I know that all of my amazing cohorts will agree that we have gone through a significant change. It is through intense dedication, hard work, sincere sacrifice and financial investment, that we have made it to this point. This is the time for me to represent my class, the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies class of 2018, to share a very small view of this past year and to pause and give thanks.
And I believe that first our class wants to speak to our friends and families who have given us the space we need to grow and become. Thanks to fellow Montessorians, who have given us their support most apparent through their willingness to allow us to enter into their children’s classrooms; To long-time dedicated members who support and make the extended Montessori community strong and healthy; To all of you, our class would like you to know that for us it has been a COMMUNITY achievement; That this day is a celebration for all of us. Dr. Montessori said the child that we will serve, the ABSORBENT MIND CHILD, that child is the maker of men and, if you would allow, I would like to extend that same sentiment to all of you. That by supporting us, each of you in your own role, have allowed the making of GOOD men and women a real possibility, through our future efforts to respect and honor the child. Maria Montessori, after experiencing the ravages of the Second World War said, “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of educators.” So, as we celebrate today, please know that our class truly believes it to be a celebration for all of us, our own community, and the ‘global community” and to formally say, thank you.
We’ve spent four and a half hours a night, five days a week, for 10 months, which works out to be something like 900 hours in less than a year—and if you take into consideration the work outside of class it would be more in the range of 2000 hours—to the future I just spoke about. I reference those numbers not to count the cost but to satisfy our investment, to show how dedicated we have been, and will continue be to the betterment of our sweet beautiful world and ALL who inhabit it. To audibly honor the goodness and the hope that we all have. This provision we have received will allow us to be true stewards, who have the privilege to wait patiently, observe, and witness the self-construction of “the man.” To tend to an environment of freedom within limits, providing a safe space for her or him to satisfy their hunger, a hunger that continues into our old age, to do what s/he has been created to do. I speak for my class and say, it is a humbling prospect and that we will relish being a part of it every day.
This is also an opportune time, to take a moment and appreciate this investment within ourselves that has changed us, individually and collectively. You know, they say math is the common language that can bring others together. We came from different backgrounds: we came from a number of places including China, Spain, Mexico, Mongolia, India …some of us have been lawyers, teachers, administrators, proprietors, mothers of young children. And within the considerable amount of time we have spent together, we were given a common language, weren’t we? And that language is a universal language, the language of the human experience—and we will always be a part of each other because of the gift of that language.
Allow me to take that, further – Dr. Montessori said:
“If we are to understand man, we must first understand how man has been built. If there is one time in life when all men have the same ideas, when they speak the same language, it is the time of birth, (and of childhood). No matter to what race they belong, in which part of the world they are born, they are all alike. If we wish to achieve peace and mutual understanding, we must start at the moment of birth, the moment when all men are alike.”
This quote comes from a series of lectures called The London Lectures, written shortly after World War 2, when Dr. Montessori did not her own country, but instead considered herself a citizen of the world. (This book became one of our favorite reads during the course!)
One day, my dear friend Tess and I were sitting in the training room, discussing how we felt about our final experiences, and we both admitted how much we really wanted to do well in this, to allow it to become a part of who we are, as something uniquely valuable. I can say with all humility and authority that we have been equipped to do something, really important, each in our own way, no matter where our journeys take us: to serve the Absorbent Mind Child.
Let me just give a very brief explanation, the Absorbent Mind (that of a 0-6 year old), is a mind unlike any other mind during our lifetime. Its power, singular and miraculous, exists only within this relatively short period of time, and then it fades away. The human child is able to take in, or absorb, a vast amount of information, and construct itself virtually out of nothing. Seventy to eighty percent of the brain’s synaptic connections of our lifetime are made by the age of three. And, very much unlike the adult brain, it does this effortlessly, to satisfy basic urges that are universal, to learn about the particular place and time in history it finds itself in and to determine how he or she belongs.
Living a year in Montessori training, our change, in some ways, echoes the Absorbent Mind experience. We engaged in self-guided learning thanks to the living example of our “Dynamic Link” Ann Velasco who, it was so very clear, came in every day, with such grace, as if it was a brand-new day. We witnessed her going above and beyond, giving room for our unique talents and our struggles. We found freedom to construct ourselves (freedom within limits!) through independence in the classroom, through social interaction, and I could mention developing our sense of responsibility, our will, and obedience…but that would be taking the analogy a bit too far.
As we explored ideas and thoughts of theory and the work of Dr. Montessori, we developed a trust, and a fondness and were truly inspired by the examples given by our lovely (trainers in training) Ms. Tiffany and Ms. Meg who, in this way, served as an invaluable example of a Mixed Age Classroom experience.
Finally, I know we are all so very thankful and enjoy the fact that we owe a debt of gratitude for the extraordinary accomplishments of Dr. Maria Montessori. What I leave you with is this……it is, what I believe to be, a statement of hope…and again, it comes from, The London Lectures:
“What are the interests of education centered on today? On the child’s mistakes! These small errors hide the true greatness of man. These small errors hide the giant. We need to change our attitude and see the greatness of the child’s achievements rather than the small and dry leaves of his errors. We only have to look at civilization to realize the greatness of which man is capable. But we are focused on his errors and mistakes, not on his greatness. Think how many things man has created. To mention but one, (the wireless). Look around at all we have-small, great or beautiful-whatever it is, (Here, I think of intangible things such as relationship, fidelity, brotherhood, trust all of which man must create) whatever it is, it has been created by man. While asking for more and more of marvelous inventions, we never think of the man that has created them. We do not consider him at all. We do not consider the greatness of man. Therefore, I say we must refocus our hearts. We must adopt the same attitude toward the child.
It is the child who constructs himself, the man. We must give this development, this miraculous force, the help it needs. It needs the warmth of the heart and it needs understanding. Let us call this help Education.”
Laura ‘Sunshine’ Cassell has a background in traditional education. After completing the Montessori Primary Teacher Training course in 2018, she has accepted a position as a Lead Guide at a Montessori school in Atlanta, Georgia.