That, my friends, is the question. Fire away.
One advantage of studying in an old Montessori Training Centre is the exposure to old Montessori materials. Really old materials. Materials that are so permeated with oral tradition that all that is necessary to understand the concept is to hold the material. I jest but slightly.
These are some of the geometric solids (the sphere, the cone, and the cube). Nowadays, these shapes are base 10cm and painted a dark, almost navy, blue. In the ‘old days,’ they were base 5cm in light blue.
It might seem like a small thing, but l recall that Dr. Montessori developed these materials to a particular size according to the children’s response. When Ms. Grazzini took these ancient geometric solids from the shelf, I almost fainted with delight.
See how the light reflects off the them? We can see a delicate shading as the light falls on the faces of the solid; even the sphere seems round! These are solids that are easy to draw, color and copy!
As opposed to these:
Of course they are still beautiful. And they are useful for teaching.
But I prefer the ancient loveliness of the light blue solids.
Early Friday morning I took a chance to fly to Madrid and meet up with friends who came down from Ireland. Our destination was Gredos, to join in a festival in honor of Fr. Tomas Morales. (http://cruzadasdesantamaria.org/English/biografia.htm) Madrid is a beautiful city but I hardly saw it as we caught the train directly to Avila.
Avila is a town I remember well. The last time I was there I was a little girl of six or seven. The walls are still there, massive and imposing, rising out of the rocky hills as though city grew from the ground itself.
We had a few hours to visit the Convent of St. Teresa. It seemed a bleak and barren sort of place! The centuries have simplified the once grand sort of visiting place that St. Teresa knew. It is now a fully functioning convent according to the strict Carmelite Rule. A small section had been set aside as a museum filled with treasures as relics of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross.
The walls are white plaster, the floor-boards worn down where the nuns have walked for the past five hundred years. In the old visiting ‘parlors,’ complete with the original grills, there were a few simple plaques: “This is where St Teresa and St John levitated in ecstasy” or another that read: “This is where St. Teresa saw a vision Christ at the Pillar”. The spiritual reality of the events that transpired within those quiet walls has not dimmed with time.
The Spaniards are not without a sense of humor, however, especially the holy ones. The little museum held an unusual statue of St. Joseph. It was too dark for a good photograph (he is holding Baby Jesus), but you get the idea:
He is known as “St. Joseph the Tattle-tale” because he would be placed in St. Teresa’s chair in her absence and tell her all that had transpired while she was away. Quite original, I think!
We saw El Escorial from the train, and I insert a photo from the internet since my camera was not working:
This is not far from Valle de los Caidos, the “Valley of the Fallen” A reminder of those who died for the faith and those who still need our prayers. In a few weeks, Pope Francis will beautify 522 more Spanish martyrs.
Gredos was a little town ~ but not to worry, it wasn’t the least bit sleepy. When the ‘whole town’ turned out for a festival, all 500 guests showed up. The mayor cooked up dinner. He also serves as the post-master, local bar-tender, guest-house facilitator, and evidently, the town chef. He actually built a sort of cook-house with an enormous frying pan suspended over a fire for just such occasions. Pealla is the obvious choice for a ‘big crowd’ for dinner. It took a moment for an adventurous American to get used to shrimp staring back at her from a steaming plate of rice. Yum!
And now, friends, the fun is back in the books!
Grace and peace,
Follow the link to read more about Montessori! An amazing teacher who is doing her Masters in Montessori Education. Take a moment to ‘like’ her blog.
Most of you are thinking that the food in Italy is wonderful. Friends, that rumor is indeed true. In fact, I don’t know why Italians ever leave Italy, the food is so good. With that established, I do most of my own cooking, as do most of my Italian neighbors. The grocery store is a thirty minute walk each way, so I never buy more than I can carry. Pasta is rarely on the menu. Most meals consist of local fruits, vegetables and meats. I haven’t tried the fish yet but will get back to you on that experience. You know what is really delicious? The water! It flows and bubbles from fountains all over the city. I didn’t know water could taste so good!
How many hours a week do we study and do I get to travel? We calculated between 45 to 60 hours are spent on lectures, writing albums, and material making. More time is spent on review during submission weekends. I get away when the work is finished. On Sunday I ran away to the mountains for a hike. Below you see more mountains and a little farm.
The short answer is to say that Montessori is a method of education, built upon a certain set of fundamental principles. The ‘method’ has become very popular today.
But that is hardly a satisfactory answer to a very good and fair question.
Dr. Montessori did not set out to become an educator. Through her observation and studies, she found certain patterns of development that occur within the human mind and spirit. We are aware of how children are born and grow up and how much our bodies change in the course of a lifetime. But what is happening on the inside? Dr. Montessori found that the human find develops in very specific ways and at very specific times. This was her discovery.
What those specific ways are and how they unfold constitute the core studies of a Montessori trainee. Montessori teachers must know ~internalize~ these principles if they are to help children. This process for teacher-training might be compared to studying medicine; if one is to aid in the healing of bodies, then is highly recommend that one know how the body works before administering care to others.
In addition to her discovery of “Laws of Human Development” Dr. Montessori developed materials that help inform the mind of a young child. She tested and refined the materials over the course of her lifetime. They are a result of years of study, observation and rejection. These are the “Montessori Materials” that you would see in classrooms throughout the world. They are scientific tools, made to precise standards and often extremely beautiful. Even adults are often drawn to touch them “just to see what they’re like.”
How the materials are to be used, and when and in what way children should use them, comprises the second aspect of studies for a Montessori trainee. This is not an easy step. As adults we must pause and almost ‘re-make’ our minds to understand how a child perceives the world and then, to assist him without overwhelming him with our knowledge and pre-conceptions. The content of studies is not varied from what we already know with regard to reading, writing, math, and so on but how to teach in accord with developmental needs requires many hours of observation and practice.
The results of Montessori education have been so positive for children throughout the world that it has become increasingly popular. Many dedicated and enthusiastic teachers have realized the truth of Dr. Montessori’s discoveries and bring their enthusiasm to the field of education.
This is a wonderful and fruitful result of awareness that life itself is good and beautiful. Through working with young children comes a realization that we are humble servants of life unfolding. Dr. Montessori wrote: It is not true that I invented what is called the Montessori Method. I have studied the child, I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that it what is called the Montessori Method (What You Should Know About Your Child: Based on Lectures Delivered by Maria Montessori, transcribed and translated by Gnana Prakasam)
Three weeks since opening day and we are already turning in album notes for review! Ms. Grazzini does not waste time! The papers due should be complete notes of lectures and our material presentation notes. These notes and presentations are complied by subject heading and by the end of the year we must present a total of eight albums for our examiners to review. The format is left up to us since they form our future teaching manuals. Some of my class-mates are writing and illustrating their notes by hand. The majority of us are taking notes by hand and later typing them. We are allowed to take photo graphs of materials and presentation steps but Ms. Grazzini strongly encourages hand-illustrations.
Today I handed in notes for Theory, Geometry, Music, and Math. There is more to do in each area, but we’re beginning to build!
There are seven more submissions remaining. This is a milestone!
On January 6th, 1906 a young Italian woman opened the doors of a little school in the slums of San Lorenzo, Rome. It was Maria Montessori, well-known at the time for being the first Italian woman doctor. She had worked among the poor, the abandoned, the children considered ‘idiots’ and hopeless for any education. But Maria saw something different; she saw little minds and souls starving for truth, for goodness, for beauty. How was she going to reach them?
Rather than coming to these children with pre-conceived notions of their abilities, Maria gave them her time, patience, and careful observation, looking to unlock the secret of their potential. Under her care, the children who had previously been considered ‘hopeless’ in mind, began to reveal themselves. They each had a wonderful spark of enthusiasm for learning, for order. From these initial discoveries came the seed of Maria’s philosophy of education and what was to come to be known as “The Montessori method.” Maria later wrote: “I had a strange feeling which made me announce emphatically here was the opening of an undertaking of which the whole world would one day speak.”
It was in this way that the Montessori Method, now famous throughout the world, had its humble beginnings among the poor and abandoned. The little children of that first “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House” were the ones who showed Maria how to begin to guide them—and all little children to fulfill their God-given potential.
In the years since then, Maria Montessori’s profound educational insight—an insight founded on a Catholic understanding of the order of Creation and the development of the human person—has been recognized and praised by many popes, from Pope St. Pius X, who called it “a work for the regeneration of the child,” to Bl. Pope John XXIII, who wrote that, “It is possible to see a clear analogy between the mission of the Shepherd of the Church and that of the prudent and generous Montessori directress – who with tenderness and love knows how to discover and bring to light the most hidden virtues and capacities of the child.”