Marta Donahue, a dear friend and colleague, recently published an article in Montessori Life titled, “Montessori’s Plan for the More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” It is a thoughtful piece that asks Montessorians to pause and face the question of how we think we are doing as we prepare children for these fascinating and confusing times.
Donahue writes, “All methods, materials and lessons are meaningless unless we learn to capture the spirit of the work that opens the door of possibility.” There is a difference between learning the steps of a dance and feeling the joyful expression of dancing, just as there is a difference between a teacher who has learned the Montessori method but not its higher purpose. And what is that higher purpose? Maria Montessori said, “The main task is not to learn the method, but to open a new way of life for the child. Therefore, it is necessary for the teacher to have an inner preparation.”
What is that inner preparation? As Donahue points out, Dr. Montessori was very specific about her method but not so clear concerning the inner preparation of adult teachers. We can guess, however, that if teachers end up teaching who they are, whether they know it or not, some inner preparation must include time for reflection and self-awareness practices related to mindfulness or meditation. Donahue suggests that adult educators must also strive to create diverse communities of Montessorians stating, “It will not be possible to support the deep appreciation for all of humanity unless we can build our student body and staff to reflect the racial and socioeconomic diversity of our larger community.”
The New School Montessori, I believe, is one of the most deeply committed and thoughtful Montessori communities in the country. We are always striving for a more diverse population of students and staff and must continue our efforts in this area. We are a community that values reflection and creates space for dialogue around new possibility and a “new way of life for the child.”
Earlier in the year I went to a workshop created by educational theorist Parker Palmer. Parker has written, “Unfortunately, community in our culture too often means a group of people who go crashing through the woods together, scaring the soul away…Under these conditions, the intellect, emotions, will, and ego may merge, but not the soul. We scare off all soulful things, like respectful relationships, good will and hope.” As a community at TNSM, let us be mindful of the slow and soulful spaces we are trying to create for children and adults. From the parking lot, to the Growing Room, to the classrooms, let us continue our good work toward a better tomorrow.