NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Back to results
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ785703
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1054-0040
Gender Play and Good Governance
Powell, Mark
Montessori Life: A Publication of the American Montessori Society, v20 n1 p26-29 2008
Like good government, thoughtful care of children requires those in power, whether teachers or parents, to recognize when it is appropriate for them to step back from day-to-day decision-making while still working behind the scenes to ensure an organizational structure that supports the independence and equitable development of those they serve. The research of Barrie Thorne and others into the school lives of elementary age children suggests that when classrooms are formed on the basis of narrow age groupings, children tend to further separate themselves into even more homogeneous groupings, first by gender and then, if at all further, by race or ethnicity. The homogeneity of traditional classroom groups is very different from the natural diversity by age and gender of extended family and neighborhood playgroups. The Montessori classroom is organized in a way that naturally promotes cooperation rather than competition, and the appreciation of diversity and difference rather than a heightened interest in homogeneity (Powell, 2001). But it does not automatically ensure these outcomes. In a Montessori classroom, children generally live in the same room with some of their peers for a year, others for 2 years, and those closest in age for 3 or perhaps even 4 years. And having been with their closest peers for up to three years, Montessori children are more likely to feel safe enough to take risks, make mistakes, and share parts of themselves that would, in a more traditional setting, probably go unnoticed or be left at home. Casual cross-gender conversations and cooperation in learning, as well as cross-gender friendships, are commonplace in the many Montessori classrooms. Montessori children also bring with them an unpredictable swirl of influences from outside their classrooms, which they continually rehearse on one another. Media, literature, neighbors, older siblings and other relatives, and child or adult acquaintances sometimes reinforce and sometimes contradict the influences of the Montessori classroom as they are soaked up by the undiscriminating and thirsty sponge that is the 6-to-9-year-old's social mind. As Maria Montessori understood so long ago, it is one of the developmental necessities of the 6-to- 9-year-old child to try to figure out the "rules" of their classroom's social order, whether the adults around them are part of this discussion or not. Thus, teachers should offer closeness to boys as well as to girls, and physical and academic challenge to girls as well as to boys. Never let gender used as a means for separating or excluding go without comment. Sometimes the effects of such unplanned, student-driven lessons can be more important to the psyches of children than the ones they have rehearsed.
American Montessori Society. 281 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010-6102. Tel: 212-358-1250; Fax: 212-358-1256; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A