What does it mean to be a Montessori teacher?
Montessori herself described the adult wishing to be a teacher of children as follows: “A teacher who would think that (s)he could prepare (her)himself for (her)his mission through study alone, would be mistaken. The first thing required of a teacher is that (s)he be rightly disposed for (her)his task”Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, p.149
So what does this mean?
Children are essentially born into this world ‘unfinished’. They are not yet able to use the full potential that they are born with. They cannot yet control their movements, cannot yet speak, are not yet able to forge social connections and are not yet capable of harnessing the potential of the brain and the intellect. They are born this way in order to be able to adapt to their time, their place and their culture in an ever changing world.
It is widely agreed that the first six years of a child’s life are the most important in laying the foundations of the child as the adult that s/he will one day become. It is therefore clear that the adult who wishes to embark on a course of study to become the teacher of a young child at such a crucial stage of development must be ‘rightly disposed for this task’.
Montessori envisaged this adult as being imbued with a scientific spirit of observation, which would enable her/him to study the awakening of the child’s physical, intellectual, linguistic, emotional and social life and act in accordance with it. The adult’s primary function therefore must be to observe the child and direct the child towards activities, which will help the child to mature along the lines of natural development.
How did Maria Montessori envisage the Teacher and Classroom?
Montessori saw the teacher as the one who manages and oversees the classroom in a way that allows the child to learn spontaneously. Many Montessori teachers today see their role as facilitators rather than teachers in the conventional sense of the word. They guide and help the children to access the classroom resources at a time when the child is ready for and interested in them. At this point the teacher becomes the link between the environment and its materials and the child. This link is understood to be an active one in terms of the preparation and accessibility of the classroom, but a passive one in terms of the conventional teaching role. Montessori saw the children and their spontaneous interest in the environment as the key to the learning process.
This manner of ‘teaching’ requires a change in the attitudes of the adults who work with young children. First and foremost it requires implicit trust in the child’s innate ability to know what is required in each stage of development, and also a trust of, and understanding in, the materials that are available to the child to support this development. The teacher must be confident in knowing that whatever is on offer in the classroom has a specific purpose that will benefit the child in some aspect of their development. It also requires an adult who will be able to help children settle into the environment, to show them how it works and what it has to offer before withdrawing when the child is able to access the activities on her/his own. This gives the children the opportunity to observe, explore and investigate the environment. The teacher at this stage does not abandon the child, but instead changes her/his approach to observing the child and offering assistance only as and when it is needed (requested by the child).
I am very interested in becoming a Montessori Teacher, what must I do?
Becoming a Montessori teacher is the start to a life-long learning journey for the adult. It allows us to constantly reflect; on the developing child, on her/his role in the future of human life on our planet, on a method of education that works in conjunction with the development of the human spirit and puts the child at the centre, and on ourselves and our actions.
For further information about the Montessori method and Montessori teacher training courses, please visit our website (www.montessorisa.co.za) or give Montessori Centre South Africa a call on +27 (0)87 805 9711.