Sunday, August 2, 2015

So, what is Montessori?

  I have been an Early Childhood Teacher for 10 years. And I have loved every minute of it! I have been trained to teach in what is known as a "traditional" classroom, keeping track of development and progress, creating activities that are developmentally appropriate, all while ensuring that learning standards are addressed. I have done this for ten years. It is basically all that I have come to know.
   So, as I prepare myself for my role as a Spanish Teacher in a Montessori Preschool, I know that I need to educate myself a little on just what Montessori is all about. I recall learning about Maria Montessori and her methods on working with young children. I remembering feeling that it was an ideal model in which to teach and work with young children; but it was just not one that was aligned with the teaching methodology that I learned in my undergrad (and later grad) courses.
   ANYHOW, now it is my turn to go from teacher to learner. And for those of you who may have not heard of Maria Montessori, or are unsure of exactly what it all entails--- you can learn with me!
   I have been reading a few books and checking out all kinds of Montessori blogs to get a better idea of just what Montessori is and what it looks like.
   "Montessori is a method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, that is focused on self-directed activity, hands on learning and colloborative play. Children make their own choices based on what activities that the teachers have set out for them."
   Dr. Maria Montessori believed, as many Early Childhood Educators believe, that education of the child begins at birth. The first few years of a child's life are the most formative years, physically and mentally. She believed that the goal of Early Childhood should be to activate the child's desire to learn and help them to find and free their potential, for "within the child, lies the fate of the future."
   (So as not to bore anyone, I will only write about a few things right now.)
There are two key components in Montessori Education:
1) The Environment. This refers to the materials and activities that are readily accessible to the children. Activites in the environment are meant to enable self pride in the child. This means that each activity is one that they can do alone and/or present a challenge to foster growth. There are plenty of different activities set out for the child to explore. Materials that are available are categorized into Daily Living (Pouring, Dressing, Cutting), Sensorial (Addressing the five senses through Mystery Bags, Scent Bottles, Sounds), Academic (Alphabet & Numbers) and Cultural & Artistic (Items around the classroom are objects of interest such as cultural art and/or cultural toys/puzzles/books).
2) The Teacher. The teacher is responsible for preparing the environment to foster independence, freedom within limits and a sense of order in the classroom. The teacher serves more as a guide, as she observes each child to see what interests them and lays out activities that will foster that interest and skill level. When a child finds something that interests them, they tend to gain focus and start to concentrate. That is the moment that the child is truly learning and should not be interrupted.
   So much of what I have read thus far and have re-learned is what I feel is the true essence of Early Childhood Education, not what it has become today, full of assessments and learning standards. Don't get me wrong, I know children need to develop certain skills and such, but to put a time line on it only frustrates teacher and child alike. And as I continue on my journey in a Montessori school, I am eager to see the ins and outs of a Montessori classroom and how it fosters a child's development and I am eager to see this approach to Early Childhood Education.

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