Montessori Method was started by Dr. Maria Montessori, who was an Italian physiologist. Dr. Maria studied how early interactive study methods can be more transformative and be of greater benefit for a child than the classroom environment of school.
Following in the same steps, Shabnam Saleem, an educationist with a teaching experience of more than 30 years, she runs a Montessori school in Karachi. She has attended a number of workshops, seminars and refresher courses in her specific field. This week, You! talks to Shabnam regarding Montessori system of education...
You! What made you interested in the field of teaching?
Shabnam Saleem: I have always been inclined towards teaching, so it’s a natural progression for me to join teaching as a profession.
You! What inspired you to start a Montessori school?
S.S: I love kids and it’s my love for them to start a Montessori where they can learn while playing in a conducive environment.
You! As a principal, what skills are mostly important for this field?
S.S: To run a school, one has to have good administrative and interpersonal skills.
You! How important is it for kids to go to a Montessori before joining primary school?
S.S: It is essential. A Montessori curriculum focuses on key developmental milestones in children between the ages of three and five-years-old. One of the greatest benefits of the Montessori Method, particularly during the early learning experience, is the focus on hands-on learning. The emphasis is on concrete, rather than abstract learning, as students work on activities that teach language, math, culture and practical life lessons.These important early years prepare a student for the learning experience that is to come, whether they continue with the Montessori Method or move to a public classroom environment in the future.
You! Are Montessori schools expensive? Isn’t Montessori Education only for the elite?
S.S: Not all Montessori schools are expensive. It is only a myth that Montessori education is for elite only.
You! What’s the difference between Montessori school and a traditional school?
S.S: Montessori preschool students enjoy a classroom and curriculum designed around their specific needs and abilities that allows them to explore and learn at their own pace and on their own terms. Montessori lessons are hands-on and active. Students discover information for themselves. Traditional school lessons are often orated to students who listen passively, memorize, and take tests.
You! What’s the difference between Montessori curriculum and traditional curriculum?
S.S: Montessori curricula are intended to appeal to the child’s innate hunger for knowledge. Children learn to love learning. Traditional curricula focus on standardized test performance and grades. Children learn because it is mandatory.
You! Tell us more about your Montessori school... what are main principles and guidelines?
S.S: We focus on character building and personality development of our students. While the Montessori Method allows children to choose the activities they want to work on each day, and how long they will work at a specific task, there are specific ‘ground rules’ for the class that are consistently enforced by the teacher and other students. This environment naturally teaches children self-discipline, and it refines important skills like concentration, self-control and motivation.
You! Why is it a prerequisite to have Montessori trained teachers. Don’t you think anyone can teach young kids?
S.S: According to AMI (Association Montessori International/ USA), “To work in a Montessori environment is very unlike ‘teaching’ in the traditional sense of the word. Montessori teachers do not teach. Instead, they guide; they observe; they create an environment of calm, order, joy. They know when to intervene, and above all, they know when to step back. This knowledge isn’t something most people are born with, but it is something you’ll learn during your training.
“Montessori teachers are referred to as guides because they are experts at assisting children to find their own strengths and their own capabilities through the use of practical, self-correcting materials. An AMI-Montessori teacher is adept at leading from behind. It’s an art, a skill, ability.”
I think the above explanation is enough to know how important to have Montessori trained teachers in your school instead of regular ones.
You! How are parents involved in the school?
S.S: We involve parents in many activities of the school in which they are welcomed to observe their child’s work.
You! What kinds of challenges do you encounter while dealing with kid’s parents?
S.S: We have parent-teacher meeting on regular basis. Most parents are cooperative. However, some parents are really fussy and they are difficult to handle. I think dealing with fussy parents is the most challenging task.
You! What is the most important advice you can give to women?
S.S: Spend time with your children as much as you can as they need your attention in early years more than in later age.
You! Do you think that the general mindset of our society is changing with regards to the education of a girl?
S.S: Yes. There is a lot of awareness in the society related to gender biases now.
You! In your opinion, what are the challenges being faced by the educators today?
S.S: Balancing the different learning needs and using new methodologies is a challenge faced by educators these days.