Much has been said about the development of the child.
Lately though, my thoughts have turned towards the development of the adult in a montessori environment.
Let me start by sharing my journey.
Fresh out of my training, I couldn’t wait to get into the classroom. I had read and re-read every Montessori book I could get my hands on and I had a deep desire to serve the child. I was enamoured with what could be and with the child.
I spent hours upon hours practicing presentations, planning and preparing the environment but the lack of experience showed. My first year of teaching was a whirlwind and many-a-times I felt lost at sea. Nothing worked with the ease that I thought it would. During the first year, my focus was much on what I was doing. I distinctly remember sometime towards the end of the year being struck as if by lightening by words I had read many times previously – “Instead of giving out what she has in herself, the teacher must bring out the full possibilities of the children” (Advanced Montessori Method – Volume 2).
Over the following years, there were times when I remembered these words and times when I had forgotten them.
I was lucky to have the support of a more mature, seasoned teacher at this fragile stage, who encouraged and gently guided.
In conversation with many teachers over the years I have found the experience of feeling lost at sea, mirrored. Many, however have felt too overwhelmed and left the classroom to move on to other things. The role of guidance and the opportunity to work in a caring, authentic Montessori environment is so important for the new teacher.
In the ‘The Whole School Handbook’ a NAMTA publication, written by David Kahn, Sharon.L.Dubble and Renee Pendleton, The first year teacher is refered to as a Neonate being, where the ultimate task is that of survival.
As I continued on my journey, slowly, things became clearer. Each experience carried with it an immense potential for learning. I clearly remember, my third year of teaching. I was making connections every other day. The ‘A-ha!’ moments were many and frequent. This was a time I was constructing my understanding of Montessori in practice. My most valuable teacher at this stage, was the coming together of a 3 year cycle with the same children. I started out as seeing things as black and white. Slowly the ‘craft’ of montessori, those wonderful shades of grey, requiring discernment and a balance of head and heart, became more apparent to me.
In the ‘The Whole School Handbook’, this is referred to as the ‘Consolidation’ phase‘, whose task is that of fluidity- of an integration of practice.
By the sixth year of teaching, my often repeated question was “what now?’. I knew that my life’s path was connected with working with children and having the montessori philosophy guide that work. This is when I left the school I worked at and briefly tried my hand at consulting and co-conducting workshops … but I missed the classroom. I longed for the daily rhythm of the environment, the daily watering of a seed sown and most of all – the children. This is when I started ‘The Earth School’.
In the ‘The Whole School Handbook’, this is stage is referred to as the Renewal stage. The task of this stage, if positively navigated is that of, well, renewal.
The stage after this is called ‘The Seasoned Teacher‘ and the task of this stage is a re-dedication to one’s work at a deeper level with a heightened sense of purpose.
The making of the montessori adult in some ways mirrors the development of the child. Each stage lays the foundation for what is to come and is only as strong as what has been previously built. Just as daily living and working in the prepared environment is essential to the development of the child, so is it for the development of the Montessori adult.
What developing teachers need is love, scaffolding, the opportunity to complete a 3 year cycle with the same children and most of all, faith in who they are becoming.