When was Edgar Hetteen born this way

The pedagogue Maria Montessori was born 150 years ago

Maria Montessori has never made life easy for herself. She was the only child of the civil servant Alessandro Montessori and the landowner's daughter Renlide Montessori. She was born on August 31, 1870 and wanted to study medicine as a young woman.

Became the first woman in Italy to be a doctor

No Italian had dared to do this before her - medical school was a male domain - but she prevailed. Maria Montessori was the first woman in Italy to study medicine, albeit with certain conditions. So she was always the last to enter the lecture hall and in the anatomy department she was not allowed to look at, let alone touch, male corpses in the presence of her male fellow students.

Maria didn't care - she dissected the corpses alone at night. At the age of 26 she had completed her studies and also her doctorate. As the first woman doctor in Italy, she became a star of the women's movement before the turn of the century. She started her career in Rome, in psychiatry. There she should lay the foundation for her inner change away from medicine and towards education.

Neglected children in psychiatry

Maria Montessori later described her experience as an assistant doctor in psychiatry. The children with intellectual disabilities and learning difficulties were neglected: they played with breadcrumbs in an empty, sterile room after a meal.

Maria Montessori began to support the children by targeting the senses. In this way she was able to teach some children in psychiatry to read and write correctly in beautiful handwriting. For Maria Montessori it was already clear at that time: Playing with all the senses and with what we know today as "Montessori material" was so successful because the children's own actions best promote learning.

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Image rights: picture-alliance / akg

Maria Montessori was one of the most important reform pedagogues of her time.

Montessori pedagogy for healthy children too

After her station in psychiatry, the doctor Maria Montessori also focused on healthy children and their educational success. The nonsensical and mind-numbing everyday school life, as she described it, is also harmful for these children.

In 1907, the reform pedagogue opened a children's house to look after preschool children in a poor district of Rome, the "Casa dei Bambini". Here she made important experiences in order to sharpen her method and materials.

So she observed a girl who was completely absorbed in her game and did not even notice that she and her chair were being lifted up. Maria Montessori called the behavior: "polarization of attention", a strong concentration on an activity. At least as important, however, was that the child learned without a teacher.

Maria Montessori believed that one could "educate" oneself even in early childhood. From 1909 she also trained students from all over the world in her method.

Break during National Socialism

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Maria Montessori was in India with her son Mario. She only returned to Italy after the war in 1946, after having trained more than a thousand Indian teachers in Montessori pedagogy in the previous years. Numerous "Montessori schools" were founded while she was still alive.

Maria Montessori was 81 years old, she died shortly before her 82nd birthday on May 6, 1952 in the Netherlands.

Concept behind the schools

In Montessori schools, classes are still taught across all classes. The "free work" is one of the most important characteristics, every child can decide for themselves what they want to do a large part of the time in school. This goes hand in hand with the self-employment education, according to the motto: "Help me to do it myself". In Montessori schools there is also an abundance of materials that are intended to appeal to all the senses. The teachers have the task of accompanying and observing.

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Image rights: Tobias Kubald

"Help me to do it myself" is the motto of Maria Montessori, with which the reform pedagogue took care of children who others had already given up. On January 6, 1907, she founded her first school. Author: Prisca Straub