Posted in Who was Montessori

But She Persisted…

eyes

Ok, so that quote sounds a little creepy and ominous, but it made me consider current times and what the future holds for us.

Will all these things that we are fighting for matter? Will we learn from our mistakes? Do we actually need prayers from those future people? (gulp)

As Montessori Blogger, I often ask myself why I feel compelled to discuss societal issues. I mean, couldn’t I just be safe and talk about the Pink Tower and Stamp Game?!? Deep in my soul, however, I know that telling you about the Materials and Lessons doesn’t really matter unless we discuss why education is so important in the first place.

So, I’ll pick up a thread from June of last year……

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The famous sign outside the Rijksmuseum

This past summer I had the pleasure of visiting Amsterdam, final resting place of Maria Montessori and home of Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), the organization that maintains Montessori’s education and legacy. (Woot, Woot! My school just received its AMI certification last week! We are official, y’all!)

Let’s just say Amsterdam was not was I was expecting at all. (Where was all that illicit activity?!? LOL ) Other than the gazillions of aggressive bicycles, which will hit you if you don’t watch out, I found the city to be very charming. I felt completely at home.

bicycles
This is only a fraction of them!

While trying lessen my American-induced ignorance, I had only one must-see while I was there: the Anne Frank House.

While I am not sure what I was expecting the house to look like, it looked nothing like I expected. In fact nothing in Germany or Amsterdam looked like I expected. I guess I was imagining the old black and white WW2 era photos/film reels I saw in history class. And while I wouldn’t categorize myself as uninformed (I mean, I have visited European countries before.), I would say that I felt like I was largely uninformed.

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The Anne Frank Museum

Upon entering the house, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it. As we all know, the history is intense. And I was fine until it happened. I looked at a photo on the wall and I didn’t think I could continue.

I can’t explain it but something about these men, dressed in their fedoras, three-piece suits and topcoats, kneeling on the sidewalk with their hands in the air and guns pointed at their heads, hit me. I was pulled in to the scene like I was witnessing it first hand. It was sickening.

I decided, though, to persist through my fear. And I was glad I did. At the very end, I saw something that was completely unexpected (again!!), a room dedicated to Anne’s life before the Annex. (I recently discovered that this was only a temporary exhibit. I showed up at just the right time 🙂 )

One of the biggest takeaways for me here was that Anne was a Montessori child.

On the wall, I examined an enormous photo of her Primary class from the early 1930s  (Images are copyright protected so check it out here.). I stared into the eyes of each child and felt the tears well up. Maybe it was seeing the child sitting on the mat working with the Moveable Alphabet; maybe the two children working with the Red Rods. All at once, I realized that this familiar scene could have been MY classroom at MY school.

Then I heard these children calling to me across time. But what were they saying?

I took a moment to listen.

Like my classroom, I saw the enormous potential in their sweet faces. They could become anything!!! But unlike my students, the future of some of these children would not be so sweet. It was absolutely heart breaking, looking into the eyes of a 6 year old Anne Frank, knowing the horror these children would face in just a few short years.

In this moment, it became clear to me: These children were telling me not to let them be forgotten. This reaffirmed my commitment to my path.

So I am here. Examining where I would hope things are not headed for us.

And to do that, I continue unfolding Montessori’s story for you…. Jewish students were eventually forbidden from the school in Amsterdam and then it was closed down. Finally, all schools deemed contrary to the State were shut down. In the process, Maria’s books were burned and her effigy was thrown into the flames. As a result, she left everything behind and escaped to India. Unfortunately, the Montessori Method floundered in Europe.

But she persisted.

In 1946, after WW2 ended, Maria returned. Though everyone had forgotten about Montessori, she set about rebuilding her school. She knew education was that important. And after a number of decades, Europe finally made it through that incredibly dark time. Many countries have taken the stance that they will never forget what happened.

Now, however, we are poised in a very similar place. Knowing what we know, we need to think beyond today and consider the fact that it is possible to repeat this same scenario, only 80 years later.

And finally, take a moment to remember the children. Let’s give them the opportunity to thrive. Then they will actually be thanking you from the future.

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(all photos and graphics are my own)