Off and on I keep journals. Reading through my entry for August 31, 2009 I wrote about how my thoughts were occupied that day with Maria Montessori, the little information I knew about her, and how I found it weird to be thinking of her. My kids attended Montessori schools decades before, and I loved the concept, but hadn’t thought about it for years. That day I felt a connection with her that’s never gone away. Her biography inspired me. Her picture hangs in my office, and occasionally I wonder if she could be my muse. She worked for many years as a psychiatrist and eventually manifested her holistic vision for a new way to educate children. I worked for many years as a psychiatric nurse and education has always been my overriding interest. I like to think we have a bond. Her birthdate is August 31st.
A holistic leader is someone who develops ingenious life enhancing methods to accomplish objectives because they’re mindful of how those methods impact the world. Montessori’s concern, as she formed her educational theories, was not just that children learn but that the school and the method would not diminish the child’s spirit.
My interpretation of her beliefs was that the child has a spiritually infused built in guidance system that drives her to develop naturally within a time frame that is uniquely her own. Developmental stages are predictable within a range, but the day to day unfolding of potential can only be determined by the child’s inner guiding spirit. To override what he instinctively knows by forcing him to conform to standards destroys his trust in himself and diminishes his spirit as it diminishes the world.
The ingenious method she pioneered was the careful design of an educational environment where the child would be free to explore on his own, with very limited adult intervention. She was a model of holistic leadership. I think about her more than ever.