Big Work: Goodness, Vocation, and Engagement in the Montessori Method



This article examines the origins, uses, and effects of the rhetorical construct of “work” in the Montessori method. Grounded in analysis of classroom interactions in a Montessori primary (3–6-year-olds) classroom, I argue that Montessori's conception of work substantially revises prevailing assumptions about the nature of childhood, the roles of teachers, and the purpose of schooling. In this way, Montessori rhetoric and practice serve as an existence proof of an alternative educational worldview. This close look at how an alternative rhetoric is constructed in and around the practice of Montessori education sheds new light on both the specifics of the Montessori worldview and, more generally, the ways in which reform rhetoric shapes perceptions, reifies assumptions, and choreographs the policy and practice of educational reform.