Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason are like twin beacons of educational light shining into the darkness of the encroaching ‘Prussian’ approach which would see to the mass institutionalisation and depersonification of children.
Montessori wrote a set of rules to underpin the way staff were to behave and think of children in their care.
1. Never touch a child, unless invited to. This is not some pc rule about fear of being sued. It is rooted in a recognition that the child is a person with personal space. Montessori didn’t like seeing children manhandled, rather than treated respectfully.
2. Never speak ill of a child whether in his presence or his absence. If only this rule existed in all schools. We’d have less of THIS. Again this doesn’t mean that difficulties cannot be discussed properly, but the horrible habit among some teachers of talking about children in a way that is down right nasty was not to happen.
3. Concentrate on strengthening and assisting the development of what is good in a child to leave less time and space for what is evil. Sadly this view of children is a bit un-pc these days, so children are not helped to understand the difference between right and wrong. The results are not pretty.
4. Be active in preparing the environment. Take meticulous and constant care of it. Help a child establish constructive relations with it.Show the proper place where the means of development are kept and demonstrate their proper use. This is one of those things that I hear more from autonomous home educators than anyone else. They work much harder, I think, than most of us in ensuring their children have an environment that is designed for them to learn in.
5. Be ready to answer the call of a child in need of you, and respond to a child who appeals to you. This rule is diametrically opposed to the spoon feeding approach demanded by the National Curriculum. Like Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori wanted the learning and discovery abilities of children respected. We are to be there when needed. (Strangely for me and I believe other home ed mothers have this weird problem too – the children do not need you until you go to the toilet and then you hear “Muuuuuum!” It’s one of life’s little mysteries).
6.Respect the child who makes a mistake and can then or later correct himself, but stop firmly and immediately any misuse of the environment, and any action which endangers the child, his development, and others.
7. Respect the child who takes rest or watches others working, or ponders over what he himself has done or will do.Neither call him, nor force him to other activity. This is so important, especially for the child who needs to process quietly what he has learned. A child who is thinking of wondering is not lazy or unproductive. Space to have quiet time is very important, and I have never seen it or heard of it in schools.
8. Help those who are in search of activity and cannot find it.
9. Be untiring in repeating presentations to the child who refused them earlier; in helping the child acquire what is not yet his own,and overcome imperfections. Do this by animating the environment with care, with restraint and silence; with mild words and loving presence. Make your ready presence felt to the child who searches and hide from the child who has found. This rule must surely be based on the assumption of small class sizes. Silence and restraint are barely possible in a loud classroom of 30 children with tables and chairs scraping and screaming on the floors – with the rising noise of children trying to make themselves heard over the impossible noise around them and then of the teacher who must shout above it all to make herself heard. Some researchers discovered that the noise levels in infant classrooms could top 90 decibels.
10. Always treat the child with the best of good manners, and offer him the best you have in yourself and at your disposal. I am sure that those who treat children and adults they are assisting respectfully will receive the same in return.