“Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force them to memorize, but so to touch their imagination as to enthuse them to their innermost core.”
– Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
In his article What is the Montessori Method?, Steve Olson enthuses about the approach and schools: “I have seen kids who do not test as ‘Gifted and Talented’ but perform at the mid-college level across all subjects by 12 years old – too many for it to be a coincidence.
“What is even more amazing is that these schools seem to produce an uncanny number of professional athletes and entrepreneurs as well. Kids are capable of far more than we expect from them and they are happier when we allow them to learn and grow unimpeded.”
He adds, “The whole key to it is the children are in charge of their own process. The adults have to inspire them, guide them, but get out of the way.”
We may no longer be at an age to be encouraged by a passionate school teacher, but our ongoing personal growth can still be facilitated by being aware of what inspires us, and keeping out of our own way.
As Janis Joplin once said, “Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.”
[Quoted in the Changing Course newsletter.]
But we may often do that: compromise or stifle ourselves, shut down what we are capable of.
“You may feel like dwelling on your limits or your fears. Don’t do it… A perfect prescription for a squandered, unfulfilled life is to accommodate self-defeating feelings while undercutting your finest, most productive ones.” ~ Marsha Sinetar, “To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love”
That sort of self-limiting attention on what is deficient or inadequate about us and our abilities is all too easy to fall into. Especially if we have a tendency toward perfectionism. [See page on that topic.]
And as the Montessori philosophy notes, our feelings like dissatisfaction or enthusiasm can impede, or actively encourage what we learn, and help us evaluate experience.
In her article Feel Better Faster, Learn More Effectively: Use Your Mood-Repair Tool Kit, Sherri Fisher [Positive Psychology News Daily] notes that “Emotions benefit and strengthen learning. The emotional feedback system can help you reflect on what did not go as well as expected so that you can identify and use a different approach, or if things went well, it can help you repeat the scope and/or sequence of behaviors next time if you want a similar (good) outcome.”
“Neurobiology confirms this. PET scans and fMRIs show increased memory for events that stir the emotions. The emotions, interestingly, are only stirred for things that matter to us.
Positive emotions such as interest, she writes, can be used to “focus attention and stimulate the cognitive processes that are broadened by it. If you are a teacher, notice this in your students and let the students dig into areas that result in their positive emotion.”
To complement our intellect, we can look for what enthuses us – especially to our innermost core.
[Image is from the book The Absorbent Mind, by Maria Montessori.]