Celebrating Maria Montessori's Birthday!
Last week I enjoyed visiting with our 8th-year students during lunch. Since they are now the student leaders on campus, we discussed attributes of leadership. I asked them to each share an example of a leader they admire and the specific qualities they felt made that person an exceptional leader. They named coaches, civil rights activists, business owners, an athlete, an astronaut, and a mom. The attributes they most admired included having a sense of humor, being firm, the ability to connect with people, honesty, attentive listening, kindness, the courage to create something from the ground up, creative and unconventional approaches to accomplishing change, self-advocacy, the ability to motivate others to come from behind to achieve victory, standing up for what you believe in, the wisdom of life lessons handed down by a mother, and risking everything for the sake of something bigger than themselves.
This week, on the anniversary of her birthday, August 31, 1870, we celebrate the visionary leadership of Maria Montessori and the advancements she made in the field of education. Dr. Montessori advocated for herself to be able to pursue a career in medicine and excelled in her field of study despite being isolated from and ridiculed by her male peers. She was an advocate for women’s rights and equal pay. While working at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, Montessori recognized the potential in children cast aside by society due to perceived learning differences. Later, during her time as Co-Director at the Orthophrenic School, she designed a learning environment where those children could be educated in an inclusive manner. Her first Primary Classroom, Casa dei Bambini, opened in the slums of San Lorenzo, Italy, in 1907. Montessori schools became increasingly popular throughout the United States and Europe until the rise of fascism, when all of her schools in Germany and Italy were closed by Hitler and Mussolini. Dr. Montessori refused to incorporate her schools into the fascist youth movement. Because she and her son, Mario, were Italian citizens, they were held under house arrest while in India during World War II. During this time, they conceived the Montessori Elementary Curriculum, known as cosmic education. Once the war ended, Dr. Montessori continued to travel throughout the world to speak about the Montessori method and train future Montessori guides. She established the Association Montessori Internationale, headquartered in the Netherlands, to continue her work. Until 2005, the leadership of Association Montessori Internationale remained within Dr. Montessori’s family. Maria Montessori died May 6, 1952, in the Netherlands. Throughout her career, Dr. Montessori believed the greatest hope for humanity existed in the potential of young children, and she dedicated her life to revolutionizing the education system to help children realize this potential, work that resulted in three Nobel Peace Prize nominations, among other global accolades. Over 100 years later, Dr. Montessori’s principles are still in practice and planting seeds of change in children throughout the world.
At Springmont, we strive to honor Dr. Montessori’s legacy each day. My hope is that our students recognize in themselves the very attributes they identified in the leaders they admire, as well as those of Dr. Montessori, and that they fulfill her vision by becoming the leaders who change humanity for the better.
In celebration of Dr. Montessori's birthday, classes will be participating in special activities, and we encourage our school community to wear their Springmont gear on Wednesday, August 31.