It may take a moment to spot the teachers within the environment.
The Montessori teacher’s role is quite different from the role played by teachers in many schools. They are generally not the center of attention, and they spend little time giving large group lessons. Their role centers around the preparation and organization of appropriate learning materials to meet the needs and interests of each child in the class. Montessori teachers will normally be found working with one or two children at a time, advising, presenting a new lesson, or quietly observing the class at work. The focus is on children learning, not teachers teaching. Children are considered as distinct
individuals in terms of their interests, progress and growth, and preferred learning style. The Montessori teacher is a guide, mentor, and friend.
Students will typically be found scattered around the classroom, working alone or with one or two others. They tend to become so involved in their work that visitors tend to be amazed at the peaceful atmosphere.
Montessori teachers keep their lessons as brief as possible. Their goal is to intrigue the children, so that they will come back on their own for further work with the materials. Lessons center around the simplest information necessary for the children to do the work on their own: the name of the materials, its place on the shelf, the ground rules for is use, and what can be done with it.
The teachers present the materials and lessons with precision. They demonstrate an initial exploratory procedure; encouraging the children to continue to explore further on their own. These presentations enable children to investigate and work independently. Our goal is for the children to become self-disciplined, able to use the materials and manage the classroom without minimal adult intervention.
Children progress at their own pace, moving on to the next step in each area of learning as they are ready. Initial lessons are brief introductions, after which the children repeat the exercise over many days, weeks, or months until they attain mastery. Interest leads them to explore variations and extensions inherent within the design of the materials at many levels over the years.
Dr. Montessori believed that teachers should focus on each child as a person, not on the daily lesson plan. Montessori teachers are taught to nurture and inspire the human potential, leading children to ask questions, think for themselves, explore, investigate, and discover. Our ultimate objective is to help them to learn how to learn independently, retaining the curiosity, creativity, and intelligence with which they were born. Montessori teachers do not simply present lessons; they are facilitators, mentors, coaches, and guides. To underscore the very different role played by adults in her schools, Dr. Montessori used the title directress instead of teacher. In Italian, the word implies the role of the coordinator or administrator of an office or factory. Today, many Montessori schools prefer to call their teachers guides.
Anne Burke Neubert, in A Way Of Learning (1973), listed the following elements in the special role of the Montessori teacher:
- Montessori teachers are the dynamic link between children and the Prepared Environment.
- They systematically observe their students and interpret their needs.
- They are constantly experimenting, modifying the environment to meet their perceptions of each child’s needs and interests, and objectively noting the result.
- The prepare an environment meant to facilitate children’s independence and ability to freely select work that they find appealing, selecting activities that will appeal to their interests and keeping the environment in perfect condition, adding to it and removing materials as needed.
- They carefully evaluate the effectiveness of their work and the design of the environment every day.
- They observe and evaluate each child’s individual progress.
- They respect and protect their students’ independence. They must know when to step in and set limits or lend a helping hand, and when it is in a child’s best interests for them to step back and not interfere.
- They are supportive, offering warmth, security, stability, and non-judgmental acceptance to each child.
- They facilitate communication among the children and help the children to learn how to communicate their thoughts to adults.
- They interpret the children’s progress and their work in the classroom to parents, the school staff, and the community.
- They present clear, interesting and relevant lessons to the children. They attempt to engage the child’s interest and focus on the lessons and activities in the environment.
- They model desirable behavior for the children, following the ground-rules of the class, exhibiting a sense of calm, consistency, grace and courtesy, and demonstrating respect for every child.
- They are peace educators, consistently working to teach courteous behaviors and conflict
- They are diagnosticians who can interpret patterns of growth, development, and behavior in order to better understand the children and make necessary referrals and suggestions to parents.