The Montessori approach has underlined the importance of introducing concepts at the right time, in the right way.

During the training of educators or workshops for parents, it may be done in a particular sequence with the assumption that adults know the concept and have to be shown only the way to offer these to the children, so that children are not ‘told’ but they discover the concept for themselves.

However, it has been found that adults may know or have an idea but do not truly understand the nature of many concepts across domains, even if they have studied the particular subject. . For example, they may have information of history or may know the formula in mathematics; can talk of geometry, but somehow, because of the focus of the way they learnt or were taught was flawed, the essence is lost. As a result, they can ‘teach’ children, they can ‘tell’ learners what they know, but to present the idea in a way that the child is able to discover is difficult for many. It is to be expected, as they were not exposed to the constructivist way of learning during their school days.

To enable adults to focus on the process of learning, rather than the content has been a struggle, more so with those who have done well in school and college and who feel they know things. The premium is on knowledge, on content, on themselves as ‘teachers’ rather than the focus being on the way of learning, allowing a learner to discover, and with a focus on the child. Though, the articulation may be in the appropriate language, their actions and way with children go along another path. The difficulty is compounded as they also feel they ‘know’ and have grown up believing that they are knowledgeable.

To illustrate, the presentation of activities around time, the basis for history studies (as the alphabet is to language and numerals are for mathematics) is a good example and a way for adults to shed their emphasis on giving knowledge, even if it’s in an interesting way; and move into the arena where only the path is shown and the child walks down to discover whatever s/he may find and creates first-hand knowledge and not handed down second-hand information.

The other critical idea of Montessori pedagogy is that the sequence of activities is offered in a psychological way, rather than in a seemingly logical way. This idea could be highlighted in the series of time presentations. If we were asked to give the pattern of teaching the idea of time, we may have started with a second and gone on from there in a linear fashion, to show a minute, an hour and so on; or started from a day and moved to a week, a month and ahead.  Refer any textbook, how it is taught, if given at all, outside of clock time.

When you refer to the index on time activities as offered at the elementary level and the manner in which it is presented, it starts with a minute, moves to a second; leaps to a day and then backwards to reading hours and minutes on a clock. The presentation sequence is based on where the child’s experience lays, what appeals to the child’s imagination and this interplay is continued throughout.

One can hear a child’s fascination with a minute, in his spoken language and that is something one can start with as a unit of time. A second is too fleeting, not enough breadth to be with it, to experience it. But presented along with a minute, it can be experienced as a minute part of a minute.

After this idea of a minute and a second, the sun is experienced daily and so day and night is within the child’s experience, so one moves to that, to connect to the natural world and to the essence of time. With the sun comes day and night and time. Without the sun, is there ‘time’? If it is darkness all the time, anything can be done at anytime; and the rhythm of the world may be entirely different?  Well! That is bordering on the philosophical and the physics of time. We could leave that to Einstein and for the children (and the educator) to discover as they run and walk through the activities we have opened up for them to experience, feel, connect, understand and reflect upon for theconcept of time.

Not what we try to din in, however beautifully it is packaged.

The process is the river one swims and wades in; knowledge is what the child, or the adult finds on the way…

Amukta Mahapatra
27 Oct 2020