Haskins, Cathleen, Montessori Life
Through Writing Activities in the Elementary Classroom
During the 1930s, against the backdrop of an impending world war, Maria Montessori delivered a series of prophetic lectures in Europe that chronicled her growing understanding and beliefs about war, peace, and a new way of being in the world. Her call was deliberate, passionate, and unapologetic: humankind must find a higher level of existence, in which justice, harmony, and love are the cornerstones of the individual and society, and these cornerstones must originate from a childhood environment that fosters spiritual growth.
Her lecture venues were impressive: in 1932, the International Office of Education in Geneva; 1936, the European Congress for Peace in Brussels; 1937, the Danish Congress in Copenhagen and the International School of Philosophy in Amersfoort; and 1939, with Germany closing in on the invasion of Poland a few short months later, the World Fellowships of Faith in London (Montessori, 1972). As notable as the settings may have been, it was Montessori's words that will echo through history as visionar}'. In a series of addresses compiled in Education and Peace (1972, p. 44), Montessori advocated "laying the foundations for peace through education," advising that "the real danger threatening humanity is the emptiness in men's souls," and called for "spiritual reconstruction," which would heal the brokenness of an oppressed and unenlightened humanity. Her addresses were as universally significant as they were spiritually authentic.
Almost 70 years after these lectures, the relevance and clarity of Montessori's vision for a peaceful and loving world remain strikingly profound. We recognize the role of the classroom environment, the importance of freedom, and the value of work as contributing factors in nurturing the spirit of the child. Designated peace areas that contain peace shelves with peace materials are found in many Montessori classrooms. Students are involved in projects that support justice worldwide. Montessorians lead the way in educating for peace and seeking sound, authentic tools to help children delve more deeply into the questions that will help them know who they are, their purpose in life, and how they are connected on a global level.
If the role of the teacher is to cultivate the spiritual life of the child, the first question to be asked is: What is spirituality? In some ways, it is easier to describe what spirituality is not: Spirituality is not religion (although religion may be an avenue for some people to express their spirituality), nor is it material, physical, or temporal. It is not something found only in some people. The spiritual quest seeks to answer the questions What is the meaning of life? and Why am !here? Spirituality flows from the individual, forms and defines our relationships with those around us, binds all humans on the planet with a common thread, and connects us with the natural world of which we are an integrated part.
Individual spirituality is a well of infinite and expanding creativity, wisdom, and gratitude. It is a place of inner peace. When a spiritual path is recognized, an element of divinity is revealed, and at the spirit center potentiality is waiting to be realized. The realization of our deepest dreams and desires - reflections of the authentic self - flow from spirit. In relationships with others, spirituality is a place of compassion, affirmation, sacred listening, and love. Here we forgo judgment and seek the divine in others. Spirituality through a worldview acknowledges the sacred and shared spirit of all humanity. We can give away what we have without fear or feelings of loss or control because we understand that we are a part of others and others are a part of us. Such a view recognizes an expanding diversity inherent in an indestructible unity. Spirituality rooted in the natural world is found in both routine and in awe- invoking experiences, serving to underscore the wider circle of universal connectedness. …