The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
Introduction of the Montessori Method Into Small Schools
Introduction of the Montessori Method Into Small Schools.
Though the Montessori method is, generally regarded as an Infant School method only, it is, in my opinion, applicable to children of any age, and it is perhaps in the small one-teacher schools of the State that it will find its most ready acceptance. In the one-teacher school the hardest problem the teacher has to face is the teaching of the little children of 5 or 6 years of age just entering school. In these schools the teacher must distribute his or her attention over the various sections from those just entering the school at 5 or 6 years of age to the advanced children of 13 or 14 or even older. The little new-comers are, under present conditions, and with the teacher who knows nothing of Kindergarten or Montessori, quite unable to help themselves, hence they must be left alone for some portions of the day with little, if any, useful employment. The Montessori system would alter all this. If rightly understood and used the task of both teacher and children would be made much easier and lighter, the time spent in learning to read and write would be shorter, the process rendered easier, and the children in the country would get the same systematic sense training and the same favourable start as those in the city.
The small school teacher is probably more ready to accept the Montessori principle of liberty and the Montessori method of individual teaching than his city brother. The city teacher has to free his or her mind from ideas of class teaching before any great progress can be made in the new work. The country teacher is already accustomed to individual work, and the country children already, in the higher classes at any rate, do a good deal of work for themselves. The Montessori method, if rightly introduced, will, I feel sure, prove to be the salvation of the small school teacher. One set of the material supplied to each of these schools would be sufficient and would not cost very much—probably not more than a total of £5,000 or so when the wholesale price is taken into consideration. In the subjects of reading and writing alone, I have no hesitation in saying that half the time now given to acquiring these subjects will be saved.page 34
While strongly recommending the introduction of the Montessori method into all schools I would add a word of warning. Unless the teacher thoroughly understands the principle and the method of applying it, the material might become dead and mechanical, and a danger instead of a help. The teacher must know when the child has outgrown the material and must not make the mistake of keeping the pupil at an exercise that he has already mastered. The same remark as to danger applies alike to all didactic material, whether Montessorian, Froebelian, or any other. No matter what the system, "the man behind the gun" is the force most to be reckoned with, but it will, 1 think, be admitted that "the man behind the gun" can do more with an up-to-date machine than he can with an old-fashioned blunderbuss.
But, however up-to-date the machine, the man must know how to handle it before effective work can be done. The introduction of Montessori material into schools will not result in the Montessori method being adopted unless teachers receive some instruction and guidance in the matter. Means should, therefore, be taken to supply this instruction and guidance, or the Montessori material may become as deadening and mechanical in its effect as was the Froebel material before the present system of Kindergarten was introduced into our schools in 1906.