The Montessori environment

“The teacher’s first duty is to watch over the environment, and this takes precedence over all the rest. Its influence is indirect, but unless it is well done there will be no effective and permanent results of any kind, physical, intellectual or spiritual.” –Maria Montessori

we are doing a little construction this summer

It is hard to believe that the empty, beat up classroom you see above will soon be a rich, beautiful, thriving environment for children. This summer we have done some work on our building, first removing asbestos from the 1970 construction, then replacing ceilings and lighting. We wanted to do a lot more but time and money didn’t allow it, so much of the renovation will wait until next summer.

The environment is critical to the work of the Montessori classroom. I remember early in my Montessori experience, a beloved trainer pointed out something so simple but something we often forget to consider; the environment affects the child’s behavior. If a child is misbehaving, we look to the environment first to address the behavior. The example she gave was that if a child is running in the classroom, the adult has some choices; you can tell him over and over and over again to stop running, you can raise the level of punishment involved with running, you can call his parents about the running, you can send him out of the room because of the running…or, you can put a shelf in the middle of the room that would make the running stop. The environment shapes the experience.

So much of a teacher’s training is about preparing the environment. So much of his or her work in the classroom is attending to the environment. The environment calls the child to a deeper level of concentration and love for learning, the environment presents choices to the child that elicit curiosity and intrigue.

This summer I have known first hand the loss of an ordered environment, having been moving among borrowed offices off campus while the construction work went on in our building. I am eager to return to the environment I left in June, to work with the people I trust and respect, as we prepare for a new year with the children who will shape our world.

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Explore posts in the same categories: elementary education, Montessori, Montessori Method

3 Comments on “The Montessori environment”

  1. Alicia Says:

    I love the insight about putting the shelf in the middle of the classroom to put a damper on the running. I like the vivid example of how environment shapes behavior. So now I’ve got to do some detective work to figure out what about my home environment to change to stop the quarreling among the siblings.

  2. dwdriscoll Says:

    Alicia, if your detective work reveals new secrets about the sibling quarreling, be sure to let me know (and we’ll patent it and both make a fortune). In the meantime, your environment is as it should be at this stage: frenetic, energetic, life-filled, and rich in hope and promise.

  3. Alicia Says:

    Thanks for the encouragement! That alone gives me energy to move forward through the chaos.


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