Childhood Poverty: A Montessori Perspective

Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines left behind destruction and poverty that is nearly beyond comprehension to me. As I have absorbed the images from the opposite side of the planet I cannot help but think of the delicate dance we do each day to maintain our comfort, safety, and normal daily routines. It can all be wiped out instantly without warning. I know that I am so fortunate to have the level of comfort and security I have in my daily life. Many families live each day on the brink, even without oppressive factors such as major natural disasters.

In my travels to other countries I have become familiar with what poverty looks like on a global scale. When I see children living in these challenging circumstances, I cannot help but think about how critical education is to helping people rise up. In order to understand global education issues for my graduate course, I have connected with a woman named Sharon Caldwell. She is a Montessori educator, writer, and consultant living in South Africa. Ms. Caldwell is the African representative for the Montessori Foundation, based out of Sarasota, FL.

Sharon’s entire career has been spent working in various aspects of the Montessori community as well as in Montessori schools. Her work in India and South Africa both have provided her with the opportunity to encounter poverty in young children. Fortunately, she is also blessed to be in the position of witnessing how transformative a challenging, loving, and responsive learning environment can be for a child.

Photo by Nachiappan 1939

Dr. Maria Montessori experienced this as well. She opened her first school in a slum in Rome and saw children left to the dregs of society light up and become curious and independently driven. Upon being invited to set up a teacher training program in India, she encountered more children living in poverty. Her work in India proved to her that children everywhere are much more alike than they are different. She could see parallels between the respect and freedom to explore that she gave to the children and how much knowledge and responsibility they demonstrated. These children that society forgot blossomed when given a simple opportunity.

How much could we change the rate of global poverty if we made targeted efforts to bring excellent Montessori schools to impoverished communities throughout the world? I look forward to continuing to learn from Ms. Caldwell about her experiences as a Montessori educator on two different continents. I will share my lessons here.


~ by vegucationmama on November 16, 2013.

3 Responses to “Childhood Poverty: A Montessori Perspective”

  1. I really admire your dedication to the Montessori way of teaching. Incorporating it into everything that we’re learning about is not only interesting for your classmates but very beneficial for you since that is where your passion lies. What countries have you witnessed poverty in? I have seen it firsthand in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. It’s very heartbreaking to see children standing on the side of the road in only underwear asking for money.

    • Hi Cassie-
      I have encountered poverty in Jamaica, Egypt, and amongst the Roma children in Italy. I am always amazed at how hopeful, playful, and kind children living in poverty are. They remind me of the best that humanity has to offer.

  2. I think this is outstanding that you look at education in a total different aspect. Especially Montessori, I find it even more intriguing that you have had the privilege to experience poverty in so many different parts of the world WOW thankyou for sharing.

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