I have noticed that as the new school year begins, leaving behind the the past academic year, a sense of excitement and anticipation in teachers begins to surface. Facebook and WhatsApp groups slowly start rumbling again, and there is a real sense of support for each other, as with renewed energy, we ready our environments for the arrival of the children.
With great pride, pictures of the beautifully prepared environments are shared on various platforms. These images are often a wonderful inspiration and a testament to ‘providing the best for the smallest’. I do however often wonder if the crucial aspect of creating a spiritual space for the development of community within our environments is given as much attention. As materials are renewed and shelves are prettied, are we giving thought to how that space will foster responsibility, independence and respect? How will this space be safe and inclusive for all children at all times?
The development of community life is a topic that Montessori speaks of often in her writings. The preschool child in the social embryonic phase of her/his development needs an environment that will nurture the growing awareness of others and how s/he fits into this new community called ‘school’. I am seeing a definite link between Montessori’s instruction to teachers to be ‘spiritually prepared’ and the way in which we will create a place where social cohesion in the classroom, through the children’s work will allow their characters to emerge.
The beginning of a school year, and a Montessori school year in particular, is a time of careful observation, thoughtful planning, and boundless hope. We should be dedicating ourselves to creating nurturing environments that honour each child’s individuality, seeing each child as a new child each day, and ‘having faith that the child will reveal her/himself through her/his work’. Not only does our conscious effort to be spiritually prepared assist with this, it is also the foundation for Peace Education.
My wish for 2024, is that we, as Montessori educators, make a conscious choice to balance our attention in terms of inside and outside, always keeping the child’s needs and interests at the forefront of our preparations for them.
I wish you all a beautiful year ahead.
– Heidi van Staden –