The title is what got me — The Child Is the Teacher. It’s a biography of Maria Montessori, and I admit I knew nothing about her and almost nothing about her “method”. But I wondered if there was some alignment between my approach and the “Montessori method”. And I was heartened and excited to see that there was. You see, I truly believe that the best real learning takes place when we give the student a measure of agency — they choose what they want to do based on their own interests and passions. I’m not saying this is the only way to learn, but I’ve seen it happen in my learning environments over and over again.
She was truly revolutionary in her era. She was a female physician and educator during a time when women did not pursue advanced degrees. And a time when students were taught to be obedient, quiet, compliant, and passive recipients of the knowledge given to them by instructors. You can see why she got a lot of pushback! I was so impressed with her single minded courage and willingness to take on the educational establishment in Italy in the late 1800’s.
And I was so delighted to read about this pioneer in education who produced tangible results every day in her classroom with a child-centered approach. Perhaps today we would call it “progressive” education. It’s refreshing to see this approach in its historical context, especially viewed from our era of high-stakes testing which only tests literal recall and not creative application of concepts.