Maria Montessori, Italian educator and Italy's first female physician, was born on August 31, 1870.
The woman whose name has been forever inscribed in history, together with the three other educators who defined the way of pedagogical thinking of the twentieth century, had a difficult road to success and worldwide recognition.
The long story of her life began in a small town in Chiaravalle, Italy. Maria's parents were Alessandro and Reinilde Montessori. Her father was a civil servant and her mother came from the Stopani family, which had many scientists. From an early age, they contributed a lot to their daughter's education. This all happened at a time when the position of women in society was anything but simple. But perseverance became a central theme of Montessori's life, helping her conquer even the most unassailable fortresses.
During her school years, Maria didn't have a hard time studying. Her favorite subject was math. She did not part from it even in the theater, solving complex problems in the dark. Montessori decided to study at a technical school, which was considered unprecedented, because women were not allowed to go there. But the future scientist succeeded. It was the first victory over the educational system. Then she began studying at the medical university, where she could attend lectures only accompanied by her father, and she could enter the classroom only after the boys took all the seats. Throughout her studies, she was constantly mocked by her fellow students, but by that time Maria had already realized that she would fight the suppression of the student's personality.
"The louder you whistle, the higher I will go".
As a student, Maria worked part-time at a university clinic. There she turned her attention to children with developmental disabilities who were left on their own. It became the starting point of her career as a scientist; she comes to the conclusion that the child’s development requires an environment that brings the knowledge of the world, civilization development, and human achievements together. In the future, this approach, together with her perseverance, will lead Montessori to her coveted status as the first Italian woman physician.
Maria began to work as an assistant at the San Giovanni clinic, avidly studying books on pedagogy at the same time. The works of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and Édouard Séguin made a big impression, from these works she learned that if classes were conducted according to a special method, “out of a hundred idiots twenty-five become, in fact, normal people.”
The method actually worked: Montessori pupils passed the examinations of the Primary School under the Municipal Council in Rome better than normal children. It was a success. By decision of the government, the Orthophrenic School for training teachers in educating mentally disabled children, headed by Maria Montessori, was established.
But her educational and medical knowledge helped the woman in one more thing. On January 6, 1907, the first “Children's Home” opened its doors. It could be attended by neglected children with problems in upbringing and education. The House becomes Maria's life's work. Everything inside it literally “lives” by the postulates of its creator. The autodidactic environment, love, and respect for children reign here.
“The choice is guided by instinct, which is given by nature to lead everyone in their mental growth; the activity guided by instinct develops with greater energy and with the greatest enthusiasm, so that children perform work without any fatigue, which no teacher has ever dreamed of asking them to do.”
In 1922, Montessori was appointed a state inspector of schools, and seven years later, in 1929, together with her son, she founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), which is still active to this day.
“We have a problem – adults are at the center of civilization. If the authorities shift their gaze to children, to children's souls, we can create a peaceful world. Education is a weapon of peace.” Maria Montessori
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