Why Do We Teach?

Afbeelding voor Why Do We Teach?
In a world of competition, acceleration and racing for “a better position in the peloton”, the question about the role of education seems to be one of utmost importance. Should it be a tool that helps us become more effective, faster than others, more adaptable to the external conditions? Or perhaps, it may let younger generations pose questions about the sense and the organisation of reality? For the educators, the sense of teaching (rather than the how) must always be one of the central issues in their professional practices.

Maria Montessori, while pointing to “What a Montessori Teacher Needs to Be” [Montessori, 2007 (1946), 65 – 67] mentions that:

“The first step [of teacher transformation] is self-preparation of the imagination, for the Montessori teacher has to visualize a child who is not yet there, materially speaking, and must have faith in the child who will reveal himself through work” (Ibid., 65).

Thus, four aspects are essential in education: imagination, trust, faith and significant work. We need to imagine a child that is not yet there and we need to imagine the world that perhaps is not here yet either. On the other hand, we must be faithful that if a student dwells on a subject matter, study and work on it, they will reveal their good nature towards the others, the humanity, the world. In this way we offer children the practice that does not only change them but also they practice a different world – here and now.

In contemporary philosophy of education, there is an emerging concept of ‘thing-centred pedagogy’ (not a student- or teacher-centred) and ‘educational love for the world’. In their book titled Towards an Ontology of Teaching, Professors Joris Vlieghe and Piotr Zamojski, claim that:

“Education is not about the student, and her needs and interests. Neither is it about demanding youngsters to comply with the will of the teacher, and passively take in everything s/he professes and to store it in their minds. Instead, education is a meeting between two generations, between students and teachers, in view of passing-on and possible renewal of the world they both partake in. The dimension which defines them as students and teachers is the thing they study […]” (p.23).

As a Montessori community we seem to have accepted long ago a vision of education that is far from teacher-centred pedagogy. Actually, we talk a lot about following the child. Does it mean that a Montessori pedagogy is a child-centred education? But what would change if we thought in line with the Vlieghe & Zamojski and started to conceptualise and practice Montessori as a thing centred education?  And… perhaps instead of talking so much about the love for the child we focused more on the love for the world. Would it make a difference? These two authors later formulate another claim according to which:

“the proper logic of education is that that is driven by love, whereas politics is always steered by hate” (Ibid., 160).

While describing the concept of peace Maria Montessori states that:

“The prospect of true peace makes us turn our thoughts to the triumph of justice and love among men, to the building of better world where harmony reigns” (p. 23).

Peace is therefore something that can materialise itself not only in relations between people but can also be practiced through education, while working and studying a given subject matter. It is in an individually significant work on a ‘thing’ that the appreciation and interest in the world is constantly re-born, re-ignited and mastered.

Join us at our webinar on Wednesday 8 December at 18.00 (CET) when we discuss delve deeper into the discussion on ‘why we teach’. The discussion will be led by Professors Joris Vlieghe and Piotr Zamojski. Register here.


By Jaroslaw Jendza, Montessori Europe Board Member

and Chair, Montessori Europe Research Group



Montessori M. What a Montessori Teacher Needs to Be, [in:] Eadem, Education for a New World, Amsterdam 2007 [1946]

Montessori Maria, Education and Peace, Chennai [1949]

Vlieghe Joris, Zamojski Piotr, Towards an Ontology of Teaching. Thing-centred Pedagogy, Affirmation and Love for the World, Cham 2019