I first heard about Montessori from a friend of mine, who was a fellow CRY volunteer. After about five years of spending time with children at various levels, I decided to do the Montessori diploma for 3-6 year children at RTI, Mumbai. Before I applied for the course, I had read “Child in the Family” and “Education for a New World” (both by Dr. Montessori) for background reading. The books talked about the need for the child in a family to be treated as an individual working at his own self development. They spoke about the amazing powers that children have at an young age which helps them to adapt to this World into which they are thrust upon. I found myself nodding along with the words in the book at several instances, relating to my own life experiences. The more I read them, the more I was convinced to do the course. It just felt right.
Later I also started on “The Absorbent Mind” and “The Secret of Childhood”. They talk of the two great powers of the young child – the Absorbent Mind and the Sensitive Periods that children have, which when harnessed methodically, can enhance the child’s development manifold. But all these together drove down the truth that children learn by themselves. All adults can do is help them in the process by providing a conducive environment. The child is very similar to a seed which when given the appropriate conditions at the appropriate time and in appropriate amounts can grow into a fully blossoming tree. We always think of how to prepare the child for the World. But, the fact is preparations are required for the adult to support the child’s natural developmental process. The need to be humble and let the children always have the spotlight in the environment is important. The mantra is to always “Follow the child”.
All geared up for the course, I reached Mumbai by August second week. The first few days of the course was spent on the aspects of children that I spoke about earlier and how children change physically and emotionally as they grow up. We also had lectures on the human needs and tendencies that drive and help the children in their process of self development. Then more particularly, we understood the characteristics exhibited by the children of the three to six year age group. It really helped that I read the books earlier. I realised that reading the books again gave me a deeper understanding.
Once this foundation was set, we proceeded towards how the environment needs to be prepared for the children to develop. The usual materials that form the part of this environment were broadly classified as Exercises of Practical Life, Sensorial and Culture. Culture included Language, Math, Botany, History etc. The major part of the course was covering these materials on why they are used, how they were designed, how they are to be shown to children, the major aims of them and when we should show them to the children. The reinforcement of the earlier theory can be seen in the designing of these materials and this can be felt only by our practice with them repeatedly.
During the course, I slowly realised how things that I liked to do came in handy. I had to juggle between travel, cooking, running to schools, attending lectures, running a marathon, reading, loads and loads of writing, illustrating, material making, painting and some football as well. I used to be an active participant in the Craft classes in school – ever enthusiastic to paint or stitch. These were called for during illustrating or material making. Running was a wonderful time to listen to your body and gave me the calmness that was needed to live in the moment. This helped me greatly to think and consciously act. My tryst with ink pens was re-ignited through the need to write my albums worth a 1000 pages. My constant obsession to plan or organise helped me manage my time and energy during the course. The ever constant craving to live away from parents on my own made me cook as well!
It was towards the end of the course that we had to write the essay on Indirect Preparation. But I had seen it coming all along that like I predicted there wasn’t any lecture on that. This was the essence of Montessori according to me. The cherished experiences in life at one point will come back in your life at the hour of need later. These past experiences, if they were ones that were underwent willingly and with concentration, serves you as a boon. You seem to do things that you never considered you will do, but seem to be always prepared to do it. It was a coming together of several seemingly unrelated things. The Montessori environment for the children is based on this very essence. When the children are probably in the environment you may or may not see the changes happening, but when they do blossom out, it seems a miracle.
Our trainer always used to say, the Montessori course is just the First Period – an introduction, to understand Montessori. The Second Period – period of association, is much much longer. The Third Period is the one of mastery. I had just completed my first period.
Batch: 2013 – 2014