Dr. Montessori (1870–1952) was the first female physician in Italy. Upon her graduation from medical school in 1896, she developed an educational approach based on the simple truth that children teach themselves. She made her first visit to the United States in 1913. According to the Montessori North American Teacher’s Association’s (NAMTA) website, “Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide, serving children from birth through adolescence. In the United States, there are more than four thousand private Montessori schools and more than two hundred public schools with Montessori-styled programs” (“Introduction to Montessori Education,” Montessori-NAMTA, 2011, http://www.montessori-namta.org/About-Montessori).
In Her Own Words
The Montessori Method (Excerpt)
Thus I saw my teachers act in the first days of my practice school in the “Children’s Houses.” They almost involuntarily recalled the children to immobility without observing and distinguishing the nature of the movements they repressed. There was, for example, a little girl who gathered her companions about her and then, in the midst of them, began to talk and gesticulate. The teacher at once ran to her, took hold of her arms, and told her to be still; but I, observing the child, saw that she was playing at being teacher or mother to the others, and teaching them the morning prayer, the invocation to the saints, and the sign of the cross: she already showed herself as a director.
Another child, who continually made disorganized and misdirected movements, and who was considered abnormal, one day, with an expression of intense attention, set about moving the tables. Instantly they were upon him to make him stand still because he made too much noise. Yet this was one of the first manifestations, in this child, of movements that were co-coordinated and directed toward a useful end, and it was therefore an action that should have been respected. In fact, after this the child began to be quiet and happy like the others whenever he had any small objects to move about and to arrange upon his desk. In fact, after this the child began to be quiet and happy like the others whenever he had any small objects to move about and to arrange upon his desk.
It often happened that while the directress replaced in the boxes various materials that had been used, a child would draw near, picking up the objects, with the evident desire of imitating the teacher. The first impulse was to send the child back to her place with the remark, “Let it alone; go to your seat.” Yet the child expressed by this act a desire to be useful; the time, with her, was ripe for a lesson in order.
Montessori, M. The Montessori Method. Translated by A. E. George. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912