I’m sure all of you have had conversations with non-Montessorians where you’ve been explaining Montessori, and getting really excited, only to see a certain look on their faces. You know the look – it’s somewhere between “I’m not really interested in learning more about Montessori” and “Why would anyone feel so strongly about something like this?”
Yes, we Montessorians tend to be passionate as well as vocal. I believe the term is “true believers”; not in a religious sense, but to describe anyone who feels very strongly about something. There are true believers in all fields of study and for all points of view. In our case, it’s about a subject (the education of children) that is controversial and sensitive to begin with.
So, how do we respond to criticism? If you’re like me, you tend to get defensive. After all, we usually know more than the person we’re talking to; often, they’ve never read anything about Montessori or even visited a Montessori classroom. They may be basing their opinions on rumors, or stories told by an uncle’s friend’s sister’s brother about how awful that one Montessori school was.
In some cases, they have actually studied Montessori or had a bad experience with a Montessori school. In the latter case, their objections are often based more on feeling than fact. But I think we need to be sensitive to the fact that their feelings are real, and that their experience with Montessori may indeed be quite different than our own has been.
Sometimes, other people feel defensive without us even saying anything. They may know deep in their hearts that Montessori (or homeschooling) would be more beneficial to their child, but they aren’t in a place to make it happen and so they feel guilty about it. In this case, we haven’t done anything to cause the feelings but we might contribute to them by our own attitudes.
We do come off as snobby sometimes, or give off the vibe that Montessori can’t be criticized. I’ve seen snobbery within Montessori as well; at schools, conferences, and between different branches of Montessori theory (AMI and AMS, but that’s a whole other column!)
One only needs to browse blogs for “Montessori” to find posts about it. One I read recently was by a person who had heard some negative things about Montessori, but when she tried to ask some Montessori friends about it, they dismissed her concerns. Rather than increase her faith in Montessori, it completely shut her off from even considering it as a legitimate educational method.
Personally, I’m going to try to be careful when I talk to others about Montessori. I want to make sure that I’m open to see Montessori objectively, to see its good points and its not-so-good ones. I want to see it from someone else’s perspective and remember that at one time, I had only vague (erroneous) ideas of what it was about. I want to take into account someone else’s upbringing, education, and experiences that might make Montessori look less appealing as an option.
I even want to be willing to admit (as I’ve addressed before) that Montessori may not be the best option for every child and every family. From now on, hopefully my attitude about Montessori will never be a stumbling block to others who are curious about it.