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In search of ‘The New Teachers’

On Oct. 28, 1931, Mahatma Gandhi spoke at the Montessori Training College in London addressing Dr. Maria Montessori: “Madame, you have overwhelmed me with your words. It is perfectly true, I must admit it in all humility that however indifferently it may be, I endeavor to represent love in every fiber of my being.

“The greatest lessons in life, if we would but stoop and humble ourselves, we would learn not from grown-up learned men, but from the so-called ignorant children. You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children, and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have the struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.”

Poor-performing teacher education institutes (TEIs)

The Oct. 5, 2017 Philippine STAR editorial cited the performance of TEIs has been deteriorating across the archipelago. The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) headed by Chito Salazar – a private sector-led organization advocating for quality education in the country – released Tuesday the results of its research on the performance of the TIEs in the Licensure Examinations for Teachers (LET) since 2009. “At least half of colleges and universities with teacher education programs for elementary (1,024) and secondary (1,258) perform below the average national passing rate,” PBEd said.

How we trample on the treasures within every child

The greatest danger lies in our ignorance. We know how to find pearls in the shells of oysters, gold in the mountains, and coal in the bowels of the earth, but we are unaware of the spiritual gems – the child hides in himself when he enters our world to renew mankind.

If the Montessori philosophy and practice could be admitted to the ordinary schools, this would work wonders. Instead, teachers do not believe that the children are active learners. They give punishments and rewards to stimulate work. They use competition to arouse effort. The adult is always looking for vice in order to suppress it. Often, the correction of errors is humiliating and discouraging. Thus, lowering to general quality of social life.

If rivalry, emulation and ambition have been encouraged throughout the whole period of education, how can we hope that people who have grown in that atmosphere will become good at the age of 20 or 30, simply because someone preaches goodness? Not sermons but creative instincts are important, because they are realities. Children act in accordance with their natures and not because of the teacher’s exhortations.

Cruelty to children is caused by adults’ pride and anger

Generally, we adults are too preoccupied with scolding our children. We keep looking for their defective tendencies whether they are preschoolers, grade schoolers, or teenagers. “Removing the beam from our own eyes or recognizing one’s errors,” consists of the spiritual training of the teacher, says Dr. Montessori, who believed that the fundamental problem of education is the conflict between the adult and the child. This does not mean that we must all develop into saints overnight. Rather, it means inner preparation directed not to the acquisition of all virtues, but of those most needed in our relations with children.

There are two sins which tend to distort our true vision of the children. They are PRIDE and ANGER. Hence, HUMILITY and PATIENCE are the opposite virtues most needed. Let us reflect for a moment why it is easy for a teacher to become a prey to these two defects.

There is a great difference between an angry man amidst his adult companions and an angry man among children. The former will arouse opposing anger in others. As a proud person, he establishes an unpleasant reputation. In this way, he is kept in check by this “social control.” On the other hand, the adult who lives continually in the presence of small children is without this “social control.” They are so young and inexperienced that they take everything the adult says and does for granted. Thus a person in a position of undisputed authority, free from all criticisms, is in great danger of becoming a tyrant. He claims this undisputed authority AS HIS RIGHT, and will regard any offense against it – ipso facto – as a crime. In fact, many teachers unconsciously come to regard themselves and their authority in this light. Thus, claiming dictatorial rights over the child.

The Old vs the New Testament

Maria Montessori compares conventional schools and Montessori schools to that of the Old and the New Testament. In the Ten Commandments, we have negation laws such as “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal, ” and others. But in the New Testament, Christ gives positive commandments such as “Love your enemies.” Rules are arbitrarily imposed in conventional schools. At every turn one hears, “DON’T play, DON’T make noise, DON’T help others with their work, or DON’T speak unless you are spoken to.” Always the command is NEGATIVE.

Often children do things that educators would never dream of as being possible. They admire those who do better than they do. They make friends with their enemies, but no one can oblige them to do so. They can feel love and sympathy even for the wrongdoer. These natural sentiments ought to be encouraged. Normalized children show the strongest attraction toward good. They do not find it necessary to “avoid evil.”

‘The new children’ and ‘the new teacher’

Montessori’s real claim lies not so much that she has invented a new method of education as that she has revealed to us many and beautiful traits in “normalized children.” So unexpected that many writers coined the phrase “the new children.” Alongside “the new children” Montessori also brought into being “the new teacher.”

(Part II – “Re-Engineering Teacher Training for the 21st Century Education”)

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