It is always useful to know something about the person that is talking to you on a
subject that they profess to know something about. The following is a brief personal
Alan Evans - Born Bryn – Llanelli - 1964
• Disliked School and left unofficially at 13
• Worked on a series of youth opportunity schemes
• Joined the Princes Trust
• Worked in residential homes with children in care
• Worked in Maytree school for autistic children
• Worked in youth clubs after school clubs and I.T.
• Trained at St Nicholas Montessori Centre
• Worked in Romania with HIV infected children
• Worked at Holland Park Montessori School
• Worked at Hill House International School
• Trained at Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre
• Published The Phonic Farm reading scheme
• Trained with Snaps Cymru
• Worked independently screening for dyslexia
• Trained at West Wales School of the Arts
• Worked at Trinity College Learning Support
From 1994 to 1999 I worked at Hill House International School as a teacher for
children with Specific Learning Difficulties. I was responsible for the screening of
children within the school. Working individually and as part of a team, writing
reports for parents, teachers and other related agencies. Liaising with other agencies
to provide the best possible service for students with Sp. L. D. Establishing and
improving a support network for teachers, parents and students. Constructing and
implementing teaching programmes. I was also class teacher to 25 children.
From 1992 to 1994 I worked at Holland Park School House, Kensington, London
(http://www.hpps.co.uk). My role was as Teacher in Charge. Providing care and
education for 36 children aged between two and a half to 9 years old. Following The
Montessori Method of education. Responsible for the day-to-day running of the
school. Key worker role to individual children. Writing reports for parents and
schools and attending planning meetings
From 1990 to 1992 I worked for the Romanian Angel Appeal an aid worker.
Working as part of a multidisciplinary team established by the Director of The Royal
College of Nursing. Establishing a play and education programme in the institutions
of Romania. Responsible for introducing The Portage Method of Education into the
institutions. Assessing the needs of institutionalised children and adults with H.I.V. /
Aids. Establishing a community clinic providing care and education for families,
specifically targeting H.I.V. infected children and adults. Liaising with the Romanian
Ministry for Health and Education to implement training and education programmes
for teachers and nurses. Directly providing care and education for children within the
city hospital and orphanage. Training teachers within the institutions and liaising with
teacher training colleges. Giving public talks on the work of the organisation and
attending meetings with international aid teams of Non Governmental Organisations.
I returned to Wales in 1999 to start a family and try to gain employment in education
or social services. I became an Independent educational adviser for children and
adults. Screening and providing private tuition for children and adults with specific
learning difficulties – dyslexia. Training with Snaps Cymru, promoting partnerships
between schools and parents. Training with the dyslexia institute and establishing
dyslexia centre in Carmarthenshire. Liaising with service providers for dyslexia.
Campaigning for better provision and early identification of dyslexia. Working with
Community Action Network to provide computers for community groups involved
with adult literacy. In 2003 I enrolled on a BA Hons photography course. In 2006 I
was short listed for student photographer of the year by the Independent newspaper. I
worked as a visiting lecturer at Trinity College, Carmarthen giving lectures on
We all know something but we don’t know everything. I think it is useful to bear this
in mind each time you engage in conversation with anybody especially a child. In this
way, you become open to other people’s knowledge and especially that of the child.
A very wise old man who ran one of the most successful schools in Britain used to
stand on a stage every Wednesday morning. He would address about 2000 pupils and
500 parents. Parents were invited to assembly. At the end of an inspiring talk he
would always say, “We are all equal but different, equal but different”. He would
deliberately repeat this.
Colonel Henry Stuart Townsend (1951) had started the International school in
London after the Second World War. It became famous for the eccentricity of the
colonel and the uniform. Gold corduroy knickerbockers and brown tops. “Put a child
in a grey uniform and they develop grey minds” he said. There was no curriculum, no
educational theory. The teachers were simply asked to teach to the best of their
ability. The results were outstanding and the children went to Eaton and Harrow
amongst other schools.
I ended up at Hill House as a misfit. A drifter and gatherer of alternative ways of
working with children. I have worked with physically and mentally handicapped
children and adults. Children in care. Children in orphanages and in hospitals, youth
groups and after school clubs. I studied youth and community work and the
Montessori method The Hornsby dyslexia course and Portage method. I specialised
in dyslexia screening, assessment and tuition. I have written the phonic farm reading
scheme and other teaching books.
Observing the way in which children read developed the scheme. Taking the
structure of the English language and the most commonly used sight words. Level 1
uses CVC words and first few sight words. Level 2 uses CCVCC words and the next
level of sight words. Level 3 uses a combination of short vowel and long vowel
words and the next level of sight words. The images are meant to be representative of
a rural life and draw the child’s attention to the life of a farmer his wife and their
animals. The illustrations contain fine details of farm life and include the miniature
creatures, which form part of the eco system. The last whale charts the plight of the
whales on the planet before man to present day. Teach your child to read gives a
detailed guide on Montessori’s methods for language and the reading process. The
reading books were voted as best reading scheme in the London Parent Guide.
Who Can Teach?
Teaching is supposed to be a professional activity requiring long and complicated
training as well as official certification. The act of teaching is looked upon as a flow
of knowledge from a higher source to an empty vessel. The student’s role is one of
receiving information. The teacher’s role is one of sending it. There is a clear
distinction assumed between one who is supposed to know (and therefore not capable
of being wrong) and another younger person who is supposed not to know.
It is possible to think of in another way. As guiding and assisting. Within any
environment there will be people whom are capable of this. They can be parents,
grandparents or other children. How we interact with children in the early years has
fascinated educationalists, psychoanalysts and philosophers throughout history
throughout the world. The following are some articles I found which for me
exemplify how we should be approaching education this century.
Teaching Young Children Is A Creative Process. Early childhood teachers do not
need to follow a prescribed course of study, as might someone teaching adults a class
in biology or history. Nor can teachers simply react to what happens each day,
without any goals or plans in mind. Rather, early childhood teachers depend on a
curriculum framework that sets forth the program's philosophy, goals, and objectives
for children as well as guidelines for teaching that address all aspects of a child's
development: socio-emotional, cognitive, and physical. An early childhood
curriculum provides the framework for what actually happens in a planned
environment where children interact with materials, their peers, and adults. The
primary teaching goal is to help young children use the environment productively and
see themselves as capable learners — as individuals who are developing the skills
and understandings that will enable them to make sense of the world and to succeed
in it. (Trister & Colker, 1992)
"If children are excited, curious, resourceful, and confident about their ability to
figure things out and eager to exchange opinions with other adults and children, they
are bound to go on learning, particularly when they are out of the classroom and
throughout the rest of their lives” (Kamii, 1985).
"Within the perspective of 'development as long as development is possible' as our
long-range goal, I conceptualize the following three objectives for early education:
1 In relation to adults, we would like children to develop their autonomy through
secure relationships in which adult power is reduced as much as possible.
2 In relation to peers, we would like children to develop their ability to de-centre and
coordinate different points of view.
3 In relation to learning, we would like children to be alert, curious, critical, and
confident in their ability to figure things out and say what they honestly think. We
would also like them to have initiative; come up with interesting ideas, problems, and
questions; and put things into relationships" (Kamii & Devries, 1980).
"It is not the manipulation of objects in itself that is important for children's learning.
What is important is the mental action that is encouraged when children act on
objects themselves. Children's mental action can be enhanced or hindered by the
social context of the classroom. When the teacher holds all the power of decision
making [by correcting children's work on worksheets or preparing the art materials
to cut and paste], children become mentally passive because they are prevented from
taking a stand, exchanging points of view, and living with the consequences of their
own decisions. Young children cannot think very well when they sit silently. However,
movement, manipulation, and noise in themselves are not necessarily educational.
The teacher who stops using worksheets is taking a step in the right direction, but this
is only the first step. We must replace the worksheets with an environment that offers
ample opportunities for children to think as they manipulate objects”. (Williams &
Kamii studied under Jean Piaget on and off for 15 years to develop an early
childhood curriculum based on his theory. This work can be seen in Physical
Knowledge in Preschool Education (1978) and Group Games in Early Education
(1980), Many of the main theories of education around the world include the same
basic aims, principles and beliefs. They have been largely based on principles of
equality, justice, spirituality, social reform and technological advances.
Common Theories Within Early Years Education
•Educators Must Observe The Child
•Education Begins From Pre Birth
•All Children Have Potential
•Children Develop At Their Own Pace
•Children Are Connected To Family & Community
•Educators Are Partners & Guides
•Parents Are Partners & Should Be Involved At All Stages
•Education Is About Asking Questions & Independent Thinking
•Children Learn Through The Senses, Movement & According To Nature
•Freedom Comes Through Self Discipline Not Enforcement
•Concrete Materials Lead To Abstract Concepts
•Children Need To Interact With & Explore The Outdoors
•Learning Is Inseparable From Spiritual & Emotional Development
The majority of educational theorists have been male. A number of these males have
suffered some form of setbacks or emotional upsets in their lives. They have also
responded to social depravation following periods of war. Education has undergone a
number of changes. Some of these changes have been curriculum based. Others have
been changes in the law or in the area of testing and examinations. There are a great
number of different forms of education throughout the world. I have listed some of
the main educational theories and methods associated with them.
John Comenius: 1592 – 1670
Born Moravia, Czech Republic around the same time as
Galileo, Rembrandt and Milton. The age of reason.
Wrote more than 150 books on philosophy and
theology. In favour of formal education for women.
Holistic learning. Hugely influential on educational and
• Education From Birth
• Child Learns Through Senses
• Knowledge Or Learning, Spiritual & Emotional Development Were Inseparable
Who is there that does not always desire to see, hear, or handle something new? To
whom is it not a pleasure to go to some new place daily, to converse with someone, to
narrate something, or have some fresh experience?
In a word, the eyes, the ears, the sense of touch, the mind itself, are, in their search
for food, ever carried beyond themselves; for to an active nature nothing is so
intolerable as sloth. The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing
their heads with a mass of words, sentences, and ideas dragged together out of
various authors, but in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a
living stream may flow from their own minds, just as leaves, flowers, and fruit spring
from the bud on a tree.
Jean Jacques Rousseau: 1712 – 1778
Mother dies when he is born. Runs away at 16. Travelled and
taught music. At 22 meets a woman and has 5 children. Gives
them up to an orphanage and writes the book, Emile. Let Emile
run about barefoot all year round. Let him learn to perform
every exercise, which encourages every ability of the body.
Believed in freedom, equality and justice. Critics wrote that
Emile was responsible for provoking this obstinate, insolent, impudent, arrogant
• Self Reliance - Independence
• Equality -Freedom & Justice
• Freedom Of The Child
• Observation Of The Child - World
• Educated For Our Own Good Not A Corrupt Society
Johann Pestalozzi: 1746 – 1827
Possibly the starting point of modern education. Founded the Battersea training
centre in 1840. School for orphans in Stans following the French Revolution.
Security in the home was the foundation of happiness. The mother important in the
upbringing and influence of emotional experiences. All children had an equal right to
education. Children encouraged to observe concrete objects. Love, work and social
interaction were the foundations of development. www.pestalozziworld.com
• Child Learns According To Nature & Learns Through Senses
• Equal Rights
• Child Learns Through Observation
• Use Of Concrete Objects - Maths
• Children Grouped According To Ability
• Moveable Letters
• Close Links Between Home & School
Robert Owen: 1771 - 1858
Social change, equal rights, workplace nursery, art, music, geography,
Friedrich Froebel: 1782 - 1852
Firm views on play and its place in child development. It fostered
emotional well-being. Education vital to social reform.
Kindergartens opened. First person to articulate a theory of
education and put it into practice. Importance of the garden and
mutual respect. Self expression through play. Role of the mother
in education and play, mothers can teach too. Recruited women
at a time when teaching was seen as a man’s role. Possibly influenced by the death of
• Kindness & Respect
• Education Through Play
• Parental Involvement
• The Garden
• A Pupil Of Pestalozzi
• Moved Away From Curriculum
John Dewey: 1859 - 1952
Studies philosophy, psychology and educational theory. Dewey advocated teachers
having good general knowledge, knowing their children well, wanting to continue
learning and observing children planning from what they learn from them.
Children Learn Through Doing - Education Based On Real Life - Independence In
Thinking - According To Nature - Formation Of Social Life - Value And Culture Of
Family - Observation - Work Matches Age And Stage Of Development.
Margaret McMillan: 1860 - 1931
Alleviating poverty, health and well-being, spirituality, free movement and
experience according to nature.
Rudolf Steiner: 1861 - 1925
Philosopher, concerned with the human struggle for inner freedom. Believed that
children that have been pressured to succeed intellectually at too early an age often
lack the motivation to learn for themselves.
• Clarity Of Thought, Sensitivity Of Feeling & Strength Of Will
• Introduction To Print At 7 years
• Personal & Social Development
• Child Sets The Pace
• Songs, Stories, Poems
• Eurhythmy - Movement With Music & Language.
Maria Montessori: 1870 - 1952
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the University of Rome's
psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of children
and for several years wrote and spoke on their behalf. At age twenty-eight, she
became the director of a school for mentally-disabled children. After two years under
her guidance, these children, who formerly had been considered uneducable, took a
school examination along with normal children and passed successfully.
Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker. What was her response? If
mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal children, Dr.
Montessori wanted to study the potential of "normal" children. She went back to
school to study anthropology and psychology and finally, in 1907, was asked to take
charge of fifty children from the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum in the
city of Rome.
Susan Isaacs: 1885 - 1948
Free play; learn by doing, observation, and emotional wellbeing
Jean Piaget: 1896 – 1980
Piaget’s writings on the science of education are prolific. He has insisted that the
preschool child is given any opportunity for the development of sensory motor
functions “in the full sense of free manipulation”. He suggests that early years
teachers need specialized theoretical and practical courses of instruction in order to
help children learn through sensory motor manipulation. Ist stage drawn from
physical action, taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, etc 2nd stage taking objects in the
environment and using words to represent them. Logic rests on incomplete
knowledge. The trees make the wind, etc. 3rd stage, logical thoughts develops with
classification or categorisation of similar and different objects. 4th stage is orderly
thinking and mastery of logical thought.
• Sensorimotor Stage 0 to 2 years
• Preoperational Stage 2 to 6 years
• Concrete Operational Stage 7 to 11 years
• Formal Operations Stage 12 to adult
Lev Vygotsky: 1896 - 1934
Social interaction and language, observation, matching task to competence
Burrhus Skinner: 1904 – 1990
Nurture Versus Nature
John Bowlby: 1907 – 1990
Jerome Bruner: 1915
Children represent their ideas through play, building or painting, symbolically
Louis Malaguzzi: 1920 – 1964
All children have potential, connected to their family, want to receive and give, are
communicators, environment is third teacher, educators are partners and nurturers,
educators are researchers, documentation is important for communication, parents are
partners, education is about asking questions
Paulo Freire: 1921 – 1997
Social justice and equality, analyze daily lives, talking and exploring ideas, learning
with not from the teacher
High / Scope Approach
The child is at the centre of the wheel of learning. Everything outside of this centre
should support the child to be an active learner and be seen as playing an equal role.
High Scope Approach Developed To Serve Children At Risk Of School Failure In
Yspilanti, Michigan, USA. Now In Use In More Than 20 Countries Worldwide
"Through active learning — having direct and immediate experiences and deriving
meaning from those experiences through reflection — young children construct
knowledge that helps them make sense of their world.
The High/Scope preschool approach has encouraged children to develop initiative.
Through the daily plan-do-review process, children express their intentions, carry
them out, and then reflect on what they have done. As active learners, children
develop their own interests, generate ways to answer their questions, and share their
discoveries with others. Supported by adults who are genuinely interested in what
they say and do, children are able to construct their own understanding of the world
around them and gain a sense of control and personal satisfaction.
The High/Scope Curriculum works because it empowers children to follow through
on their interests purposefully and creatively. In the process, children develop
initiative, interest, curiosity, resourcefulness, independence, and responsibility —
habits of mind that will serve them well throughout their lives” (Weikart P. &
Hohmann M. 2002).
Margaret Donaldson: 1926
Thinking is concerned wit the here and now, thinking includes specific events
recalled from specific events, thinking involves considering how things are in the
world or the nature of things, two forms of construct include intellectual and doing as
well as value-sensing such as appreciating music or art, logic thought and spiritual
Howard Gardener: 1943
Multiple intelligence, linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical,
spatial – sense of space, naturalist.
Well being, belonging, contribution, communication, exploration.
Independence, self-esteem, the natural world, outdoors, Learn by doing.
Montessori In Romania
Nicolae Ceaucescu in his role as First Secretary of Romania banned contraception in
a bid to increase the population of pure-blooded Romanians and supply a labour force
for his vision of a highly industrialised nation In 1974 he became president, and by
the early 1980s the ban was clearly not working. This led to legislation enforcing all
women under 45 to have at least 5 children.
Life became unbearable for women with regular enforced
gynaecological examinations and Special Secret Police brought in
to check that no contraception was being used. With no child
benefit and little food for babies, many families were forced to
abandon children to the hospitals and orphanages. In excess of
10,000 unwanted children were left to be looked after by untrained
and inexperienced staff with totally inadequate resources. Ceaucescu's reign ended in
1989 with his trial and execution, leaving behind tremendous misery and a nation
with little to support itself as it ventured down the long road towards building a
democratic society. In 1990, more than 20,000 women were admitted to hospital in
Bucharest alone. Most had problems arising from illegal abortions during the
Ceaucescu period. In the same year there were over 600 babies with full-blown AIDS
Olivia Harrison, the wife of George Harrison wrote the following statement for the
Romanian Angel Appeal’s website.
In a country starved of the basic commodities of life, paralyzed by a political
climate of fear and corruption, thousands of children, abandoned at birth,
emerged into the world at the very bottom of the heap. Their birthright was not
a life, merely an existence. Resources were so depleted that in the worst cases
children were confined to their cots for years, kept alive on a diet of powdered
milk. All were deprived of that most essential form of human
In 1989 The Berlin wall fell. There was revolution In Romania.
Another crime against humanity was about to be exposed. The
media would show images of starving children sitting in filthy
conditions. It is my belief that the Western world was more
outraged because the children were white. We had been
witnessing terrible images from Africa for a number of years. Bob Geldof had
commented that we were becoming indifferent to such images. An album titled,
‘Nobody’s Child’ was released to raise funds. Supporters included, Elton John, Jeff
Lynne and Bryan Adams. Romania attracted the attention of a number of famous
people including, Mother Theresa and Michael Jackson. Both visited Bucharest to
lend their support.
Romania is a very poor country. The shops contained very little to
buy. When we went shopping, people would surround us and look at
what we were buying. Sometimes they would call members of their
family to come out and have a look at us. I was assaulted on a few
occasions. On one incident, a man held a knife to me and demanded
that I gave him the girls I was with. We did have a lot of Gypsies
trying to pick our pockets. We were not paid very much by Western standards. We
received $12 per month; it was a fortune in Romania. We also changed our dollars on
the black market. We more than trebled the pay every week. We did live a life of
luxury in comparison with our Romanian colleagues. We also liked to party and drink
I really believed that my efforts could help to change things for the better. Many
different organisations rush in to every disaster area. Some of them have a religious
base. Many of the people that we met were not suitable to work with the children and
Romanian staff. They made too many judgments too quickly. It made them feel better
if the children were dressed in Marks and Spencer clothes. The younger amongst the
group made an effort to make friends and learn the language. It was very useful and
opened up a number of doors. The others lived in fear and became a burden on us.
The journey to Romania and Constanta was interesting to
say the least. As we came into land at Bucharest airport, we
saw people planting vegetables at the side of the runways.
There were armed soldiers everywhere. We were hassled
by soldiers, gypsies and taxi drivers. The whole place seemed chaotic. The
infrastructure was very poor. Roads just disappeared into nowhere. There were huge
holes everywhere along the road. Public transport was old and decaying. The French
government did provide some aid and provided modern police cars and buses. It was
difficult for the average Romanian to get from A to B.
Having driven a few hundred miles on terrible roads, we arrived in Constanta. It is a
small city on the Black Sea coast. There is a seaport and University there. The city
was made up of old style villas, which had been dwarfed by enormous high-rise flats.
These structures were prone to collapse and infested with cockroaches. Water
supplies were infrequent and not drinkable. The government controlled heating and
electric. It was unreliable to say the least.
Our first home was in a series of rented apartments in the
middle of the city. It was a tram ride away from the
hospital. A number of locals became aware of our
presence and visited us more frequently than we would
have wished. We worked hard by day and played hard by night. We quickly fell into
the ex pat trap and went out boozing and dancing. It was a form of release from the
conditions we were in.
The chairman of the Royal College of Nursing and the Romanian Angel Appeal had
selected the team. We did not know each other otherwise. There were three nurses
and myself. We were taken to the Municipal hospital. The conditions there were too
much for me. I could not bear the smell or the conditions. Children were clearly
dying in their cots during the time we were there. The girls had more resolve and
literally began work, there and then. I was driven to the Post Cure area for children. It
was a small building on the other side of the city. The children here were HIV
positive but not in the later stages. They were in terrible condition and required an
enormous amount of work. I approached one of the rooms where a number of
children were banging their heads against the walls. I took out my harmonica and
began to play. A number of the children looked up and listened. The doctor grabbed
my arm and literally begged me to stay. The rest is history.
One of the main difficulties in working anywhere else in the world is an obvious
language problem. There were many weeks to come when I felt totally isolated in a
building full of people looking in a t me and jabbering in Romanian. Through a
determination to learn and primitive gestures, the communication began. I learned a
number of important Romanian words. I learned in parallel with the children. It was
important not to focus on teaching them English. It was comical to hear them learn
some English and Welsh words.
The most important words they required were, apa –
water, masa – food, toaletta – toilet, bolnav – sick,
etc. The Romanian staff always suffered hardships.
It was amazing that they could summon up the time
and energy to show an interest in what I was doing.
They could show amazing kindness. There was always one or two who could be
brutal. They too, had to be worked with not judged. I had good intentions of using the
Montessori Method within the establishment. Montessori requires that the child was
normalised and that there was a prepared environment. Neither of these existed. The
message Montessori had received from the children in the slums was ‘Help me do it
In hindsight, this was also the message I received from the children in the
orphanages. The majority of educational theories have been based on the observation
and study of groups of children. I was aware of this and determined to take the time
to observe not only the children, but also the culture and environment. Montessori
saw the environment as crucial in her theory. The teacher and environment were
responsive to the needs of the child. The teacher is an observer, a directress. The
didactic apparatus allows the child freedom to develop at their own pace in the areas
of sensory, motor and intellectual development. I took a number of Montessori
materials with me. These were to be used at a later stage.
During the time that I worked in Romania, I came under fire from my own staff team.
They thought that I was too detached and not actively involved enough. Observation
is something which can be misinterpreted as ‘doing nothing’. At one point I was
summoned home to explain my methods. I explained that the other team members
were too emotionally involved, working themselves to death and judging the
Romanians. I was asked to return and continue to guide the project in a direction,
which would see an effective handover to the Romanians.
Dr. Maria Montessori and The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the
University of Rome's psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori
developed an interest in the treatment of children and for
several years wrote and spoke on their behalf. At age twenty-
eight, she became the director of a school for mentally
disabled children. After two years under her guidance, these
children, who formerly had been considered uneducable, took a school examination
along with normal children and passed successfully. Educators called Dr. Montessori
a miracle worker. What was her response? If mentally disabled children could be
brought to the level of normal children, Dr. Montessori wanted to study the potential
of "normal" children. She went back to school to study anthropology and psychology
and finally, in 1907, was asked to take charge of fifty children from the dirty,
desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum in the city of Rome.
Multi-aged Grouping, based on Periods of Development: Children are grouped in
three or six-year spans and have the same teacher for this. The 3-Hour Work Period:
At every age, a minimum of one 3-hour work period per day, uninterrupted by
required attendance at group activities of any kind is required for the Montessori
method of education to produce the results for which it is famous.
The Human Tendencies: The practical application of the Montessori method is based
on human tendencies— to explore, move, share with a group, to be independent and
make decisions, create order, develop self-control, abstract ideas from experience,
use the creative imagination, work hard, repeat, concentrate, and perfect one's efforts.
The three stages of learning
(Stage 1) introduction to a concept by means of a lecture, lesson, something read in a
(Stage 2) processing the information, developing an understanding of the concept
through work, experimentation, and creation.
(Stage 3) "knowing", to possessing an understanding of, demonstrated by the ability
to pass a test with confidence, to teach another, or to express with ease.
Indirect Preparation: The steps of learning any concept are
analyzed by the adult and are systematically offered to the
child. A child is always learning something that is
indirectly preparing him to learn something else, making
education a joyful discovery instead of drudgery. The Prepared Environment: Since
the child learns to glean information from many sources, instead of being handed it
by the teacher, it is the role of the teacher to prepare and continue to adapt the
environment, to link the child to it through well-thought-out lessons, and to facilitate
the child's exploration and creativity.
Observation: Scientific observations of the child's
development are constantly carried out and recorded by the
teacher. These observations are made on the level of
concentration of each child, the introduction to and mastery
of each piece of material, the social development, physical health, etc. on.
Work Centers: The environment is arranged according to subject area, and children
are always free to move around the room, and to continue to work on a piece of
material with no time limit.
There are no text books, and seldom will two or more children be studying the same
thing at the same time. Children learn directly from the environment, and from other
children—rather than from the teacher. The teacher is trained to teach one child at a
time, with a few small groups and almost no lessons given to the whole class. She is
facile in the basic lessons of math, language, the arts and sciences, and in guiding a
child's research and exploration, capitalizing on interests and excitement about a
subject. Large groups occur only in the beginning of a new class, or in the beginning
of the school year, and are phased out as the children gain independence. The child is
scientifically observed, observations recorded and studied by the teacher. Children
learn from what they are studying individually, but also from the amazing variety of
work that is going on around them during the day.
Class Size: The most successful 3-6 or 6-12 classes are of 30-35 children to one
teacher, with one non teaching assistant, this number reached gradually over 1-3
years. This provides the most variety of personalities, learning styles, and work being
done at one time. This class size is possible because the children learn from each
other and stay with the same teacher for three to six years. .
Basic Lessons: A well-trained Montessori teacher spends a lot of time during training
practicing the many basic lessons with materials in all areas. She/he must pass
difficult written and oral exams on these lessons in order to be certified. She is
trained to recognize a child's readiness—according to age, ability, and interest—for a
specific lesson, and is prepared to guide individual progress. Although the teacher
plans lessons for each child for each day, she will bow to the interests of a child
following a passion.
Areas of Study Linked: All subjects are interwoven; history, art, music, math,
astronomy, biology, geology, physics, and chemistry are not isolated from each other
and a child studies them in any order he chooses, moving through all in a unique way
for each child. At any one time in a day all subjects—math, language, science,
history, geography, art, music, etc.—are being studied, at all levels.
Comparison Of Montessori And Traditional Pre-School Education
Three year age span All one age
Motivated by self development Teacher motivated
Self Correcting Teacher corrects
Learn by handling materials Teacher lectures
Individual learning Group learning
Teacher observes and directs Teacher is focal point
Child completes activities Frequent interruptions
Freedom of movement Assigned seats
Emphasis on cognitive learning Social development
Quiet by choice and regard Quiet enforced
Materials used for purpose Used for many things
Work for joy and discovery Work because told to
Environment provides discipline Teacher disciplines
Encouraged to help each other Seek help from teacher
Child chooses materials Teacher sets curriculum
Child sets pace Teacher sets pace
Child free to discover Teacher guides child
Emphasis on concrete Emphasis on abstract
Reality orientated Role play and fantasy
Specific place for materials Random placement
Child provides learning stimulus Teacher provides
Child centered environment Teacher centered environment
Self education didactic equipment Use of reward and punishment
Recognition of sensitive periods All children treated alike
Multisensory materials develop skills Play materials non specific skills
The Portage Method
Portage is named after the town of Portage in Wisconsin, USA. It was developed
there as a way of supporting parents in helping their children in their own homes. The
idea of taking the service to the family homes was tried there because in that rural
area parents found it difficult to get to centre-based services.
Portage supports families from the time that the additional needs are first apparent -
this can be soon after birth or at any time in the pre-school period. All Home Visitors
working in registered services must have completed a Portage Basic Workshop run
by a trainer accredited with the NPA.
Portage is a straightforward set of indexed cards covering all areas of development.
They can be implemented immediately. Each behaviour corresponds to an activity
card, which lists detailed suggestions for the teaching of the behaviour.
624 behaviours, which are divided into six areas of development.
1 Infant stimulation
2 Self help
The behaviours also relate to three areas
1 Current skills - activities which teach a known skill in a new situation, widen the
child’s use of that skill and stimulate its general use by the child
2 Emerging skills - activities designed in response to emerging skills, reinforce those
skills and bring them into more regular use.
3 Skills deficit - specific skill deficits require careful teaching because they represent
areas where the child has particular difficulty. Suggestions on the appropriate activity
cards need to be carefully modified to take into account activities and materials that
reinforce the child.
The Portage Early Education Programme also contains The Wessex Revised
Language Checklist. There is parental and teacher guidance at every stage. Record
sheets are used to document progress. This programme was extremely useful in the
institutions. My approach was to divide the children by age. Children occupied the
top floor 0 to 3 years. Children occupied the ground floor 3 years upwards.
All I had to do was observe behaviour and keep records. During the evening, I would
make some plans for improving the environment and implementing items marked as
skills deficits. We never dreamed that this simple method of observation and
recording would play an important part in the handover of the project.
Each day would include a selection of activities in each of the areas of development.
These were implemented in a casual way and observed. Records were updated at the
end of each day. They would be used to lobby the ministry of health and education.
The programme was also unofficially translated into Romanian.
We identified three rooms, which we wanted to use for the children. One was a
classroom and the other two were holding areas where the children could move
freely. The building had two floors. The ground floor housed the older children.
These were about two years of age upwards. The top floor housed the less able
children and the babies. Medicines Sans Frontiers had already done some work here.
World Vision had taken over the running of it.
After some negotiations, World vision agreed to work upstairs whilst we worked
We developed a routine of taking children out of the salons and into one of the three
rooms. We would only carry the ones that had no strength to crawl. We worked with
small groups or one to one. The children were place in the room and we used a
variety of items to stimulate their development. A ball for rolling, music or
instruments to listen to. blowing bubbles, etc. Most of the children continued to bang
their heads against the walls. Even when we moved them to the centre of the room,
they would go back and bang their heads.
We established set times for meals and toilet training
and the Doctor’s rounds. The general feeling amongst
the staff was that we had no hope. The children quickly
adapted and responded to the routine. The less able were
bottle-fed and we encouraged them to move toward their
food or sit up and feed. This new regime meant that the staff had less work. They did
not have to change so many cloth nappies.
We designated a communal area for the children to
eat. Tables and chairs were child sized. We
encouraged the children to wash themselves and
brush their teeth. Each brush had their name on it to
stop cross infection. The classroom was established
and gradually, our first pupils entered voluntarily. We used a combination of
Montessori materials and other equipment, which improved motor control,
coordination, self-help and language.
Within a year, we had a definite split in the ability levels of children. A number had
become independent. This left us free to focus on the less able. By now, the staff had
become involved and were using the more able children to help them.
Communication between them was good and the staff taught the children Romanian
songs and stories.
The obvious problem was always that we only had so many pairs of hands and
limited time. I had become interested in the Romanian education system out of
curiosity. I went to visit a kindergarten school and was impressed with it. The ratio
was 1 to 35. They also used Montessori and the ministry of education within schools
The questions I asked were
1. How would they feel having a HIV Positive child in their class?
2. How much did they know about HIV?
3. Would they like to know more?
4. Would they visit an institution?
5. Would they work in an institution?
The answers were all positive.
My second experience was to visit a teacher training college for pre school educators.
This was the centre for excellence in the city. I asked the same questions and the
answers were positive. I was asked to return and give a talk on HIV Aids. 60 students
and 6 professors attended it. They were interested in the methods we used with the
children and asked me back to talk about this.
35 students attended the talk along with 6 professors. Some students approached me
with a view to helping at the institution. The director of the college would not
approve. After a general meeting of doctors and educators in the city, I was asked to
give a talk on the work of the Romanian Angel Appeal. I was invited to talk at
several schools but by now, we had formed a panel of Romanian professionals whom
were responsible for promoting sex education and HIV – Aids awareness. Acet and
the Red Cross were interested in what I was doing and invited me to talk at the
training college for nurses. Some students were interested in contributing to Aids
education. Dr. Popescu became interested and wanted me to approach the Director of
Education to ask for educators within the institutions.
In my spare time, I managed to get the Portage Method translated into Romanian. We
were careful to make considerations for cultural and religious differences. I also
managed to get cards printed off by a friend I made at the local newspaper. With this
method and the offer of training for the students, we secured an agreement between
the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. Our first volunteer teachers and
nurses began to work at the hospital and post cure centre. We also established the
Sunflower clinic at the hospital. This acted as a screening and information centre. We
were also able to reunite children with their parents. Some children actually left for
home or went for weekend stays.
After almost two and a half years involved with the project, we
were able to hand over to another team. Their responsibility was
to tie up the loose ends and withdraw. The next shock was
arriving back in the U.K. and coming to terms with the way of
life. Some people were offered counselling on return. I chose not
to have any and sought peace in the mountains of Snowdonia. I
had always felt strongly about what was going on in the world. I wanted to go to
Africa with VSO. They would not accept me because I did not have any
qualifications. I also tried Oxfam and a few other agencies. It has become more
difficult to work abroad with Non Governmental Agencies.
As Romania progresses in the transition from Communism to democracy, the abilities
of the government will be increasingly challenged. The creation of a strategic plan on
the magnitude of the Government Strategy Concerning the Protection of the Child in
Difficulty is a solid beginning. The plan acknowledges the responsibility of the
government and the nation in correcting the transgressions of previous decades. The
incorporation of a strategic plan of this magnitude into the national agenda is a
positive step. It is a learning process, in which Romania has made many mistakes.
The growing openness and inclusiveness of the reform process, and the increasing
availability of government documents and data to average citizens, are encouraging
Essentially, the National Strategy for Child at Risk has little chance for success as a
stand along program. The enforcement and accountability standards are weak.
Combined with intensive reform efforts across the board, the potential for
improvement exists. Concerted effort by politicians, political reform and economic
development, growing civil society development and participation by non-state
actors, an increased desire for participation by citizens as decentralization brings
government closer to the people, and better accountability mechanisms are all
necessary ingredients for child welfare reform to succeed. But only with activity in
all of these areas will the effort have a chance at success. Realistically, three years is
not enough time to fully achieve the stated objectives. A concentrated effort, over a
longer span of time, can bring about substantial progress. With prodding by the
European Union, child welfare reform has become a priority for the Romanian
Government, which is the first step. Determined to proceed with integration,
believing the only future lies with Europe, Romania has a long road ahead.
Writing this piece and putting the Power Point together
has sparked some great memories. The ones you tend
to remember most are the good ones. Perhaps that is
how we all get through life’s tragedies. I have likened
the experience to that of Dr. Maria Montessori when
she entered the slums of San Lorenzo. I have read
almost every volume of her works and maintain that mankind could solve its
problems with Dr. Maria Montessori’s Methods.
The department of education does not recognize the Montessori Method of education
for use within mainstream schools. The teacher training covers a number of areas
which mainstream has washed over. Teachers are trained in the instruction of
teaching reading writing and spelling. They are required to demonstrate a complete
understanding of these processes. They are also required to make a set of didactic
materials for this purpose. The movement has continued to grow. It is still used in a
number of countries around the world as the main stay of primary education. It is also
the preferred choice of most private nurseries in the London area. Royal palaces
around the world employ governesses trained in the Montessori method.
In conclusion, one has to consider whether this educational method would be part of
mainstream if Maria Montessori had been a man. The Nazis hounded her out of
Europe. They considered her theories as dangerous and encompassing all, which they
opposed. The majority of learning materials available for multisensory learning today
stem from Montessori’s materials. We are only just scraping the surface of research
into embryonic development and child development. Many of her writings were seen
as flowery and too far from the norm of the male dominated theorists of the time.
Today we are reaping the benefits and witnessing the truth within her writings.
During a ceremony honouring this amazing lady, she addressed the audience and
said, “Look not at the outstretched finger but what it is pointing to, look at the child”.
For me, the words, which contain the essence of the method, are as follows,
I hear and I forget
I see and I remember
I do and I understand