Every child and every student, every adult and every teacher, is unique. Wouldn’t it be grand if schooling could make use of this quality?
Emily was 3 years old, a quiet, uncertain little girl who stood at the fringes and tried not to be seen; a little girl who hesitated to try anything, ever, especially if anyone was watching. Adam was 4 years old. He was also not likely to be doing anything. Most of the time he watched what others were doing – the adults, his classmates. But he was watching intently. After a lot of observing others doing an activity, he would take it out himself, and do it perfectly.
In a Montessori classroom, I could work with both of these children, and all the others, in the way that made best sense for them. I could choose something to show Emily that I knew she could be successful at and then gradually introduce it to her.
“Oh, Emily, I think you might really enjoy doing this. One day I’ll show it to you.” Then walk away.
Next day: “Look at these lovely colours. I bet you’ll enjoy handling them. Maybe I’ll have time to show you tomorrow.” Walk away.
“Emily, why don’t you come with me. I’m going to use that material I showed you and I thought you’d like to watch. Will you carry it to the table for me? See this is how I use it. . . . Would you like a turn? No. . . That’s okay. Would you like to help me put it in the box? Can you put it back on the shelf for me?”
Next day, “Emily, why don’t you come and watch me again? Here, can you help me take the pieces out? This piece goes here.” And so on, until Emily felt confident enough to take the work out by herself. Every time she was successful, every time she got to choose when to be involved, made the next activity easier to introduce until her reticence slowly faded into the background.
Adam I could leave to his observations. I was confident he’d jump ahead many steps and I watched, keeping track as he leapt far beyond what most would think him capable of achieving. Emily needed my intervention every day – slowly, carefully, nurturing her capacity to believe in herself until she too needed me less.
In a Montessori classroom I had the freedom and the means to work with every student as the individual they were while they were still a part of a diverse community. They experienced that it’s okay to be who they were and to learn in the way that was best for them.
What do you think about students being interacted with as the individuals they are?