172 THE MONTESSORI METHOD
Here instead it is the work of the child, the auto-correction, the auto-education which acts, for the teacher must not interfere in the slightest way. No teacher can furnish the child with the agility which he acquires through gymnastic exercises: it is necessary that the pupil perfect himself through his own efforts. It is very much the same with the education of the senses.
It might be said that the same thing is true of every form of education; a man is not what he is because of the teachers he has had, but because of what he has done.
One of the difficulties of putting this method into practice with teachers of the old school, lies in the difficulty of preventing them from intervening when the little child remains for some time puzzled before some error, and with his eyebrows drawn together and his lips puckered, makes repeated efforts to correct himself. When they see this, the old-time teachers are seized with pity, and long, with an almost irresistible force, to help the child. When we prevent this intervention, they burst into words of compassion for the little scholar, but he soon shows in his smiling face the joy of having surmounted an obstacle.
Normal children repeat such exercises many times. This repetition varies according to the individual. Some children after having completed the exercise live or six times are tired of it. Others will remove and replace the pieces at least twenty times, with an expression of evident interest. Once, after I had watched a little one of four years repeat this exercise sixteen times, I had the other children sing in order to distract her, but she continued unmoved to take out the cylinders, mix them up and put them back in their places.
An intelligent teacher ought to be able to make most interesting individual psychological observations, and, to