Another Quote, Another Philosophy

One of my favorite parts of studying Education so far, has been the exploration of various views and philosophies for Education. I believe there is a lot of merit in most educational philosophies, and that all of the movements have their positives and negatives. Maria Montessori’s quote is one that I find myself supporting more and more, and I have trouble finding any real negatives around it.

The greatest sign of a success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” – Maria Montessori

I am someone who sees benefits in traditional education processes, and I think that there are ways to improve those processes using more modern techniques, essentially finding a happy medium between the two ideas. However I like Maria’s quote in particular due to my specialization in the education of mathematics.

Traditionally in Math classes, many would expect a lecture where the teacher spews that chapter and the information for the majority of class. After the lecture, you might see a couple of examples quickly shown on the board. Then the students would have to work on practice problems and/or homework problems, most of the time due for next class.

In a science course, the class might go over concepts and practice for a few days. However this would eventually (hopefully) lead to some sort of lab or activity based on the lesson. Similarly with social studies, the class might spend time studying an idea, and then the students could potentially move onto a cooperative or independent study, maybe resulting in a presentation. However in a math class, one would expect the days of lecture and practice to eventually lead to a quiz or exam.

I would argue that in math, you as the teacher could model it similar to a science class. It could be through a format similar to other subjects, where you have a few days of more traditional learning leading to an activity/lab. Another approach for math is Problem-Based Learning, where instead of leading to the activity, you begin with the activity. I believe that Maria’s end goal of student independence should applicable to all subjects, especially math. This means that you provide them with the minimum required information, and they continue on their own using their curiosity and prior knowledge. To conduct their own research and problem solving, create their own ideas, and maybe even summarize and present the results, should be a perfect indicator that they have a solid understanding.

For the impossibilities/possibilities that this causes, I find it to be fairly even. It makes it possible to teach across a variety of learning types. It allows for independent growth and learning through curiosity. Yet, you still end up with a way to satisfy traditional indicators and goals that curriculum is based on. What would be less possible, is the idea of a teacher settling down into an easy routine. With different students and learning styles, and possible improvements and changes in the activity, this will ensure the teacher’s job remains active. You can’t just settle down when you constantly have to adapt to differences to meet your personal goal: student independence.

This moves education closer to the imagery of the growth and eventual flight of a young bird. Our purpose as educators is to not only give the students the knowledge required by curriculum, but also the tools to succeed and gain independence. The purpose of the student in this case is to, through curiosity and perseverance, construct their own thoughts and solutions for problems. The teacher moves into this role of facilitating the student’s natural curiosity, amplifying and yet focusing that energy for educational purpose and growth.

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