Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori (1870 - 1952) was a psychiatrist and the first woman medical doctor in Italy (1894) -- unusual pursuits given her era's cultural norms -- as well as a pioneer in education. Her first school opened in 1947. Today some 20,000 schools bear her name in more than 50 countries.
The Montessori Method honors each child, encouraging self-motivation and letting the child develop naturally as his or her latent learning potential awakens. Dr. Montessori applied her philosophy of education with equal effectiveness to gifted and developmentally challenged children. Her book The Secret of Childhood (1936) serves as a model for educators who recognize the wisdom of her holistic approach. She told teachers in training, "You yourselves must be filled with wonder."
Dr. Montessori received two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. She wrote that “establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war."
Whether you are a teacher, a parent, a grandparent or other care provider, or simply a child who has grown up, consider how these quotes apply to learning as you have experienced it:
"Our attitude toward the newborn child should be one of reverence that a spiritual being has been confined within limits perceptible to us."
— Maria Montessori quoted in Full Esteem Ahead by Diana Loomans and Julia Loomans
"Actually the normal child is one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness."
— Maria Montessori in The Secret of Childhood, translated by M. Joseph Costelloe
"We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master."
— Maria Montessori in The Absorbent Mind
In "Teaching with Spirit: Maria Montessori's Cosmic Vision," blogger Seth Webb writes: "An elder Quaker friend of mine was speaking of the importance of discernment when attempting to move forward when challenged; that is, letting go of our own preoccupations so to let the Divine inspire our actions. Through this process, one winnows the desires, thoughts, and personal attachments that might otherwise cloud guidance from Spirit."
Struck by the realization that Montessori education aims for this discernment, he observes: "There is nothing more important than to be present for the children in our care. We are the stewards of their Light."
Today in your interactions with others, especially children, look for ways to winnow out any unnecessary preoccupations you are carrying so that you can be fully present to their dignity and spirit.