“The Child has other powers than ours, and the creation he achieves is no small one; it is everything.” – Maria Montessori
I have been thinking about communication this week. From the moment we are born, we begin calling out to each other. This deep need to be heard, to be understood, to express ourselves seems to be ingrained in us from day one.
We find it so important that we record our children’s first words, celebrate when they connect two words together, and are in awe of their first full sentence. By the age of 3, children have absorbed the norms of their native tongue and begin to follow the rules of sentence structures, tenses and exceptions to the rules. They explore an expanding vocabulary in limitless ways. All of this comes from the deep desire to express, be heard and belong.
As we progress from primary to elementary and beyond, we also recognize that in spite of our gifts for communication, our capacity can often fall short. No one speaks the exact same language as any one else. This is because no one knows your heart and mind as well as you do. Our way of expressing ourselves is wrapped in the rules of language, but the meaning and intent of what we want to say is our own unique combination of context and experience. It is not surprising that we are often misunderstood; it is more miraculous when we actually feel completely heard.
Montessori classrooms offer children tools to move from using communication to serve our most basic functions toward higher and more sublime forms of expression. Montessori lessons use precise and accurate language to convey meaning. The classroom environment itself communicates to the child in a carefully prepared way; the world is yours. Explore.
As the child learns to communicate more precisely about the world around them, the Montessori teacher knows the importance and value of listening. In Catherine McTamaney’s book, A Delicate Task; Teaching and Learning on a Montessori Path, she writes:
“Let my mind be open and my mouth be closed. Remind me the limits of the child’s vocabulary are not the limits of the child. She has something to say. Let me give her words when she needs them. Let me help her to name her world. She has something to say. Let me put aside my own message and instead help her to find her own voice. She has something to say. Listen. She has something to say.”
As teachers and parents, I feel the above passage is worth memorizing or posting on our walls at home and in the classrooms. Let us listen carefully, giving ample time for children to articulate their thoughts. Let us ask thoughtful questions and model high-quality language. If we do this, we will help promote a generation of listened-to children who as adults value patient and precise communication above loud and inaccurate alternatives.