When reflecting upon the last Montessori Society of Canada’s national conference in Vancouver, one word consistently comes to mind. Over the course of the weekend we were asked to “think beyond boundaries” when considering Montessori education in the 21st Century. However, after listening to our inspiring, insightful and entertaining guest speakers, one thing became abundantly clear. It is not enough to merely think beyond boundaries, we need to move beyond boundaries as well.
Just as it was 100 hundred years ago, Dr. Montessori’s educational and developmental theory and practice is a revolutionary approach to aiding our children in the course of their development so as to reach their fullest potential. The word revolutionary on its own implies the need for movement. Movement evokes change, which in turn can lead to progress. This was and still is the ultimate vision of Dr. Montessori’s work – progress in a world where it is far too easy to lose focus of it’s beauty and natural wonder, where we put the ‘needs’ of the individual ahead of the needs of collective, and where this ‘progress’ is commonly mistaken under the guise of quicker, easier, better.
How do we move beyond our constantly changing boundaries? Quite simply, as our speakers have pointed out, it is in our materials, our lessons, our environment, and most importantly, it is in us. As Gordon Neufeld stated: “Culture is falling down on its job,” so we as parents and teachers must regain our direction and assert ourselves as the child’s compass point in order to secure that trusting bond between adult and child. This foundation will support the child’s future independent endeavors. It is our sense of direction that will help the child develop theirs. We were reminded that an enriched environment will do nothing but help promote the cognitive development of the child as we have seen time and time again in studies of Dr. Montessori’s materials. Veteran Montessori educators and advocates brought to our attention that to promote the overall growth of the child we need look no further than a teacher’s lessons, stories, and materials found in their albums and environments. These lessons have been designed and passed along training course after training course to engage and immerse the child in the beauty and diversity of their universe. The result of this is a fully aware adult who can see and feel the interconnectedness of the individual, society, and the world.
Margaret Atwood said: “War is what happens when language fails.” Through our ideas and words put into action can we move forward, be the activist and make that difference that Dr. Montessori inspires us to. We are not merely teachers, administrators, or parents. We are soldiers, protectors, and allies of the Montessori movement. We fight for, protect, encourage and inspire the freedom of the child’s spirit, for it is the ‘child who is the renewer of humanity.’