Magazine article Montessori Life

Carving New Ground: Training Brazilian Teachers in Elementary Curriculum

Magazine article Montessori Life

Carving New Ground: Training Brazilian Teachers in Elementary Curriculum

Article excerpt

This is a companion piece to the article on teacher education in Brazil that Desmond Perry wrote for the Spring 2004 issue of Montessori LIFE. Dr. Chattin-McNichols was a speaker at a conference there organized by the Brazilian Montessori Society and later helped to deliver training in Brazil.

I thought that I would write down a little bit about my experiences in Brazil on the two trips that Celma Perry organized for me and offer my perspectives on this new enterprise in which we are engaged.

My introduction to this whole adventure came by way of an invitation to join Celma as a keynote speaker at the national meeting of the OMB, the Brazilian national Montessori group. It was to be held in July 2003, at a city I had never heard of, Florianopolis. This sounded good to me, so schedules were rearranged a bit. I got a visa and started to try to learn a bit about the city and even a bit about Celma Perry, whom I have known for more than 20 years, but about whose background I found I knew very little.

Celma Pinho Perry was born and raised in Rio; I was able to see the small farm that was her home, which Rio has now grown to surround almost completely. Celma's second language was French; a good deal of her time as a Sister was spent in France. She had to leave Brazil during the dictatorship to avoid jail or worse.

I was researching a few things to try to make my talks more locally relevant. I was happily reviewing some of the writings of Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educational philosopher and writer-activist whose work has influenced so many people in both traditional and alternative education. Imagine my surprise when I asked Celma something about Freire: "Oh yes, I knew him well. We would go and visit when he lived in Switzerland and have fondue." Needless to say, Celma was much more familiar with his works than I was.

Florianopolis, I discovered, was the capital of Santa Catarina state, one of the most southern (and therefore, cooler) states in Brazil. It is a very popular vacation destination, both with Brazilians and international visitors. Like everyplace I visited in Brazil, the city and region have their own distinctive cuisine. Floripa (its shortened name), a city half on the mainland, and half on an island, has seafood at the center of its distinctive cooking.

The conference there was hosted by a large Montessori school, run by Sisters, in the center of the downtown. The school, Menino Jesus, is built several stories high but has beautiful gardens for the children. I think that I remember correctly that there were five or six preschool classes, and that it went through eighth grade. This school clearly has high prestige in the city and has just completed a very successful fundraising and remodeling effort. The conference, with simultaneous translation for my talks, went off flawlessly. However, during meetings afterward, a not-so-hidden agenda for Brazilian Montessori began to emerge.

The situation in Brazil right now, especially in relation to training and growth of elementary Montessori, is remarkably simi lar to what was happening in the United States when T returned from my training in Bergamo in June 1971. There was no elementary AMS or AMI training available at that time in the U.S. There were fewer than 10 trained teachers in California. I remember that all of the other trained people on the West Coast, except one, were at a single school in Redmond, Washington. But early childhood Montessori was surging in popularity. …

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