Over the last few weeks, I was privileged to work on several of our London school sites and to see first-hand the incremental progress of each child, as well as the dedication of our teaching teams in supporting every child to reach their individual goals whether they are 2½ or 12 years old.
It was inspiring to hear the children say, “Can you show this to me?” and then to see them work with their chosen task throughout the morning and often into the dusk as well, saying when leaving for home: “Can I come in on Saturday and do this work too?” Dr. Montessori said: “As we observe children, we see the vitality of their spirit, the maximum effort put forth in all they do, the intuition, the attention and focus they bring to all life’s events, and the sheer joy they experience in living.”
As our children build up to their end of term concert or play, a moment to share with their loved ones, they have been delving into what is it that lies behind Christmas and the other festivals we celebrate around this time of year, such as Hannukah, Diwali, Eid or Chinese New Year. They have been realising the wonderful diversity of human beings. How can the same two arms, two legs, a head and a body have so much variation, amazing hues of skin, hair and eyes, a variety of noses, mouths and brows? Such wonderful differences and yet so much that is also similar or the same to be understood and shared: the similar needs, thoughts and emotions of children, of families and a sense of unity, of belonging to others, with whom we share our world.
The Montessori approach develops children’s ability to see what makes us human, what links us all together, what binds us to each other. Rather than focusing on how we are different Montessori pursues the question of “Who am I, where did I come from, where am I going and how am I the same as others, what do we share?” Around the world, across the centuries and in whatever time zone we find ourselves in, the same queries about life reverberate from us all. By helping the children to discover what unites us, to find the answers to what makes us the same, Montessori builds a path to peace around the world. Montessori said: “If we are humans of goodwill who yearn for peace, we must lay the foundation of peace ourselves, by working for the social world of the child.”
In the Montessori classroom, the preparation of food, (a fundamental human activity), serving one another and sharing with each other, is an active place to live out this thinking. So, whatever food we use to celebrate our festivals from turkey and sprouts for Christmas; to lokum, maamoul and tagine for Eid; to Peking duck and dumplings for Chinese New Year; to samosas and gulab jamun at Diwali; or osechi-ryori for Japanese New Year; we all enjoy eating something delicious and nourishing and feeling grateful that we are able to do so.
We wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful break and look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Karen Gelson, Acting Deputy Head of the Maria Montessori Institute School