I have officially wrapped up the school year as a Montessori assistant teacher. It was a wonderful way for me to toe-dip into the world of the Montessorian while maintaining a casual work schedule. I will not be returning to the Montessori classroom next year (although never say never to the future). I am going back to my comfortable “home” of High School and counseling, BUT I will be taking plenty of Montessori with me when I leave!
- A Focus on Brain Development: Montessori was a doctor and ahead of her time in brain science. We now know that her theories around brain development were incredibly accurate as seen in brain scans. I want to be an advocate in all arenas of education for developmentally appropriate expectations in both behavior and academics. This is an area where regardless of if the school is traditional or Montessori or something else this can be applied and advocated for.
- From Teacher to Guide: There is a reason that authentic Montessorians call themselves guides versus teachers the student is the center of learning in the classroom not the teacher. I plan to take this guide mentality with me. Too often as a young first or second year teacher I treated my classroom like a one woman show, parading about and making sure the focus was constantly on me. I now know that any classroom I enter will look much different even in a traditional setting. I will ensure that I am a trusted resource and setter of limits, but it is the students’ show not mine.
- Discipline with Dignity: I have always tried my best to treat my students with respect and working in a Montessori environment has only grown that desire. Working with adolescents in particular it is our job as parents and educators to model proper adult conflict resolution. I also plan to continue to ensure that I use logical and natural consequences and encourage my school to do the same.
- Promoting Joy: Being a “life-long learner” or promoting a “love of learning” are education buzz words that are often attached to schools or initiatives that totally zap any joy for learning. I really appreciated my lead teacher’s focus and monitoring of the joy in our classroom this year. Whether or not the students are happy to be at school and happy in the classroom was a priority that I had honestly never seen before, as sad as that sounds. I, too, want my students to feel joy when they come to school and when learning and discovering. Joy is a developmental need for all people.
- Completing the Cycle: My last take-away is as a parent. I was happy to see what staying in a Montessori environment for an entire educational career could produce and knowing I want my children to continue in Montessori for their entire pre-college education. We had three students that had been in Montessori since PreK 3, that’s 10 years of Montessori experience by middle school! While I learned from all the students I taught this year, there was something about these three that struck me. It wasn’t their academic abilities, but rather an intangible quality of self-assurance. The much sought after “non-cognitive” skills of resiliency and grit that educators all over are goo-goo over right now, these students have it just by virtue of having been in the Montessori environment. I was describing my observation to the principal and she described it as “wholeness”. I thought that was a lovely description. The thought that the students leave school as whole beings really resonated with me.
These five things will stay with me forever and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have grown and developed as an educator.