Their Sense of Dignity in a Montessori Toddler Classroom
The Montessori environment (at school or at home) is full of endless opportunities for children to learn how to care for themselves. We guide them and give them opportunities to learn how to eat, dress, use the washroom (see Potty Training Tips), prepare food, clean up after themselves, and care for others. We call these skills Practical Life and Grace & Courtesy.
toddler sink & mirror
In the process of allowing children to learn these skills we must be most careful, and most diligent to preserve their sense of dignity.
“We should put ourselves in their place, or better, we should understand that children are sensitive to all the derision that is showered upon them, and which leaves them with a sense of humiliation. Such a lesson as mine did them justice [referring to her lesson on how to blow your nose], redeemed them, enabled them to raise themselves in social life. That was how I had to interpret it; for afterwards, through long experience, I discovered that children have a profound feeling of personal dignity and their souls may remain wounded, ulcerated, oppressed, in a way the adult can never have imagined.”
Maria Montessori (The Secret of Childhood)
Care deeply for a child’s spirit. Realize that they too must have opportunities to try new things, fail at new things, and succeed at new things, without being afraid. Our goal as Montessori guides is to set the child up for success through the prepared environment, preparatory lessons, free will, and the repetition of lessons.
However, when success does not come immediately, we must protect their dignity and allow them to get up, brush themselves off, and try again without fear of being criticized or scolded.
Their spirits are tender. Be gentle.
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The Montessori Guide
This is an important topic to revisit as Montessori guides (aka – teacher, directress, director) and parents can use a reminder as to the ideal traits and role the guide is suppose to take in the Montessori environment.
Often Montessori guides are criticized for what appears to be inactivity, when really the foundation of their detailed and precise work has already been laid and it’s time to allow the children their time to work.
“A superficial judgment of the Montessori Method is too often that it requires little of the teacher, who has to refrain from interference and leave the children to their own activity. But when the didactive material is considered, its quantity and the order and details of its presentation, the task of the teacher becomes both active and complex…Her later “inactivity” is a sign of her success.”
Maria Montessori (Education for a New World)
The Baan Dek Montessori has done a great job at explaining some of the traits of The Montessori Guide.