There’s a misconception that life is perfect in Montessori education. Perfect classroom, perfect teachers, perfect children. But perfection in the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does.
Let’s separate the people from the environment for a moment. Are teachers perfect? No. Are children perfect? No. Are parents perfect? No. And that’s ok. Montessori doesn’t seek perfection of the human.
Is the environment perfect? Well, it strives to be.
The perfection of the environment, i.e. perfectly clean tables and chairs, perfect materials with no dings or scrapes, perfectly tidy and beautiful play areas, is an ideal that children come to depend on.
Children love consistency, and perfection plays a part in that. If a child uses the same paint brush for their first 6 months in the classroom, but one day they discover half of the wooden handle is broken off, this “imperfection” is startling to them. That’s why you’ll never find broken materials in the classroom. They are removed or replaced.
Perhaps the snack plates are in a different spot than yesterday. To an adult, this is no big deal. But for a child who is trying to understand their world and where everything fits in it, the feeling of confusion isn’t welcome. For this reason, perfection of the environment includes putting materials in the same place day after day.
In contrast, a child in this environment is never expected to be perfect. For example, there’s no “perfect” order to the day: Children get to organize their day however they’d like! No child is chastised for not building the Pink Tower perfectly the first time. Instead they get to try again a different day after one more presentation from their teacher. And there’s no perfect way to collaborate or problem solve, both key skills that children learn when working with one another.
Montessori may seem perfect from the outside, but it’s important to differentiate perfection in the environment and perfection in the person. A child will never be deemed imperfect, but rather is allowed the space and time to find who they truly are through a safe and consistent environment.
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