Magazine article Montessori Life

The Many Seasons of the Montessori Method

Magazine article Montessori Life

The Many Seasons of the Montessori Method

Article excerpt

The Many Seasons of the Montessori Method Maria Montessori Through the Seasons of the "Method/' By Paola Trabalzini. NAMTA Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring 2011. Paperback, 218 pages. $17

For over 40 years, I have been involved with Montessori education as an education historian. I have observed more than 100 hours in a variety of Montessori classrooms, both in the United States and abroad. I have read the English translations of most, if not all, of Montessori' s books published in the United States. I have not taken any formal Montessori training courses, although I have sat in on many sessions of teacher education programs. However, while reading Paola Trabalzimi new book, Maria Montessori through the Seasons of the "Method/' I longed to be Montessori-educated in order to fully grasp the magnitude of the changes "Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica" (The Montessori Method, later known as The Discovery of the Child in English) passed through and how it is being taught today.

Trabalzini tells the story of Maria Montessori through the five versions of Italian editions of "II Metodo." This book is full of new information and analyses of Montessori' s life and teaching. Awkward translations from the Italian, misspellings, and a sprinkling of scientific terms did not deter this reader from gaining new insights into both Montessori' s life and her method.

The revelation that Montessori was not the first female medical doctor in Italy nor the first female to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School is found in a footnote. The acknowledgment that there were women in Italy who graduated from medical school before Montessori is one of the first of its kind in English, and, notably, is found in a publication affiliated with AMI.1

Combining Montessori' s passion for science and social feminism, Trabalzini provides an interesting discussion in which she contends, "Scientists and not science are against women." Topics in this chapter range from Montessori' s participation at the International Congress of Women in 1899, to the birth of her son, Mario, onto her involvement in theosophy women's suffrage, and her urging the creation of a chair in pedagogy of "retarded people" at the Royal Higher Institute for Women TeacherTrainingu as early as 1899. The chapter concludes with a strong statement from Montessori at the First National Congress in Rome held in April 1908, more than a year after the opening of the first Casa dei Bambini. She declared that a woman who did nothing but raise her child remained a child herself, "ignorant of life and of its struggles, infantile and belittled in her thoughts and conscience," and followed up with the need for women to become "fighter[s] for the social environment" (p. 35).

At about the same time, Montessori advocated for self-contained classrooms, rather than confining children in institutions, and advanced the idea of the need for university courses designed to prepare teachers to teach children in general education schools.

Trabalzini provides an in-depth look at the San Lorenzo district of Rome, the site of the first Casa dei Bambini. She probes the differences between Talamo (the builder of the tenement) and Montessori. Talamo requested that Montessori set up the school more for social purposes rather than pedagogical ones. The Regulations, described in the first edition of Il Metodo, required "children who are slovenly, filthy and undisciplined" to be expelled. In the second edition (1913), Montessori emphasized that this clause was included by Talamo, not her, and that it was never implemented while she was director. "Punitive behaviors were certainly not acceptable in Montessorian pedagogy" (p. 50).

Describing Montessori's background, Trabalzini writes that she "brought her scientific and civil passion to San Lorenzo - her struggles for the rights of alienated children and her feminist commitment, with a conscious female leading spirit in studies, work, family and society" (p. …

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