distract the child who is working on his development. It will draw his attention away from the means of development.
- This environment must provide the necessary space to the child. Then he can enjoy freedom & will be able to explore. Having space helps the child to become independent.
- The main work area should be spacious, well lit with natural light, well ventilated with low windows. Walls should be in one pastel color which gives a calm serene effect. Pictures should be well spaced at the height of the children. They should be changed from time to time so that the children do not become indifferent to them. They should have real paintings, sculptors & art work. Each child must have own individual furniture (own mats & chowki)
- Furniture should be light which promotes freedom of movement. Chairs should be at different heights according to ages. The feet of the children should touch the floor. Table can be of different geometric shapes.
- Mats should be of different sizes & colors to accommodate the children’s work. They should be in one light color, made of durable material that can be cleaned easily
- Have different areas for different activities e. g. reading corner, sewing corner, kitchen like area, prayer corner & art corner.
- The shelves on which material is displayed should be low open shelves so that the material is within the reach of the children’s hands & he should be able to see them. The shelf should not be fixed but movable. There are separate shelves for different activities which serve different purposes.
- Plants must be arranged in a room. Have a variety of indoor plants. A living creature should be there. Bring fresh flowers daily to arrange. Do not decorate with ornate things but provide attractive things with utility. The material should be in variety made of natural products like wood, glass, copper, earthenware, silver, chinaware, brass etc as these attract the children & stimulate interest.
- Material should be of light color so that the slightest dirt will be noticeable & the child becomes aware of his environment & develops a habit for taking care of things & cleaning them clean.
- In the reading corner, have a small arm chair or rocking chair or pretty cushions.
- Area for snack & lunch should be well planned. It should be different, comfortable, properly arranged for crockery, cutlery, safe drinking source, table mats & napkins to keep the area clean
- Outdoor area or garden must be pretty & the child should be free to go out when they want to.
Montessori Materials & Tools The Prepared environment is equipped with various Montessori materials & tools designed by Dr. Maria Montessori based on her observation of the child. These materials are grouped into 5 key areas. Exercises of Practical Life From the very beginning, a child is aware that everyday life in a community is marked by certain values and standards.
Striving to take part in the communal life, the child finds activities which assist him or her to adopt the behavior and ways of the group. Exercises of Practical Life are classified under the headings of
- Care of the Person – Dressing & undressing, washing hands, combing hair etc.
- Care of the Environment – Dusting furniture, cleaning chowkis, sweeping, mopping, watering plants etc.
- Grace and Courtesy – How to greet someone, how to sneeze, cough etc.
- Movement – How to hold things & carry them to the mat/shelves, how to walk around the mats, walking on the line etc.
Fundamentally, these exercises are the same all over the world, but distinct in their expression in different societies, since they reflect the domestic life of the particular culture. Through the exercises of practical life, the child develops motor co-ordination and a sense of order. He actively takes initiative & responsibility, thereby boosting his self confidence. Sensorial Materials Even without any special materials, children sort objects by size, color or form; by weight, temperature or smell; from large to small, from light to dark, from thick to thin, or from cold to warm.
The sensorial materials offer the child the opportunity to put things in order, to structure, to classify and to categorize. Sensorial Exercises were designed by Dr. Montessori to cover every quality that can be perceived by the senses such as size, shape, composition, texture, loudness or softness, matching, weight, temperature, etc. The sensorial materials are arranged according to natural laws or mathematical principles. One characteristic is isolated, while the other characteristics remain identical. Typically, they have a precisely described application and use, and a precisely limited quantity.
Montessori believed that the child learns not by teaching but upon his experiences from the environment. To ensure that the children receive the optimal benefits from the work with the materials, there are certain key requirements
- The Montessori materials must be clean and kept on low inviting shelves. The material is arranged in a sequential order of complexity, going from simple to complex. This arrangement assists the child in choosing the one that most corresponds to his inner need.
- All of the materials are aesthetically pleasing & inviting. There are bright arrays of solid geometric forms, knobbed puzzle maps, colored beads, and various specialized rods and blocks. This attracts the child’s attention to the objects and allows the child to manipulate the materials with ease.
- All the materials are child sized for ease of use & real objects that the child sees in his day to day life. All the materials are movable & can be picked up easily by the child. Most materials are of light natural wood color so that the slightest dirt will be noticeable & the child becomes aware of his environment & develops a habit for taking care of things & cleaning them clean.
- Each material in a Montessori classroom isolates one quality. In this way, the concept that the child is to discover is isolated. For example, the pink tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. The child constructs a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on top. This material isolates the concept of size. The cubes are all the same color and texture; the only difference is their size. Other materials isolate different concepts: color tablets for color, geometry materials for form, and so on.
- The materials are scientifically designed & self-correcting. There is an in-built control of error. When a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error. There is no need for adult “correction. ” The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.
- The materials interrelate and build upon each other e. g. various relationships can be explored between the pink tower and the broad stair, which are based on matching precise dimensions. Later, in the elementary years, new aspects of some of the materials unfold. When studying volume, for instance, the child may return to the pink tower and discover that its cubes progress incrementally from one cubic centimeter to one cubic decimeter.
- All of the materials are in sets & these sets must be complete. This allows the child who is working with the material to finish through the entire piece of work without having to stop and find a missing piece.
- There is only one example of each material present in the environment, except the Exercises of Practical life. Hence, when the material is in use by one child, the other child has to await his turn. This lends to development of their will & self control. The child also learns to respect the work of other children.
- There is a limit to the information given to the child in one presentation. For example, the child is not given every color in the world, but only a select few. This gives the child the keys to the information so it peaks his curiosity and leads him to learn more out of his own interest.
- Last, but not the least, the adult presenting the materials must be trained in the Montessori method of education, and possess a solid understanding of the materials, their application, their possibilities, and their goals.