We learn best in the context of colleagues, peers and equals…

Afbeelding voor We learn best in the context of colleagues, peers and equals…
"Human evolution is continuous because small children copy the older ones. The continuity of man is not a result of heredity but of imitation" (Montessori, M. The 1946 London Lectures, 2012: 147, Kindle Edition).

In his blog post, Playing Within the Context of Community, Teacher Tom reflects on the fact that “The evidence seems to be that we learn best in the context of colleagues, peers and equals, yet we persist in shaping our schools as hierarchies.”


Montessori herself talks often of the power of learning in social environments, and, like Teacher Tom, condones the “one-way educational method” often employed in schools, as

When adults interfere in this first stage of preparation for social life, they nearly always make mistakes. When children are “walking on the line” one of them may go in the opposite direction to all the others, and a collision seems inevitable. One’s impulse is to seize the child and turn him around. But he looks out very well for himself, and solves the difficulty – not always in the same fashion, but always satisfactorily. Such problems abound at every step, and it gives the children great pleasure to face them. They feel irritated if we intervene, and find a way if left to themselves. This is all social experience, and it provides constant practice in dealing suitably with situations that no teacher would be able to invent. The teacher, instead, usually intervenes, but her solution differs from that of the children and this disturbs the harmony of the group. Apart from exceptional cases, we ought to leave such problems to the children.

(Montessori, M. The Absorbent Mind, 2007:219, Kindle Edition)

In this article by Guidepost Montessori, the benefits of the multi-age classroom are explored in more detail.

In her book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, Alison Gopnik writes:

Here’s another way to think about caregiving that isn’t like work or school. Some evolutionary theorists think that music and dancing emerged as a way of promoting social relationships.30 You can’t simply make another person move in a particular way and call it dancing. Dancing involves a back-and-forth between the movements of one person and another—a fine coordination between what each person does. The back-and-forth of observation and imitation is more like that kind of expert coordination than like a form of goal-directed activity. Like dancing, it’s a form of love, not work.

(Gopnik, A. The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children, chapter 4, location 1668, Kindle Edition)


It’s undeniably true that it takes a village to raise a child, but it’s equally true that it takes a child to raise a village. When we finally understand this, we will be ready to build a truly healthy society.

Teacher Tom, It Takes a Child to Raise a Village