Breathing. Part one: Aspiration

By Thomas McGrath – Deputy Principal High School

Correctly applying the Montessori Method has got to be one of the most ambitious and aspirational tasks known to humankind. If you thought school was just about writing, maths, and eating your lunch: reconsider.

Through her incredible years of international research and work with children, the education Maria Montessori believed possible was one that transcended the classroom and paved the way for a brighter future. Montessori stated that “establishing a lasting peace is the work of education … all politics can do is keep us out of war.” (Education and Peace)

Peace as described by Montessori is not just an absence of war but a deliberate and sustainable state that requires constant care and nurturing. This state is to be brought about by those who have been guided through each plane of development by a prepared adult within an appropriately prepared learning environment. For this to be effective, once through the first (and most important) plane of development (0–6) where the self is constructed, the Montessori guide in the second plane (6–12) must do nothing less than assist the child to comprehend the entire universe:

If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child’s mind will then no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work. The knowledge he acquires is organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centred. (Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential, 1989, p. 6)

In the third plane (12–18), the work then centres on developing the personal agency and interdependence on society that is required to convert their honed understanding of the universe into work as a practising adult that will bring about the betterment of all.

The word ‘aspiration’ contains the root word ‘spiro’, which relates to the breath. To ‘aspire’ is to ‘breathe upon’. The connotations are that to achieve a large task, one breathes upon it; focusing their life’s energy to it. All Montessori guides must, in their hearts, believe that what they are doing is ultimately contributing to a state of lasting prosperity and harmony amongst humanity, natural species, and the environment. So, to achieve Montessori’s vision, we must inhale deeply and prepare ourselves for a lifetime of work.

Now, how do we achieve this and still stay alive? Tune in next week for part two…