Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born in the town of Chiaravalle in Italy on August 31st, 1870. As a young girl, Maria started breaking the traditional barriers between males and females in education and later on between teacher and pupil and in the process redefined the role of each.

Her father Allessandro Montessori was a civil servant. Her mother was Renidle Stoppani, a woman who was unusually well educated for that time. When Maria was 3 years old, they went to Florence and when she was 12 years old, they went to Rome. She was influenced a lot in her out look to life by her grand father Antonio Stoppani. As a child Maria was self confident and strong willed and she had her mother's encouragement to break the stereotyped role of woman who where submissive and useless.

At the age of 13, in 1883 Maria entered a Technical school. At that time schools did not teach love of learning or how to think Independent. This was the time Maria wanted to become an engineer, but by the time that she left the institute, she wanted to become a doctor. It was very unusual for a woman to become a doctor in those days. With the help of the pope, Maria enrolled in the University of Rome in 1890. Her entry into the world of medicine shocked every one, but she was very determined. In her second year in medicine and surgery, she won a scholarship, but she had to under go a lot of hardship in the class because she was a woman. She was the first woman to graduate from a medical school in Italy.

After this she attended the congress and gave many speeches on women emancipation, (which was freedom for woman). Which was very well received. In 1896 she became a surgical assistant and in 1897, she became a voluntary assistant at the psychiatry clinic in the University of Rome. It was here that she came into contact with mentally retarded children and she started observing them. It was here that she discovered of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard and his disciple Edouard Seguin which gave a new direction to her thinking and set the future course of her entire life.

One of the roots of her thinking was their training of mentally retarded children and another was the idea of education of past educators. Among them was Froebel who started the first kindergarten school," A garden where children grow like flowers unfolding" Cesare hombrosis theory that to deal with crime, you have to study the criminal and not apply theories on him also had an effect on Montessori, Guisseppe Sergei, her teacher an anthropologist influenced her with his scientific investigation which she applied to the learning behaviour of children and which led her to conclude that the school was the environment in which the transformation of man would be affected.

Maria Montessori

Two years after graduating as a doctor, her work in medicine and anthropology, her experience working with the children and studying Seguin's work convinced her of the need for special school. Her speeches regarding setting up of these special schools were very well received in the countries she visited. When she returned to Italy, she had become a well known public figure.

In 1899, she became a lecturer in the teacher training college and by 1900 she became the director of a school to train teachers in the care and education of young children. It was here that she was able to experiment with the sensory teaching materials developed by Itard and Seguin. It was here that she became known as an educator too. It was here that she developed a set of teaching materials which came to be known as 'Montessori method and Montessori materials'.

In 1906 Maria was in put in charge of about 50 slum children and she named her school Casa-de-bambini (children's house). She tried her Montessori method on these normal children, was highly successful and set a path which the world appreciated and followed in later years.