Montessori Education

Posted: October 28, 2011 in Pedagogy & Education

This video was sent to me by a friend and former student, asking for my opinion.

Well, as usual, the promotional video only tells half of the story.  I’ve worked with many students who have come from Montessori schools, most not because of economic difficulties.  They usually come because they are dissatisfied with the Montessori method or because their behaviour problems or learning style just doesn’t work there.  Most of the many Montessori students I’ve had dropped into my classroom or have seen enter other classrooms have had some degree of adaptation difficulties, usually dealing with accountability.  This Montessori system is great for those highly motivated students, but, contrary to what this video claims, not all students come to school that way and it is not the school that extinguishes it.  The family needs to take, at minimum, 50% of that responsibility.  The students that remain at the Montessori school are, as a result, the ones that have survived their intentional and unintentional screening process.  The ones that don’t fit their theories get shunted to the conventional school, and, admittedly, often don’t do any better there.  But it’s not the fault of that conventional school.  It’s not a cause and result situation.

I think back on two children who came from the Montessori system into my old school.  In this case, it may have been an economic necessity.  Both quickly turned into problem students.  At first the parents claimed that we didn’t understand them and they needed time to adapt from the old Montessori style.  They did that adapting by engaging in an number of serious, unacceptable behaviours that I’m reluctant to list here as it would make it easy to identify them.  I don’t think the conventional school ought to hang on the responsibility for that.

While there are many excellent ideas in the Montessori philosophy, they don’t apply to all students and they are unrealistic in a real classroom where class size, split classes, curriculum demands and the integration of problem children often make a situation unworkable for even the best of teachers.  One of the reasons that I retired was in the final few years I just felt that, no matter what I did or how hard I tried, the system just didn’t allow me to be a good teacher, constantly putting up one barrier after another.  There is no doubt that education needs a philosophical overhaul.  In most ways we’re still teaching people the way we did 50 years ago.  Montessori schools have their place and do a good job with certain students.  I don’t have a problem with them at all.  Same with Waldorf schools.  They can claim all the want that they are doing something right.  I think it’s a little hypocritical for them to claim that others are doing something wrong.

  1. andrean1976 says:

    I loved the article. My experience is with ‘Public and Montessori’. I have seen good schools in both categories. However, a number of Montessori schools test children before accepting their admissions.
    You are right, Montessori does not work for every child. Montessori claimed it was made to help special needs children and strengthen latchkey kids. I did not see this occur in the majority of the children that came through the first semesters.
    I heard a great deal of complaining from the teachers in a public experimental Montessori class. The inability to weed out children made many of the public Montessori teachers angry.
    I saw improvements in student work when several elementary teachers used Montessori math and language methods in learning centers.
    I did love their kinder gentler approaches, but there are some kids that see this as weakness and railroad right over the teachers. There were some children that did not do anything with their new found Montessori freedom and were happy to disengage daily. (However with out something to reinforce/ motivate them, I doubt the described disengaged students would do anything anywhere else either.)

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