The beginning of the school year provides great opportunities for reflection and renewal. Within the first weeks of being together, staff communities settle back into familiar routines in preparation for the students’ return.
These are critical times to set the spiritual and emotional climate for the months to come. A staff needs to know the reason and rationale for their work, the great and powerful “why” they serve the children and their families in the capacities that they do.
Throughout her writings, Maria Montessori infused a sense of the greater aim of our endeavors; namely, to cultivate in children a new consciousness, from which peace can flourish. It is essential that now, and throughout the school year, we return to this central vision.
The words that follow are excerpts from “Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori” by Aline D. Wolf, with illustrations by Joe Servello (1989). For this book, Wolf selected significant sections from Maria Montessori’s 1932 speech at the International Office of Education in Geneva, Switzerland – published first in Italian as “Educazione e Pace”, then later in English as “Education and Peace”(1943) by the Theosophical Society in India. Wolf edited sections from the Indian edition for this book.
“Only a sane spiritual rebuilding of the human race can bring about peace. To set about this task, we must go back to the child.
In the child we can find the natural human characteristics before they are spoiled by the harmful influences of society.
The life of the embryo in the mother’s womb has the sole purpose of maturing into the newborn child. But the gestation of the whole human being is not confined to that short period.
Another period of gestation follows, whose sole purpose is to incarnate and make conscious the child’s spirit. Delicate nurture is needed to protect this often unrecognized process which can only be carried out by the child, obeying a natural rhythm of activity which has little in common with that of the commanding adult.
Truly, upon the spiritual growth of the child depend the health or sickness of the soul, the strength or weakness of the character, the clearness or obscurity of the intellect.
The nurturing of the spiritual life finds its expression both within the family and at school in what is still called education.
If education recognizes the intrinsic value of the child’s personality and provides an environment suited to spiritual growth, we have the revelation of an entirely new child, whose astonishing characteristics can eventually contribute to the betterment of the world.
I believe that the new adults who emerge from a more tranquil childhood will use their intellects and achievements to find a means to end the fury of war.
Monumental changes are needed to establish peace in the world: first, the maturing of adults to a higher level of development and, then, the providing of an environment that will no longer deprive any human being of the basic needs of life.
Through new education, we must enable children to grow up with a healthy spirit, a strong character and clear intellect, so that as adults they will not tolerate contradictory moral principles but will gather human energies for constructive purposes.
- Maria Montessori
- In what ways can we explore Montessori’s profound vision with the broader school community?
- How might students, teachers, administrators, and parents reach a new understanding of what we are here to do?
- What are the collaborative structures and systems needed such that Montessori’s vision can be realized?
- In what ways can the whole school community share in the keeping of this flame?
It is easy to become distracted. Like any meditation, however, we have to purposely bring our minds and hearts back to ground, back to the breath. It is this practice of mindfulness that will not only assist us in clarifying our mission, but will be palpable to the children and families with whom we share this adventure: priorities clear, distractions at bay, hearts open, ears attuned – minds and bodies ready to be present for the great unfolding.
“Peaceful Children, Peaceful World: The Challenge of Maria Montessori” by Aline D. Wolf, with illustrations by Joe Servello (1989)
"Education and Peace" by Maria Montessori (1992 edition)
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