Us vs them
I'm sure many of you have seen lists of Montessori compared to Traditional education or Montessori compared to normal education.
These lists are meant to be an easy go to for educators to alert parents to the wonders of Montessori, however I worry about their efficacy and the way they set up an us vs them mentality which feeds aculture of elitism. Additionally some of these lists can be based on the assumptions of a traditional North American classroom and do not reflect what might be happening in other countries.
In one of the courses I tutor for Montessori trainee teachers the student teachers have to account for why Montessori is not more widespread in Australia / New Zealand. Some of the students think that we are looking for an argument that vilifies mainstream education or discusses how no one 'gets us' and that we (montessorians) are the victims in a large scale governmental conspiracy. The reality is much more nuanced of course. For example the spread of Montessori education in some countries has been limited or diminished due to
- access to training for teachers
- accessibility of specific information for families tailored to the country parents are in. For example a 3 minute video about 'elementary' montessori using American terms showing a video of white children is not that appealing or relatable to a family of colour living in New Zealand
- infighting between various montessori organisations and the lack of a cohesive vision for montessori that can clearly be advocated to government
- cost of training or equipment or a view that only a certain brand of equipment is 'proper'
- the view that montessori is only for a certain demographic for example rich children or children of a certain ethnic group.
- wider social or economic factors such as war, chaotic governmental situations, financial depression
- poor quality montessori programs that put people off montessori.
Sometimes when I hear montessori teachers speak of non montessori teachers their comments are based on outdated ideas of what is happening in mainstream education or are generalisations based on what they may have experienced a long time ago or after observing one traditional classroom or their own classroom experience.
I think all educators want the best for their learners and the vast majority of teachers are doing their very best for their learners, rather than seeing ourselves as the holders of 'the truth' I wonder if it would be better for us to share how we can enhance or build on the things 'normal' teachers are doing in their classrooms by sharing our montessori pedagogy. This of course requires us to have a knowledge of what is currently happening in mainstream education and to engage in groups and situations that have traditional teachers in them.
Recently I was in a Facebook teachers group for New Zealand teachers.
Part of the national curriculum here is a focus on self management and one teacher was looking for a way for her more able students to manage their own day.
I was able to share about montessori work plans and how students arrange their own work days in montessori classrooms and show her some examples of work plans.
I've also been fortunate to have 'traditional' colleagues and training help me with my own teaching practice especially in regards to teaching reading and writing to children and in helping me learn more about children with special education.
Let's be the change we want to be by engaging with our mainstream teacher friends in respectful