When they ask you, “so what is Montessori?” what do you say? If you’re like me, you’ve been trying to boil this down for years with little success. It seems like every piece is connected to every other piece, and you don’t know how to begin.
Last year the Montessori Madmen challenged us all to work on our Montessori Elevator Speeches—quick summaries of Montessori you could give in the space of an elevator ride. You’re in a hotel at a conference, and someone sees “Montessori” on your name tag and says, “Montessori? What’s that?” And you have the perfect spiel ready to roll out.
And some great pieces came out of that, still up on YouTube, including the top five winners.
But it doesn’t always work quite like that, does it? It all depends on who is on that (metaphorical) elevator with you—what floor they got on, where they’re getting off, and how long they have for the ride. Then there’s the tendency of Montessorians to go on and on. Joke:
Q: How do you get a Montessorian to talk about Montessori?
A: How do you get them to stop?
What’s really needed are Montessori Talking Points, to be tailored to the speaker, the audience, and the particular situation. So here’s my first run at them, to be adapted and improved as readers see fit. (Just try not to talk too much.)
Montessori is a method of education.
It’s a method of education, based on a model of human development, created over one hundred years ago by Maria Montessori.
In Montessori, the children choose their own work.
What the choices are, how they are presented, and with what freedoms and limits—that’s where it gets really interesting. But children choosing their own work is the central premise of Montessori education.
Montessori isn’t religious, it isn’t just for gifted children, and it isn’t just for the wealthy.
Montessori herself was Catholic, but Montessori education is secular. Montessori is about meeting children where they are, so it’s for all children. Montessori started out with “special needs” children and poor children, and serves children of all backgrounds and conditions.
Montessori happens in public and private schools, all over the world.
Montessori is the leading alternative pedagogy and operates in the U.S. in more than 500 public schools and thousands of private schools, and in tens of thousands of schools worldwide.
Montessori has mixed-age classrooms, hands-on materials, and students learning at their own pace.
Montessori pioneered many educational innovations which later became widely known, such as mixed-age classrooms, manipulatives, and student-guided learning, as well as child-sized furniture, phonics, scaffolding, student agency, learning progression, and many more.
Montessori is observation and evidence based.
Maria Montessori was a scientist and a medical doctor. She experimented, and she refined and developed her method throughout her lifetime. Modern brain and education research validate her work.
The best way to understand Montessori is to visit a school and see it in action.
If you want to know more about Montessori, many schools will let you visit a classroom for a short observation. There’s some good video available on the internet as well, but seeing it in person is best.
Montessori is education for peace.
Montessori famously said: “Preventing war is the work of politicians. Establishing peace is the work of education.” Montessori educators believe that human beings allowed to develop to their full potential are the key to a peaceful future.
There they are. That should get us started.
Here they are again, without the paragraphs of explanation—you could print them out and stick them in your wallet, even.
Montessori Talking Points
- Montessori is a method of education.
- In Montessori, the children choose their own work.
- Montessori isn’t religious, it isn’t just for gifted children, and it isn’t just for the wealthy.
- Montessori happens in public and private schools, all over the world.
- Montessori has mixed-age classrooms, hands-on materials, and students learning at their own pace.
- Montessori is observation and evidenced based.
- The best way to understand Montessori is to visit a school and see it in action.
- Montessori is education for peace.