Watching a Montessori classroom may feel like a window into quiet chaos for some parents. When independent activities are going on simultaneously and children are engaging throughout an entire room, most adults can’t believe that the instructors are actually in control of the situation. But, a closer investigation reveals that Montessori teachers are some of the most dedicated and strongest educators we have today.
Starting with the most basic requirements, Montessori educators are usually far ahead of their peers in public education. Most Montessori teachers have an undergraduate degree of some kind, usually in Early Childhood Education or development. Our teachers meet the standards for AMS-affiliated programs and have all completed undergraduate work. The training they undergo rivals other rigorous graduate programs. The call to follow the Montessori Method is not something clearly heard by all. It takes exceptional dedication, care, and intuition. Montessori instruction is guided by changing the dynamic between the pupil and the instructor. The goal of a Montessori teacher is not to simply explain something to a child. Our teachers want to show children how to learn, not just what to learn. This is no easy task.
Montessori instructors are consummate observers. Whether actively providing instruction or not, the teacher is constantly reviewing, evaluating, and assessing each student in her class as a complete individual. If a child struggles with letters one day, instead of marking it down as a negative grade, a Montessori instructor will look deeper. Where is their attention level? Are they having trouble with the activity or the fundamental concept behind it? Do they seem different from their usual demeanor—grumpy, sleepy, or impatient? All of these are factors that can possibly contribute to what other instructors would consider a failure to comprehend. A Montessori teacher is more likely to sit down with the child and provide gentle guidance through the same activity—or suggest a new one to help the child understand the same concept.
This dovetails into the second role of a Montessori instructor-a “Creative Facilitator.” Once the teacher has been able to observe a child in action, they start looking for ways to create a better educational experience for that child. We are all unique and in the same way that we don’t all enjoy the same foods or movies, not all children will learn from the exact same lesson. Temple Grandin, education expert and advocate, says “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” Montessori instructors live and die by this philosophy. Our teachers work tirelessly to find ways to emphasize a child’s strengths in teaching and to downplay the things that would make them “less” by traditional education standards.
They’re more than just instructors. All of them take their task as guides of growing minds seriously. They strive to mentor. The relationship that a Montessori instructor can develop with a student is a deeply special connection that can foster a lifelong love of learning and self-esteem in the child. Montessori instructors must be patient, caring, creative, and always on point. It’s a challenging, difficult, and demanding career. Those who succeed are spectacular and compassionate teachers who leave impressions on every child they teach.