‘Montessori’ is a term used rather loosely in the Indian education space when it comes to early childhood and primary school education. So I’m sure we’ve all heard this one before. But with a little personal experience (I’ll get to it in a bit, read on…), trust me when I say that the ‘Montessori method’ holds a world within itself when it comes to knowledge, development, and education of children or individuals as I’d like to put it.
The Montessori Method was developed by Italian educator and doctor Maria Montessori after extensive research with special needs children in the early years of the twentieth century.
An ideal Montessori classroom would look like:
A range of activities for children (of various age groups) to participate in as per their choice throughout the day.
Teachers shuffling and paying personalised attention between the various groups instead of standing at the front of the classroom.
A nontraditional grading system that takes diversity into account.
A focus on the whole student - social, emotional, intellectual and physical development.
My (daughter’s) story
Here’s the catch on how I based my thought (+ actual) experiment on the Montessori method. Quite a lot has been told and written about this method, its prevalence, and its importance for children and adults up to some extent. Based on all that extensive reading, credible research, and discussions with experts, my husband and I decided to enroll our daughter in Montessori education. And I must say that it has been a very good decision on our part and has also been a revelation in many ways for me, as a parent and a professional.
To provide a little more context to Montessori education as received by my daughter: It’s a grouping of particular grades and a smaller bunch of kids that come together in the same learning environments. Say for example: nursery, LKG, UKG - all under pre-primary; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd under primary batch, and so on.
This educational philosophy at its core strives to encourage a love for learning - seeing learning as an enjoyable life-long process rather than a burden that ends when a school bell rings (or is limited to allocated work hours, in our case.)
The mixed-age groups are intended to foster peer-to-peer learning. This arrangement can naturally lead to growth that might not occur in a more uniformly-aged classroom. It allows children to learn from one another, teach one another and develop life skills.
The presence of the right environment, inspiration, guidance, and encouragement helps build long-lasting relationships and enhances the mind’s spiritual and intellectual capacity. Lets the child/individual become aware of themselves, wield their strengths, work on weaknesses, understand triggers, biases and find solutions with the right intervention.
This model resembles the way of career path and life. You start out in the entry level (age 0-6 in montessori) as people who are all focussed on honing individual skills. Then comes the mid level (7-12 age group) where you learn to become a team player and slowing learn how to bridge gaps and lead. That leads to the senior level (age 13-18) where the needs are centered around self-development and taking the group forward to achieve and bring out the best.
The Montessori environment allows for children to work, develop and learn at their own individual pace. Children are exposed to lessons, activities, and materials that build upon their skill set - they progress in their development as an individual.
This environment is a model to embrace inclusivity and diversity right from its very structure. Beyond just individuals from diverse backgrounds, it lets students with special needs make a space for themselves. In such settings, they tend to have less pressure to keep up with their peers and more freedom to learn and grow at their own pace.
It allows children and all those involved to nurture a non-verbalised culture of empathy, the ability to recognize, appreciate and respond to another's feelings. These essential characteristics stem from a place of acknowledging and expressing their own feelings and thoughts without fear of judgments. Classroom continuity can also help students with special needs form close connections full of trust and empathy within their classroom, making for a safe and stable environment in which to learn.
Getting to the point
Having established a clear understanding of the Montessori method and also giving you food for thought on how things would be if you were to start your education in such a space (just imagine!), let’s move to our focus point - YOU as an adult and your career.
“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” — Maria Montessori
I’ll further delve into the nuances of how adults/professionals following the Montessori method can genuinely make and feel a difference in the workplace with this very personal anecdote (read: personal win). I conducted a career and business development (The Big Picture) workshop in October-November 2021. And it took place with a small cohort of professionals from a varied range of distinct career backgrounds. HR head, Product Manager, UX developer, Advertising personnel - you name it, from different age groups, experience levels, and different organisational roles based in big organizations and startups (The Magic Montessori Mix).
In my mind, not only was it a success in terms of the workshop and all that it encompassed from a career standpoint, but it also unlocked and harnessed the true potential of collaboration and diversity in learning. The small, diverse cohort built trust, enabled dialogue, and invoked a desire and an ability to connect with a variety of people and ideas.
The way forward…
Now, you get why I believe in the Montessori method to bring a new perspective on self-development and inclusivity. And of course, on why I believe it can be great for grown-ups, too. In my tried and tested experience, I reiterate: Instead of imposing a one-size-fits-all solution or way of thinking, trust yourself to develop your own path.
A full application of this method across organisations would be the perfect formula for career path development in an ideal world. However, the point here is to draw in certain valuable nuances that can almost seamlessly be adopted in workplaces. And the goal achieved? A perspective of progress and inclusivity as defined by each individual on their own. As my workshop demonstrated, the full effects and benefits of this model are experienced by organisations via a range of workshops that cater to these nuances. Based off that, being a super-fan of such holistic and wholesome workshops myself (who conducts them as well!), the way forward truly would be to extend the learnings to the everyday life at work. What do you think?
Sealing the deal on our concept for the day - The Montessori method has done wonders to early education and has the potential to bring new energy and structure elsewhere to whatever extent, big or small, when applied in order. Dr. Maria Montessori knew what she was talking about - she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize an astounding six times, and her image was even on Italy’s 1,000 Lire banknote. She urged both children and adults to “trust that you know what you’re doing.” That says a lot and leaves a lot more waiting to be explored. How about making the start here, gaining a new perspective, and trying out a workshop to see if it works for you and your career? Sounds like a good plan to me!
Stay tuned for more…