It’s often hard to spot the teacher in a Montessori classroom. She may be sitting with a preschooler next to a floor mat, arranging colored rectangles from darkest to lightest, or intently observing as a handful of elementary students dissect a leaf.
She won’t be presenting information for rote learning. Rather, she’ll be demonstrating specially designed learning materials that serve as a springboard for investigation and discovery. At the heart of the Montessori Method is the concept that mastery is best achieved through exploration, imitation, repetition, and trial and error.
The teacher thoughtfully prepares a classroom environment with materials and activities that meet his students’ unique interests, academic level, and developmental needs. These he introduces to each child sequentially, laying the foundation for independent learning.
Always, the teacher is aware of each student’s progress as she works toward mastering the particular concept or skill. He knows when to step in to offer special guidance, and when to challenge a student with the next step in a learning sequence.
Mentor, Model, Guide
Montessori education addresses the whole child: his physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth. As well as helping each child become an independent learner, the teacher helps turn his attention outward, fostering community, collaboration, and respect for the dignity of others.
Teachers educated in the Montessori Method bring distinctive skills to the task. Their quiet orchestrations lead to magical moments as young children exclaim “I learned it myself!”—and older students think it.
Called a “directress” by Montessori Method founder Dr. Maria Montessori (back in the day when teachers were mostly women!), and sometimes known as a “guide,” the Montessori teacher plays many roles as she directs, or guides, her students.
Skilled Observer: Through careful observation, the Montessori teacher comes to know each student’s interests, learning style, and temperament. He understands the student’s developmental needs, and is receptive to her “sensitive periods,” when she is most ready to learn a new concept or skill.
With this information the teacher chooses materials and lessons that will capture the student’s attention and entice her to learn. When he observes that the student has mastered a concept or skill, he introduces new lessons that become increasingly complex and abstract.
Creative Facilitator: The teacher serves as a resource as students go about their work. She offers encouragement, shares their triumphs, and steers them to greater understanding.
She helps them advance through the curriculum as they master new skills, so they are continually challenged and eager to learn.
As students progress, the teacher modifies the classroom environment, adjusting the learning materials to meet the students’ changing needs.
Character Builder: A Montessori class is a close-knit community, fertile ground for nurturing the qualities that help children and youth become citizens of the world and stewards of the planet.
By his own behavior and attitudes, the teacher models values such as empathy, compassion, and acceptance of individual differences. He encourages the students to be courteous and kind. And he brings students together in collaborative activities to foster teamwork, responsibility, self-discipline, and respect.
A Rewarding Career
The Montessori classroom is a place of discovery, often as much for the teacher as for her students. It’s not hard to imagine how, in the spirit of inquiry, the curriculum sometimes takes an unexpected turn. For Montessori teachers, that’s part of the pleasure.
Like their students, Montessori teachers delight in the challenge of new ideas and experiences; they are enthusiastic learners with a passion for life.
In the course of helping children become lifelong learners, Montessori teachers enjoy a personal journey of continued discovery and growth.
To learn about becoming a Montessori teacher, please visit our Teacher Resources Web page.