View the episode: Episode 46, Supporting Montessori Education for All – Part II – 7/14/15
Debbie Kelley, Elementary Director at The Montessori School of Englewood, sums up the answer to this question by naming the two essential elements, “They need the vision, but they also need to see how the practical is going to merge with that vision.” Too often one or the other is missing in the preparation and inservice support we provide for our new Montessori educators. Debbie was referring to new classroom leads, but I think this applies to administrators as well.
In a recent online discussion, an elementary class lead asked which single book to recommend for her assistant educator to read over the summer. Sharon Caldwell, Director for Curriculum and Faculty Development at The Montessori School of Tokyo, suggested Dr. Montessori’s book, From Childhood to Adolescence. Her comment explaining her recommendation points out why these aspects of preparing Montessori educators must go hand-in-hand, “I think it is important for the assistant to understand that Montessori is not about an ad hoc collection of materials and strategies but rather an integrated approach informed by a cohesive philosophy. That will help the assistant to understand that there are reasons why things are done the way they are done.”
Montessori schools are a fast growing segment of the charter school movement as well as the early childhood education community. More and more classes are being lead by adults spending their first year in a Montessori school and some are even given this responsibility with little or no formal Montessori training. How do we meet the challenge, as a Montessori community, of providing them with the support they need to succeed in guiding their students? The resources must be provided in many formats. According to Carla Hofland, American Montessori Society is in the process of creating an online forum specifically for public Montessori educators.
In one of our episodes, I discussed the need to address the unique needs of Montessori classrooms in transition. Anytime a class is less than 3 years old, is lead by adults with less than 3 years experience at that age level, or contains more than 50% students who started their Montessori education after age 3 or 4, we must recognize that additional support needs to be provided for that young community to thrive. We must find innovative ways to help our new Montessori educators succeed, especially in their first years in the classroom. The demand for Montessori educators is not going to slow down and wait for us to provide training within the traditional time frames that worked in the past.
This educational path is at odds with what most adults have come to believe about children and school. That disconnect must also be addressed directly as we support our new community members. They can’t be the “teachers” most of them know from their personal history. Dr. Montessori identified a huge hurdle educators new to this approach must overcome,
“A prejudice has found its way into the adult – the notion that the life of the child can be changed or improved only through teaching. This prejudice impedes the understanding of the fact that the child constructs himself, that he has a teacher within himself and that this inner teacher also follows a program and a technique of education, and that we adults by acknowledging this unknown teacher may enjoy the privilege and good fortune of becoming its assistants and faithful servants, by helping it with our co-operation*.”
This shift is nothing less than choosing to no longer be a “teacher” but to embrace a completely new relationship with the students in our classrooms. This is a great privilege, but it isn’t easy. We must find ways to help new Montessorians shrug off their old prejudices and embrace the unique role of guiding or mentoring children lead by their own inner teachers. Perhaps most importantly, we must do it in such a way that we honor the inner teacher inside each of these adults and provide training that is congruent with the Montessori edict of respect for all members of our community.
*Maria Montessori in The Formation of Man, p. 52