Montessori lived from 1870-1952 in Italy. She attended medical school and overcame many gender barriers to become the first female physician in Italy. Through her work as a physician, Montessori came into contact with many patients who were intellectually disabled. At the time in which she was alive, these children were seen as having no potential in life by most people. But not Maria Montessori. She was able to reach out to these students in a way that no one ever thought would be possible. In 1908 she opened up a school called the “Casa dei Bambini”. It was located in a not-so-good part of Rome, Italy.
Montessori had a much different view on education than many of the other well known educational philosophers of her time. She believed in an extremely limited role of the teacher. She believed that if children were given the proper environment, they could excel without much interaction with a teacher at all. She did not believe that a teacher played a large role in the education of children, but rather that children prefer to work and play on their own without the dictation of the teacher.
The curriculum in Montessori’s first school was extremely diverse. One of the aspects of the curriculum was that it included practical skills such as setting the table, getting dressed, and basic manners. The curriculum at the school also included the basic educational skills of reading, writing and math. Students were also educated in motor skills and intellectual skills. What made Montessori’s school so different from other skills was the fact that personal attention was given to each student rather than just addressing the class as a whole.
Although Montessori originally worked with students with special needs, her curriculum also works very well with early childhood aged children. Across the United States there are still many Montessori schools in function today. These schools address the fact that much of what students learn is discovered on their own if they are put in a carefully thought out environment.