A College Essay.......

by Matthew J. Helm on August 10th, 2011

Matthew J. Helm
November 23 2010

Influence of a Historical Figure: Maria Montessori

A quick look around my bedroom, four walls plastered with Spiderman comics, Harry Potter cutouts, and Lady Gaga posters, might suggest who my heroes are. That simply is not the case. Sure, super heroes and pop stars are great, but I like to think that true heroes are a lot more mundane, if not just as extraordinary. I am not referring to police officers or firemen either, however admirable their work may be. I am talking about the inspiration that everybody receives when growing up—teachers. After all, education is the tool that shapes each generation. In my own case I have one particular educator to thank for her influence on my life, Maria Montessori.
Born in the 1800s, Maria Montessori was a notable Italian philosopher and humanitarian, known today for her work in creating the Montessori Method of teaching. I was lucky enough to receive a Montessori education from pre-school through 6th grade. Aside from the basics—ABCs and 123s—my time at Montessori has left me with a set of invaluable life skills that are, six years later, still with me today. Above all, Montessori taught me to be independent, to love learning, and to be open minded.
One of the most important characteristics of Maria’s method is the concept of personal choice. The Montessori classroom is a prepared environment in which students have the ability to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. Every child moves at an individual pace. Students work alongside teachers on a first-name basis in order to find success in learning. This instilled in me a great sense of individuality. The Montessori Method breeds problem solving—children are encouraged to come to decisions on their own. This early influence on my childhood is why I am a leader, confident in my choices.
Concepts like, “learning is a chore”, or “reading is boring”, were foreign to me until I reached high school. Maria’s methods leave students with a thirst for knowledge. Students often find themselves encouraged to broaden their horizons. With no formal grading scale, students simply learn for the sake of learning, not so that they can avoid the consequences of failing a class. That’s not to say that teachers in the Montessori classroom overly nurture the class, far from it. Maria herself said to, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” She had a firm belief in “nurturing the absorbent mind”. Her teaching style brings forth a love for learning, as it did in my own case. I have the Montessori influence to thank for my adoration of knowledge and academics.
My Montessori education was quite the cultural experience as well. My 6th grade class alone consisted of Christians, atheists, Jews, Muslims, and Jehovah Witnesses. There were a total of eleven students, and our school rented from the Muslim Community Center. True to the Montessori mantra, every year our class would participate in a day of peace—celebrating the diversity the world has to offer. We studied a variety of different cultures, learning about the food, music, and religions of many countries. No point of view was left unaddressed in our studies, from the Big Bang Theory to creationism. Thus the transfer from my grade school to a Lutheran high school was a bit shocking—I was not initially accustomed to more sheltered points of view. However, I think my time at Montessori has helped me bring a certain degree of open-mindedness into every aspect of my life. Maria Montessori was correct in saying that, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.”
The Montessori Method fosters a love for independence, knowledge, and diversity in young children—producing visionaries. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of the internet giant Google, credit their time as Montessori students as a major factor in their success. They learned to be self-starters with the freedom to pursue their own interests. Julia Child, Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Jacqueline Kennedy, Alexander Graham Bell, and Yo Yo Ma are just a few more notable figures who commend Maria Montessori for making them the people they are today. I am proud to count myself amongst their number. Maria Montessori has inspired me to be the person I am today—an individual with a thirst for knowledge and an open mind.

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Carolyn Hadsell - September 20th, 2011 at 9:50 PM
I love seeing such a wonderful report! Thanks for posting!

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