The Role of the Teacher
“If it is not enough for the teacher to restrict herself to loving and understanding children, she must first love and understand the universe”
In a Montessori classroom there is no front of the room and no teacher’s desk as a focal point of attention because the stimulation for learning comes from the total environment. She is, first of all, a very keen observer of the individual interests and needs of each child and her daily work proceeds from her observation of the child. She demonstrates the correct use of materials as they are individually chosen by the children. She carefully watches the progress of each child and keeps a record of his work with the materials. She is trained to recognize periods of readiness and sometimes she must divert a child who chooses material that is beyond his ability, and at other times she must encourage a child who is hesitant to take on new and more challenging work.
The teacher is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the environment. This involves the selection, placement and up-keep of everything in the classroom. Careful thought and effort are put into the environments initial preparation and its modification and re-creation each day.
“The teacher also must be attractive, pleasing in appearance, tidy, clear, calm and dignified. These are the ideals that each can realize in her own way. The teacher’s appearance should be the first step to gaining the child’s confidence and respect. The teacher should study her own movements to make them as gentle and graceful as possible.”
The Absorbent Mind
Teachers also share a duty to protect and respect children. Respect for oneself, others, the environment and for life itself are fundamental and essential to the Montessori approach to education. It is also very important for a teacher to act as a support for the child. When students need help and ask for it, that help must be there. At times just being close, or offering a single helpful word can help children resolve their own conflicts. Sometimes a gesture, sigh or sound can be enough support. At other times a learner may want and need to be listened to, hugged or to sit on a lap and be nurtured. It is the teacher’s job to meet those needs. It is also the teacher’s responsibility to act as a liaison and communicate events of the day or activities and plans for the classroom. This is done through a monthly letter.Being a teacher is one of the great joys, challenges and adventures of life. Perhaps the most valuable thing teachers can do is also some of the basic and most natural. Enjoy our children, appreciate them, listen to them, learn from them, respect them and love them.