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Montessori Education: Textbooks, Curriculum, Teachers Essay


Textbooks

The issue of using textbooks in a traditional Montessori class has been an on going controversy for several decades. A study done by Caldwell (2007) showed that a good number of Montessori-oriented schools supplement their education with textbooks. By interviewing many parents and teachers, this author revealed that there is a hidden fear in both parties about meeting the standards of education if no textbooks are used. Indeed, in this particular study, Caldwell (2007) noticed that textbooks are used in Montessori schools not only to please parents but also to provide the reassurance needed regarding the quality of their children’s education.

The debate over the use of textbooks in an authentic Montessori class can be analyzed in depth by delineating three other issues, namely customer satisfaction, competition, and age. To start with the first issue, it is important to note that customer satisfaction is a fundamental ingredient to the success of a program. In a world characterized by intense competition and ever present challenges, it is only common sense to keep clients happy and satisfied as a means to motivate them towards your product offerings.

Beyond any reasonable doubt, it is prominent that parents always wish to see what their children accomplished for the day. Parents may never feel happy and satisfied if their children are only let to do the so called “jobs” and at the time of their pick the teacher has nothing to prove what the children have accomplished for the day. Consequently, even if Montessori teachers do not agree with the practice of using textbooks, they have a duty to please and satisfy parents by falling back to the textbooks as their only rescue.

The second issue revolves around competition with other schools. Due to intense competition from private schools and employment of different methods of teaching, Montessori teachers are compelled to supplement the program with textbooks. In her study, Caldwell (2007) did not discourage the use of text books in Montessori classrooms but emphasized that such use should be consistent and done in a prepared environment to be acceptable, and should also be limited in scope to secondary sources to memorize data. In order to consider the textbook as a legitimate source for learning, therefore, it should have the potential for self- correction.

Age is also an important factor to consider when using textbooks in a Montessori class. When the value of authentic Montessori learning in young children ages 3 to 6 is taken into consideration, it is absolutely clear that there is no place for textbooks. Children in this age category learn best in their own phase and teachers have the capability to control each phase of the curriculum to suit the needs of every child. In conclusion to this summary about textbooks, Montessori (1972) stated:

A child in his earliest years, when he is only two or a little more, is capable of tremendous achievements simply through his unconscious power of absorption, through he is himself still immobile. After the age of three he is able to acquire a great number of concepts through his own efforts in exploring his surroundings. In this period he lays hold of things through his own activity and assimilation them into his mind (P. 325).

Homework

The issue of giving homework in Montessori class settings has been critical for many educators. But after reviewing an article by Bourne (2007), it became clearly evident that the issue of homework in an authentic Montessori program should not be perceived as a major one. However, assigning homework according to grade level has been very controversial. Being a Montessori educator for many years, my perspective about homework is that it should only be for repetition and research purposes as it can be confusing in early childhood programs.

With the rich, prepared environment availed by Montessori programs, educators should not be concerned with providing take-home extensions to facilitate parent satisfaction. However, parent satisfaction is vital to any program. Consequently, it should be the responsibility of program directors and teachers to convene frequent parent information sessions to educate parents. Additionally, educators should communicate with parents using email, newsletters, and other communication mediums to eliminate their concerns and questions on early childhood programs.

With regard to elementary programs, homework should be balanced according to the appropriate grade level. Homework should be carefully planned by the teacher and categorized to each child’s needs. It should not take out the spark and creativity from a child. It is best to encourage reading and teacher guided extensions from key lessons not only to cultivate good study habits, but also to reinforce curiosity for learning in the child’s mind.

One issue that we as Montessori educators have to face is to either reject homework oriented to satisfy parents or meet the demands of some parents who push their limits to have homework. This has been a very common issue in many schools. In my opinion, irrespective of the grade level, homework assignments should involve parent participation. Instead of providing loads of work sheets as homework, productive reading and hands-on projects should be used to stimulate interest and curiosity.

Educators should always integrate parent communication and contribution to their homework method. Prior to an assignment, it is best to communicate the purpose of the assignment to the parents. The purpose of homework should be to develop intellectual curiosity. It should not be a competitive task for children. Consequently, educators must always look for different fun-oriented ways to make homework a family-owned project.

Curriculum

Comparing and contrasting Montessori and non-Montessori curriculums in public and private accredited schools has been a challenging topic in the educational world in recent years. Today, more than ever before, teachers in a traditional Montessori set up are constantly been asked to evaluate their curriculums to meet new standards. In the public charter Montessori schoolteachers are constantly put in the public limelight to evaluate if they meet state standards.

However, aligning Montessori curriculum with traditional lessons can challenging because Montessori neither includes state objectives nor does it provide any benchmarks for evaluation (Kahn, Dubble & Pendeleton, 1999). As per the accredited Montessori training program, teachers are given lesson outlines as curriculum guides, along with Montessori goals and objectives. It is then up to educators to align these standards with state/national standards.

In order to prevent conflicts of interest with non-Montessori curriculums, it is absolutely necessary to build consensus among teachers in relation to students’ progress. Through planning and pacing the curriculum according to student capability (gifted and talented learners or slow learners), teachers will have the freedom to support students with appropriate learning materials. It is believed that the most essential part of teaching is to bring the very best of learning from both worlds to the classroom. Therefore, aligning non-Montessori assessments with Montessori curriculum in a traditional school setup can enhance chances for students to improve their test scores.

Before mixing alternative assessment techniques with Montessori methods, it is important to identify Montessori goals and standards. When implementing a total Montessori program, however, it is not easy to supplement it with another curriculum. But due to many competing demands and expectations, we as educators are compelled to satisfy the school authority as well as parental demands.

These demands and expectations notwithstanding, it is important to practice the Montessori Method in total curriculum to prove that it is at par with other competitive curriculums. In order to keep up with true Montessori teachings, it is also imperative to integrate the curriculum into full-scale, dynamic, state-of-the-art, learning program (Kahn et al., 1999). The educator can make all possible changes and amendments to build a stronger Montessori curriculum which demonstrates authenticity to the great teachings of Dr. Montessori.

Teacher Quality

Teacher quality has been an issue for Montessori schools for many years. It is true that finding suitable, dedicated teachers who can live up to the mission and teachings of Dr. Montessori teachings is often a daunting task for many school administrators (Kahn et al., 1999). In order to maintain a quality program, it is fundamental for school administrators to recruit suitable teachers. Due to some noted discrepancies in non-accredited teaching institutions, however, some teachers’ graduate with inadequate knowledge of what they are supposed to do in a Montessori classroom context. When inexperienced teachers are placed to lead programs, the whole structure fails. This is what led Bartell (1995) to state that:

An increasingly diverse and complex society demands that schools of the future look very different from those of the past. These new expectations for schools require a highly committed and competent teacher workforce that is capable of educating all students to their full potential (p. 32).

The biggest issue for non-quality Montessori teacher training programs is that they do not have a regional network. Therefore, some of the trainings programs take matters into their own hands. For instance, it is now known that some non-standard training institutions are offering online Montessori (3-6 years) programs. It is even shocking to know the negative implications that such teaching platforms can cause to authentic Montessori programs.

To remedy the situation, the North American Montessori Teachers’ Association and the American Montessori should join hands to educate Montessori school administrators the importance of obtaining credentials to meet higher learning quality in Montessori schools. Such networking in a state-wide advisory system will broaden the possibilities to deal with the issues that prevent staff and school credentialing.

Some schools prefer to take foreign degree holders into their programs due to low salary requirements. Since many Montessori schools run as profit-oriented institutions, some administrators are compelled to keep their costs low by hiring foreign degree holders who may not be qualified to teach Montessori programs. This problem should be dealt with by setting goals and objectives for school credentialing to be used by administrators in the search for better qualified staff to operate Montessori schools. In order to eliminate low teacher quality, it is absolutely necessary that we promote the schools to fall under a recognized Montessori School Credentialing Program.

Validity of Montessori Credentials

Are Montessori credentials valid? This is the question that we all ask before and after we graduate. Indeed, many graduates are at a loss to explain if the California Teacher Credentialing Commission will ever recognize all their hard work of two years. This has been a critical and frustrating issue for many educators in California.

Recently, after much opposition by many community colleges and other individuals, few Montessori advocates led by Dr. Pamela Riggs made an appearance before the Teacher Commission in Sacramento. In order to make their voices heard, Montessori veterans sent large amount of emails requesting educators to be present at the state capitol.

After much arguing and jostling to prove that Montessori is a valid theory to teach in today’s classroom, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) recommended that Montessori philosophy be recognized as a proven theory. The association even mentioned in their recommendation letter to the Teacher Credentialing Commission that just observing the coursework was sufficient enough for them to accredit (Request for Acceptance, 2011).

Even after WASC approval of Montessori as a valid theory, it seems like we have a long journey ahead of us before we reach a point where state colleges will accept Montessori coursework. In analyzing the different course requirements, it is evident that a teacher in traditional settings only needs to take 12 units to hold a child care permit. This requirement can be fulfilled within a year.

To attain Montessori credentials, however, a teacher is required to spend a minimum of eight weeks of coursework on a summer intense program or 12 to 15 weeks on a year round training and additional one year of practicum coursework (Professional Services Committee, 2010). Without any hesitation, therefore, any Montessori educator will admit that this is a daunting task as it requires dedication and commitment to follow through.

It is indeed disappointing to see that California state universities place Montessori education as secondary education. The negativity in responses is very evident that these colleges are not in favor of recognizing Montessori coursework and introducing the theory into their programs. However, with such dedicated Montessorians, the Montessori community in California will continue to pursue their dreams in the pursuit of making Dr. Montessori’s philosophy to become a state recognized education theory.

Reference List

Bartell, C.A. (1995). A new vision of teaching. Thrust for Educational Leadership, 24(5), pp. 32-35.

Bourne, L. (2007). Web.

Caldwell, S. (2007). Workbooks? Is there a place for them in authentic Montessori education? IMC-ENEWS. Web.

Kahn, D., Dubble, S.L., & Pendeleton, D.L. (1999). Whole-school Montessori handbook for teachers and administrators. Cleveland, OH: North American Montessori Teachers Association.

Montessori, M. (1972). The discovery of the child. New York, NY: Ballentine.

Professional Services Committee. (2010). Discussion on accepting program coursework for child development permits from non-regionally accredited entities. 6B-1. Web.

Request for Acceptance. (2011). CTC child development permit & Montessori coursework. California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) meeting with Montessori Council of California (MC2). Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 12). Montessori Education: Textbooks, Curriculum, Teachers. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/montessori-education-textbooks-curriculum-teachers/

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Montessori Education: Textbooks, Curriculum, Teachers." July 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/montessori-education-textbooks-curriculum-teachers/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Montessori Education: Textbooks, Curriculum, Teachers'. 12 July.

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