Why I Became a Montessori Teacher

          In the early years of high school I knew that I wanted to work in education. During my day to day I would tell anyone who'd listen how vital I believed the role of the educator was to the world. Literally influencing and sculpting the future of tomorrow, I couldn't envision working in a career more valuable! After college my first position in education was an assistant teacher in a regular education PreK program. I was excited to meet the kids and ready to get the semester going. I very quickly fell in love with the age range. They were highly inquisitive, fearless and full of excitement. Through personal research I found the two and a half to 5 year old age range was a huge period for their growth and development. My new goal became obtaining a teacher certification for PreK! I was definitely on the right track, but very soon I would be turning in a slightly different direction.

 At the beginning of our spring semester, my lead teacher  mentioned to me an add for a Montessori school (Suzuki) looking for assistant teachers. I wondered "What does Montessori mean?" Having no knowledge of it prior to this, I did some research and immediately became interested in this approach to learning. I applied for the position and set up an informational tour of the facilities. I was in love! The environment, materials, the subjects and concepts they were being introduced to blew my mind. I was so compelled to learn and see more. Thankfully I was given that opportunity and offered the position!

Now with an even closer look at the kids in action inside of a Montessori room, I had no doubt in my mind what my goal would be: to become a Montessori guide. The way the children gravitated to the lessons, intrinsically created a love for learning, nature, and each other truly inspired me to gain my certification. I applied, was accepted into an MTEI training cohort, and the rest as they say is history. I can honestly say that I've learned so much from my Montessorian experiences and am continuing to learn everyday. I have grown, not just as a guide but as a human being. My journey continues to astonish, and I am very excited to see where the path takes me next!

Can You “Montessori” That?: How to Take Every Day Activities and Make Them “Montessori”

Bath Time

As teachers we enjoy supporting our parents and giving them great advice to carry the Montessori method into the home.  Many parents would like to partner with us and mirror our approach at school, but don’t know how! Here are some tips you could share with parents to help make the bath-time routine a little smoother, a lot more Montessori, and help feed every child’s budding sense of independence and confidence. Let’s help spread peaceful parenting one family at a time. 

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Create a Visual Schedule

When you’re a toddler there are many things that are out of your control. You can help involve a child in the process by talking with them beforehand about their nightly routine. 

“What do we need to do before we go to bed?” Come up with a list of things: bath time, brush teeth, read books, etc. As they come with ideas, parents may place a picture or draw together a picture of the activity on a piece of paper or board. Children like to know what’s coming before it does (so they have time to process.) A visual schedule can also help a lot with this need! 

Prepare the Environment for Independence

Invite the child to turn on the bath with guidance, helping to check the temperature of the water and talking about which side makes it hotter and which side makes it cooler, allowing them to turn the knobs some.

Prepare the bath with tiny soaps rather than large bottles that can get messy quickly. Hotel soaps are usually the perfect size for little hands! 

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Use tiny travel size bottles with just the right amount of shampoo or conditioner. Show your child how to squeeze it into their hands first and rub into their hair. Then let them have a try! 

Hang low hooks in the bathroom so your child is able to retrieve and hang their own towel. 

When it comes time to brush teeth, provide a low stool for the child so they can get up to the sink and mirror on their own. Place the toothbrush close enough so they are able to reach it independently. A toothbrush timer will let your child know how long to brush for before it’s your turn to help! Travel size toothpaste helps ensure they are able to get some paste onto the toothbrush independently creating less of a mess. 

Parents may feel like letting their child take over some of the nighttime routine slows down the process. It’s important we communicate that when we allow children to practice doing things themselves we empower them. When we jump in to do it for them, we unintentionally send the message that we do it better than them. Either we spend time guiding them how to do things themselves now, or we spend more time later on doing it for them.  Either way, we spend the time. 



Establishing Lasting Peace is the Work of Education


The title of this article comes from a quote by Maria Montessori, a true visionary who saw her work with children as directly impacting the future of the world at large. And it’s true; the children of our world will inevitably grow up to be adults responsible for the stability of our society, and how we choose to educate them directly influences how they will one day govern their responsibilities. 

Despite how innate our conflict resolution skills may feel to us as adults, these are skills that are cultivated from a very early age as we learn how to cope with one another, how to resolve disagreements, and how to compromise. As we mature in our ability to resolve conflict, we also learn how to be empathetic, compassionate, and tolerant of one another. But these skills must be practiced before we are able to intuitively navigate social conflict.

As an adult in a Montessori environment, you are constantly modeling how to handle stress and conflict with others to your students. Children are especially attuned to what we exhibit in natural, organic circumstances, as opposed to how we behave during a prepared lesson or interaction. This is often the first cue that children receive in how to handle their own instances of conflict.

Maria Montessori knew that young children would need physical, concrete tools, just like the materials they use for learning math and language skills, for conflict resolution skills as well. So the same care and preparation we put into our classroom environment, we extend to our focus on peace education, designating an area of the classroom that inspires ideas of peace and contains concrete tools such as a peace rose or peace stick. This object can be held in the child’s hands in order to facilitate turn taking in speaking to one another about a disagreement.

The Montessori classroom is designed to be an independently functioning community. It is not by accident that its structure mimics on a small scale the operations of a larger, adult community. This is to allow children the opportunity to practice scenarios they will inevitably face as adults, in a supportive setting.  Montessori children learn very quickly the actions they take impact others and there is a certain grace and courtesy that must be maintained to keep a harmonious balance within the community.

Having well developed “rights” of the classroom that are clear and consistent is another important aspect of peace education. Montessori children are often invited to participate in the creation of these rights, helping them take ownership and responsibility for making sure they are maintained. Some examples might include:

Everyone has a right to his or her own space.

Everyone has a right to work undisturbed.

Everyone has a right to work with beautiful materials.

Where there are two or more people, eventual conflict is inevitable. We must give our children the space and the tools to navigate conflict clearly, respectfully, and peacefully. The more they experience success with this approach, the more they will grow in their ability to utilize peaceful solutions to resolve disagreement, and this understanding of peace will extend far beyond the classroom, on into their roles as adult leaders in the community. 

Think of peace as a seed you are planting each day, for the future of the world depends on it.

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Monte-Somethings: Why All Montessori Schools are not Created Equal 

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As parents read more articles about the rising demands of preschool and pushing children into rigorous academics too soon, as well as the lack of unstructured play, which can inhibit social skills and development, many are looking for alternative education options. Many schools are now clamoring for the Montessori label to meet parent interest. However, all Montessori schools are not created equal. Maria Montessori, one of the first female physicians in Italy, developed and perfected her method without trademarking the term. This means any school can refer to itself as “Montessori,” without actually adhering to, or in some cases, understanding what that means. 

Here are some things to look for in an authentic Montessori school:

  • Multi-age classrooms. In a traditional Montessori Primary classroom children are 3-6 years old. Younger children often learn better from older peers than they do even from a teacher, because they are more interested. Older children gain leadership skills and confidence in being given the responsibility of showing younger children what to do. 

  • Montessori materials. Montessori classrooms have hands-on materials that make abstract concepts concrete. If you do a Google search on Montessori lessons, you will find many wooden toys that are beautifully made, but do not necessarily have anything to do with Montessori concepts. A beautiful, hand-made, wooden toy, does not necessarily mean it is Montessori! 

  • Three hour work cycle. Traditional preschools structure their day with centers and circle times where children transition from one subject to the next. In Montessori, children have an uninterrupted block of time; for Primary aged-children it’s 3 hours and for PrePrimary about 2 hours. This way they are able to develop their ability to focus and concentrate, which is a difficult skill for a 2 or 3 year old, but essential for their success.

  • Montessori teachers that have gone through an accredited teacher-training program. Montessori lessons often have upwards of 50 steps and are presented in a very specific way. Teachers spend 1-2 years in class learning the steps for each lesson, which include the pace involved in presenting a lesson as well as the vocabulary used. After they have completed class they complete a 180-day practicum during which they are observed by another Montessori field consultant 4 times, and receive feedback on how to improve their teaching practice to best serve the children in their care. Simply having Montessori materials is only one piece of the equation. Having a carefully prepared guide to introduce the materials to the children is essential. 

It’s not uncommon to hear differing accounts of people’s experiences with or impressions of Montessori schools. Some report there is not enough freedom; while others feel there is too much and children run amok. Some Montessori schools claim they “follow the child,” while still insisting children meet arbitrary deadlines and engage in the same subjects at the same time. Some schools claim to be “Montessori-inspired,” though lack many of the qualities that an authentic Montessori school has - which have been shown to lead to better outcomes for children. Hyperlink to this article: http://www.montessori-science.org/Science_Evaluating_Montessori_Education_Lillard.pdf


There is no such thing as “Montessori-like.” Without multi-age classrooms, authentic Montessori materials with trained teachers who know how to present them, and an uninterrupted work cycle, the effects of a true Montessori program will not be the same. As a teacher or parent be wary of the Monte-somethings.





The Power of Observation

“When dealing with children there is greater need for observing than of probing.”

Maria Montessori

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I’m a doer. As a Teacher in the classroom, I prided myself on being able to bounce from child to child and deliver the lessons they needed at the exact right time for their individual development. I moved at the speed of light and in such a frenzy I was doing the opposite of communicating the calm nature I hoped to instill.

Montessori training teaches you the importance of slowing down completely to simply observe. Stop doing, and start watching.

What I found during my practicum when I was forced to take 20-30 minutes during the school day to simply sit and observe the children, was that they often didn’t need me nearly as much as I thought.

Some of the most meaningful learning came either from one another, or when they figured something out on their own. When I was rushing around, determined to teach them things, I was often inadvertently robbing them of the opportunity to discover things for themselves.

Recently I went out to the toddler playground. A group of children were busy washing the chalkboards outside but there was one little guy crying by the door to go back in. He was new to the classroom and having some transition blues. First I tried to comfort him...to no avail. He wasn’t impressed with my offer of hugs or cajoling. So I went to plan B. I asked an older girl on the playground to check on him and ask if he was okay. Then I stepped back. This little girl went over, took him by the hand, gave him her brush to wash the chalkboard and proceeded to guide him on exactly how to do the lesson. He was fascinated; no longer scared, but engaged and excited. And the little girl felt pretty proud as well.

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Children don’t need us to make them smarter, faster, kinder, stronger. They don’t even need us to tell them they already are. They don’t need us to chase their demons for them. They need us to step back and give them opportunities to prove to themselves that they are capable of slaying their own.