Duhovka Elementary Montessori Approach
In a Montessori system the teacher’s role is based on unobtrusive guidance and respectful help – that is skills that are so well reflected in the famous motto of the Montessori philosophy: “Help me to do it myself”. Children always progress from the concrete to the abstract and use specially-designed materials for each area of study. These materials enable children to grasp new concepts more easily and contribute, to a great extent, to a deeper understanding and long-term retention of the new knowledge and experience gained.
The key words in the Montessori education are: safety, respect, tranquility, peace, and love.
Here in Duhovka Elementary, we employ all the main principles of Montessori philosophy while teaching:
- The learning process is based on a child’s self-discovery and his/her active approach to work which is encouraged by the child’s desire to know and his/her intrinsic need to learn and understand the world around him/her.
- The teacher guides the child through his/her learning process: he or she helps the child whenever needed, respects his/her individual pace of development, and proceeds in accordance with the child’s sensitive periods which reflect the child’s natural "readiness" to acquire certain knowledge and skills.
- Prepared Environment - i.e. both in terms of the materials and the teacher’s personality and human relationships (between the teacher and the children; among the children) is of essential importance for the learning process to be effective.
- Freedom of Choice – at a given time the child can choose his/her work, working space (within the classroom) and a person he/she wants to work with. However, the freedom of choice does not mean that the child moves from one activity to another without finishing them or that he/she does not work at all. The freedom does not imply that the child is left alone or that the teacher does not intervene in the child’s learning process at all. There is always an activity the child must choose to do. The teacher coordinates the activities of all children in the class and must use his or her professional skills to help each child, without commands and orders, to find an activity that the child will find interesting. A child’s freedom is, of course, considered as a responsibility, not an act of anarchy. This means that when a child decides to work on something, it is his/her obligation to complete this work. When the child wants to work with a material of his/her interest – and of own choice - it is also his/her responsibility to adhere to the given rules.
- The Teacher lets the child to choose freely within the given range of activities, but at the same time he or she helps the child to prioritize or to choose a preferred activity if the child cannot decide alone. The child is thus given the freedom of choice to the extent of his/her ability to assume responsibility. The teacher intervenes whenever he or she sees the child is bored, is not able to choose an activity or is breaking the rules. In addition, the teacher supports and helps children who need help. The teacher’s goal is to guide the child step by step towards the sense of one’s own responsibility.
- Polarization of Attention: Children look for an activity that appeals to them most, immerse themselves into it, and become totally engaged with it. The teacher allows them to continue with their work as long as they stayed focused, does not interrupt them, and gives them enough time (In fact, all possible barriers which could have hinder such a process were eliminated from the school and the classrooms: e.g. the classes are not divided into particular lessons by the traditional sound of a “school bell” – instead, children are quite flexible in the use of their study time).
- Control of Error: Children are not punished or negatively evaluated for making mistakes; they should rather view them as indicators of what still needs to be practiced or revised. The error is seen as a natural occurrence in the learning process, as a useful part of problem-solving, and as a rich source of new knowledge. The teachers should not use negative evaluation – instead, they should, for example, offer the child the same material once again so the child has the opportunity to understand his/her own mistakes and to self-correct them. All the materials are designed the way that the child is always able to check his/her answers and to find and correct any possible mistake on his/her own - own mistakes thus help children in their further study.
- Rewards and Praise: The relationship between an adult and a child in the Montessori system requires a loving approach of the adult (i.e. the teacher) to each child. The teachers try to use language in such a way so they can avoid any words of judgment but at the same time acknowledge the child and the new knowledge he/she has acquired, or show sympathy and concern. All children need to feel safe, secure and successful; they need to know they are being noticed, and they need to experience the feelings of joy and satisfaction from their work. A continuous positive or negative evaluation from an adult, however, hinders the process of the free choice of activities and influences the child’s self-esteem. Our aim is for children to do what gives them the feeling of inner satisfaction. The child is thus appreciated only to such an extent so he/she does not become dependent on the external praise. The child should feel self-satisfaction from the work he/she does; he/she does not do the work to meet the needs or wishes of an adult, to be praised or to get good grades (that is why our school only uses verbal evaluation). The praise is used mainly with the new and insecure children to make them feel more safe and secure.
- Peace and Tranquility: Children learn how to calm down their body as well as their mind and use this state of calmness to focus on their work more deeply. In the classroom, all children (as well as teachers) are encouraged to express themselves as quietly as possible; when addressing someone, a child should behave in such a way so he/she does not disturb the others, etc.
- Mixed-Age Classes: In each class, children from 2 or 3 different grades work together (grades 1 to 3, and 4 to 5). Such an environment promotes collaboration and communication. The older children love to take care of the younger ones and to teach them – which is an activity that in turn improves their own skills. In a class of children of the same age a child with a slightest difference may feel inappropriate; in a mixed-age class, diversity becomes an advantage which also promotes the principle of no competition between children and provides each child with a safe and secure place for their individual development.