Montessori describes the ideal analysis of rhythm, notes, notation and other individual components of music that she proposes can be taught in our classrooms. And in our efforts to replicate the precise lessons we have been shown in teacher preparation programs and to move out of the children’s way as often as possible, we present these simple, focused music lessons, guiding children as they walk on the line or match tones of the bells. The precision is good. Don’t forget about the artistry.
Because here, look, Montessori also describes children having music in their hearts. Here, look, she describes them wanting to replicate tunes that have evoked emotion in them. Here, look, she remembers how they rested in the grass listening to their teacher play a song, how they linger ecstatically sharing the music with their guide. The precision is good. Don’t forget about the artistry.
It is the same across the content areas. As we are offering children the most precise, the most elegant and graceful introduction to the materials we can, we need to remember, too, that what we love comes through in our actions. The materials we love, we handle with more care. We linger over the books we want most to share with the children. We welcome children more eagerly when they share our whims. This is not to say that we should only present to the children the materials that we do love, but that we need to present all the materials with love.
There is a cleanliness to the Montessori materials, a simplicity of line, of neutral colors and unembellished precision. But remember the descriptions she offered of the little flowered dustpans available for sweeping, of the embroidered cloths for drying up? Simple, yes. Stagnant, no. The classrooms should be reminiscent of each other, but not identical. To offer children exactly the same lesson, in rooms that look exactly the same, is to nullify their uniqueness itself. Children are all different. Of course, then, they need little changes in the presentations, little brush strokes that make the artistry match the child, that reflect the authenticity of adults who love what they are doing, in the same way we want to model for children that they can love what they’re doing, too.
The materials provide the precision. The human connection, the compassion, the joy shared between teachers and children: that’s where you’ll find the artistry. Don’t forget about the artistry.
* A response to Chapter 21, “Introduction to Music” in The Discovery of the Child. M. Montessori