Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Montessori -- Immersion in Time and Space

I found these articles interesting and was going to try to blog a bit about them, but I think I'll just pull out excerpts instead:

Of TIme and Montessori: Kairos and Chronos

Teachers often find it difficult to explain this mysterious characteristic of a Montessori classroom. Freedom of movement does not quite explain it. Nor does freedom of choice. Freedom from time comes close.

The Greeks had a name for it-Kairos-- a quality of time without measure. We all know it. The artist and writer know it. We are baffled by it when we ask, "Where did the time go!" after we lose ourselves in a book or in a labor of love. Kairos time returns us to the young child's time without measure, where freedom of movement and freedom of choice-the time-honored icons of Montessori theory-are not hampered by artificial blocks of time, as in traditional school environments.

Measured time, which the Greeks called Chronos, owes its existence to the invention of the chronometer. Heralding the start ofthe Industrial Revolution, it created "wage slaves," factory workers who lost their freedom to Chronos time. Our western educational system took its cue from the factory model, down to the bell and the whistle, sacrificing freedom of movement and freedom of choice on the altar of the timeclock.

Our current Western attitude regards Kairic-dominated cultures with suspicion, if not derision-Latin, for example, in the chorus: "Manana, manana is good enough for me!" We place a high value on the Chronos time which drives our commercial and economic systems.

Mothers in modern industrialized societies were told to feed their infants by the clock-every 3 hours-and warned that feeding "on demand" would spoil the baby. The chronos, rigid feeding schedule replaced mother's free-flowing kairos breast time with bottle, as the caged crib replaced the gentle rocking cradle. Baby lost freedom of movement and freedom of choice in the prison of chronos.

Ritual as a Window into Montessori Practice
When one of the participants, a Montessorian from Brazil, offered her observation that "the pedagogy of love" was that link, all of my attraction and perplexity converged into a single cluster of research questions: What is a pedagogy of love? What does it look like? How is it constructed, practiced, and fulfilled?

To answer those questions, I turned to a concept that had already figured prominently in my analysis of teachers and teaching in traditional classrooms ... That concept is ritual. From the precise way a child learns to roll and unroll a mat or the intricate choreography of a lesson in handwashing to the larger ceremonies of the Great Lessons or the Birthday Celebration, ritualized activity is among the most distinctive features of Montessori education. In marking time, shaping space, and communicating values central to the culture, these rituals help define the contours of Montessori practice and, in so doing, they illuminate the complexity as well as the unity of the method. They enable us to "see" the pedagogy of love.


Katie said...

So the rituals help the children mark time-- would this supply the "one time is not as good as another" emphasis that CM spoke of?

We broke out of timers and strict scheduling of subjects a few years ago, but lost quite a bit of discipline in the process, the ramifications of which my oldest, making her way through high school requirements, is feeling the effects of. For the last year I have been backing up, trying to have some kind of schedule, but more free flowing. Our school schedule contains hour-long blocks of time, with very few subjects glued to one specific hour. Instead, my helping one or more people is glued to each hour-- first hour is all of us together, second hour is for Cornflower and I, third hour is for Mariel and I, etc. This has worked better for us.

Something is still missing, though, and I wonder if it might be ritual. We have been pretty successful with chores this year, and I think that is because I decided to schedule chore time at the same time of day the kids do chores at two beloved family camps we go to in the summer. After lunch it is shades of singing school as we clean up together. I need to find something like that to help them stay focused on their independent work long enough to get finished, but I don't know what it might be yet.

Sorry I wrote such a long comment! But your post made me think.

Katie said...

There is ritual in the Suzuki method of teaching violin/piano. One that I know of is to bow to the teacher at the beginning of the lesson, and at the end bow again and say thank you.

(I've never observed a Suzuki lesson, but this is what I have heard from friends.)

Katie said...

Okay Willa, you got me. I posted on this:


Willa said...

Great comments, Katie. I've never seen a Suzuki lesson either, but I too have heard about the approach from friends. I have a book called Nurtured by Love by Suzuki which I should take out and dust off sometime and see if it applies.