Honoring Maria Montessori’s Birthday by Carrying on Her Vision
Happy (belated) birthday to Maria Montessori, born on August 31,1870, and founder of the eponymous learning style characterized by independence and freedom within limits. Two teams of teachers used liberty afforded by Fund for Teachers to design fellowships that further enhanced early childhood education informed by Montessori.
A team from Alighieri Montessori School in East Boston attended the International Montessori Congress in Prague, focusing on Montessori techniques as a path to social change and a higher-quality education that cultivates life-long learners and responsible citizens. Achala Godino, Lisa Schad and Maureen Magee-Quinn networked with more than one thousand “Montessorians” who embraced their founder’s message: “It is the role of education to create peace in this world.”
“Maria firmly believed that children did not need to be taught ‘peacefulness’ – rather, it was the role of education and educators to help remove the obstacles that stand in the way from children revealing their true nature, which is peace, joy, and kind regard toward others,” said Achala. “It was jolting to reflect on her socio-political writing of the early 20th
century. She was looking upon a world embroiled in two World Wars and looking upon the child as the answer to the militarism, xenophobia and authoritarianism of the day. Sadly, her writings on the topic are as relevant to the 21st century as they were 100 years ago.”
A three person team, also from East Boston, crafted a slightly different fellowship, but one that also increased competency in the Montessori system. Deborah Arlauskas (Tynana Elementary), John Arlauskas (Murphy K-8) and Margaret Arlauskas (Alighieri Montessori) studied in the Netherlands Dutch culture’s intersection with Montessori and early childhood learning to better teach/reach their English Language Learners and their families.
After a guided visit of Amsterdam’s Association Montessori Internationale (where Maria’s study was preserved as a museum), John, Deborah and Margaret spent the next five days volunteering and observing at the 2 Voices Montessori School. The fellowship concluded with second school visit at Casa Bilingual Montessori School in Pijnacker. Following AMI’s recommendation, the team visited this particular school due to the bilingual instruction (English and Dutch) and the 50 weeks-a-year schedule.
“My content knowledge of Montessori instruction has deepened to a more advanced level of understanding,” said Margaret. “Specifically, I learned how teachers and instructional leaders in the Netherlands adapt the Montessori curriculum and manipulatives to meet student needs. For example, the Montessori approach to education should be the vehicle to help students meet state standards and content/language objectives for lessons and units.”
Maria Montessori’s legacy lives on on the work of these teaching teams, dedicated to developing children as well-rounded individuals. Throughout the first two of four developmental phases outlined by Maria (self construction from 0-6 years and peace/happiness 6-12 years), students at three East Boston school will now benefit from heightened instruction in this discipline.
“As public Montessori teachers in East Boston, serving a mainly immigrant community living under the strain of poverty, we are committed to delivering the highest quality Montessori education that will usher forth the next generation of global citizens and peacemakers,” said Achala. “We were grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in these conversations and be again re-inspired to manifest Dr. Montessori’s vision.”