Dr. Montessori discovered that young children, when given freedom, can fundamentally change from an ordinary way of disorder, fantasy and distraction to a new state of order and harmony with their environment. The Montessori approach is one of controlling the environment, not the child, allowing the child’s qualities of self-discipline, concentration and intelligent activity to develop.
The very young child is in the process of forming his first impressions of his own nature and ability; of other people; and of life in general – impressions that can last a lifetime. To reach the highest potential possible, the child must develop a healthy self-concept; wholesome attitudes and values; desirable skills and habits; independence and self-reliance; the ability to adjust and to think reflectively; as well as a sensitivity in human relationships and a curiosity and appreciation of nature and the world that surrounds him.
The role of the Montessori Directress differs considerably from that of a traditional teacher. She observes and assists the child according to the child’s individual needs and interests. She is trained to recognize periods of readiness and to demonstrate the correct use of the material to the children. She reinforces in a positive manner. At times she may encourage a hesitant child. At other times, she may divert a child who chooses material beyond his ability. She protects the child’s integrity and allows the child to have the freedom of choice to make decisions. The child’s decisions are expected to reflect a sense of responsibility. He is helped by the Directress’ manner, in a way that is firm and consistent, yet patient and gentle.
Each Montessori school provides a precisely prepared Montessori environment which fosters satisfaction in learning by discovery and a joy in achievement. The climate and selected activities are prepared to interest and motivate the child and to protect him from unnecessary failure. The Montessori materials develop basic problem solving and observational techniques. The child begins in the concrete and manipulative materials and gradually works toward the abstract.
Montessori’s recognition of the importance of a stimulating environment as a means of “freeing the child’s potential” is now supported by a multitude of studies in early learning. The classroom is equipped with specially designed and sequenced materials which Dr. Montessori devised. These materials, together with highly trained teachers and administrators, provide a classroom where the child is stimulated and challenged, but never pressured. In such a climate the child learns to feel good about himself. His right to dignity and worth are protected.