Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Why Anne Frank Montessori?


People sometimes ask me why I call my company Anne Frank Montessori. Let me explain the various reasons, from the superficial to the in-depth.

At a superficial level there is a simple connection; Anne Frank was a Dutch girl who attended a Montessori primary school in Amsterdam. I love Anne Frank, I am Dutch and I run Montessori nursery schools in Sussex.

My first nursery, in Horsham, started off in 1996 as Thea's Early Birds Montessori, a name that was difficult to spell, to say and to remember. In 2000 I set up a limited company and changed the name, simply, to Horsham Montessori Ltd. Six years later, when we opened our second nursery school in Southwater, that name was no longer appropriate, as Southwater has its own identity as a village community. We needed a new, non-geographical name that we could use in several places.

By that time I had found that Montessori school owners, myself included, don't tend to be very good at marketing their ethos and values. I also found that many people had heard of the Diary of Anne Frank, about war-time , but very few knew that she had attended a Montessori school. I felt that both Montessori and Anne Frank deserved to be better known.

We know Anne Frank as a child, from her diary that records her two years in hiding in , between the ages of 13 and 15. She was a passionate child and quite a willful teenager. Her parents and sister shared the cramped accommodation with another four people. What shines through from nearly every page of Anne's diary is her love of life, her yearning for freedom and her passionate desire to become a writer.

When the occupants were betrayed, arrested and deported in 1944, Anne's diary stayed behind. It was found by Miep Gies, their close family friend and, much later, published with the consent of the Frank family's sole survivor, Anne's father.

Anne's childhood dream of becoming a successful writer was realised, but only posthumously. Her diary was translated into more than sixty languages and inspired a play and several film versions. Her in is still a thriving school with some 900 pupils.

Anne Frank is a continuing inspiration to me for her optimism and her resilience. Instead of complaining about her lot she wrote:


“The Annex is an ideal place to hide in. It may be damp and lopsided, but there's probably not a more comfortable hiding place in all of Amsterdam . No, in all of Holland.”


She was determined to remain optimistic:

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Her ability to focus on a positive goal, to believe in a possible future, to enjoy doing her school homework and to keep writing throughout her time in hiding, I believe, was partly a result of her early Montessori schooling. She attended what is now called the 6th in from age . She shares her Montessori early years education with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. They said:

"We both went to Montessori school, and I think it was part of that training of not following rules and orders, being self- motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, and doing things a little bit different that contributed to our success."

I believe that is true and I believe that it is also true for Anne Frank. I accept that it cannot be proven, but it is my personal belief.

In my thirty-or-so years as a teacher I have not come across any methods or techniques that inspire me as much as Montessori, because the principle of 'Freedom with Respect,' honoured day after day in beautifully prepared Montessori environments, allows children to realise their full potential. Once children have learnt that they can do things at their own pace, that asking questions is a great gift and that thinking outside the box is a valuable skill, then nothing can stop them in realising whatever dream they cherish.

As Anne Frank wrote:

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"

If a child believes this, that child becomes a confident and motivated learner and, I believe, a power for good and a potential leader.

I finish with two quotes from Anne Frank:

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world."

"I don't want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop and to express all that's inside me!"

and from Maria Montessori:

“Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world”

“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child's spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendour during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”

It is my enduring privilege to lead a team of loving, caring, professional people who nurture each child's potential so that they blossom and thrive.


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