Today is International Women’s Day and I have seen a lot of posts about Maria Montessori. So I decided to pen a few of my thoughts on her along my journey of being a Montessori Kid to Montessori Educator to Montessori Writer.
I first remember learning about Maria Montessori in my primary years. Primary at my school meant grades 1-3. I’m sure we learned about her at other times, too. That particular year, my third grade year, probably sticks out the most because that is the year my class put on the play “You Can Be What You Want To Be.”
If you’re not familiar with the play, it’s about Maria’s life growing up in Italy. We learn that she was the first female engineer and first female doctor in Italy. It’s light and fluffy with catchy songs, written by a group of upper elementary students in Cincinnati. Its message is that you can do whatever you set your mind to. And I fully embraced that.
I desperately wanted to play Maria. I mean, who wouldn’t want to portray this amazing, empowered woman?
Alas, the curse of the articulate reader kicked in and I got to be the narrator.
I was always cast as the narrator.
In every single play at every venue in my childhood.
I did, however, also get to play Maria’s mother in one scene. For those few magical moments, I got to pretend to be married to John. Pardon my eight-year-old self as she gently swoons.
I don’t think he was as excited as I was. I wonder if I should reach out and ask him…
Anyway, I think her story in part was what inspired me to go into education. And I specifically wanted to do Montessori education. My training is where my bubble started to be a little deflated. I remember being shocked when I discovered that she’d had a son out of wedlock and took up smoking to help cover the smell of the cadavers in medical school. But that also made her a bit more human in my eyes. I appreciate that in my adult years.
Maria has come under a lot of criticism these past few years. People have pointed out her racism (which was not considered such in her time). Very recently, she has come under attack for making money off of her ideas. And that is a tough pill for me to swallow.
I do catch some criticism at times for saying that. But remember, Maria has basically been with me for my entire life. It is like she is family. And in a way, she is a part of me through my journey from Montessori kid to educator.
But I fully acknowledge that she had many faults. Absolutely no one is perfect.
My choice has been to embrace the good that she was able to bring to this world. So many things that you see in modern education came from her. When implemented correctly, it’s a methodology that can work for most children.
I don’t have her on a pedestal. I have become more critical of schools in the modern era because I don’t think they fulfill her original vision and mission. I do believe some of the lessons need to be updated to better reflect modern society. And I believe that she would have continued to refine her philosophy and methodology if she were still here.
She also was a strong feminist and believed in world peace. And while some of her words may not have reflected these ideas by today’s standards, I still think her general ideas embody what we strive for today. And it is up to our generation of Montessorians to continue to synthesize and adjust her teachings and ourselves to do the greatest good for the next generation.