postheadericon Montessori Educators: Are they 'Teachers' or 'Guides'?

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:

1. Montessori teachers are the dynamic link between children and the Prepared Environment.

2. They systematic observe their students and interpret their needs.

3. They are constantly experimenting, modifying the environment to meet their perceptions of each child's needs and interests, and objectively noting the result.

4. 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.

5. They carefully evaluate the effectiveness of their work and the design of the environment every day.

6. They observe and evaluate each child’s individual progress.

7. 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.

8. They are supportive, offering warmth, security, stability, and non-judgmental acceptance to each child.

9. They facilitate communication among the children and help the children to learn how to communicate their thoughts to adults.

10. They interpret the children's progress and their work in the classroom to parents, the school staff, and the community.

11. They present clear, interesting and relevant lessons to the children. They attempt to engage the childÂ’s interest and focus on the lessons and activities in the environment.

12. 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.

13. They are peace educators, consistently working to teach courteous behaviors and conflict

14. 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.

Montessori Teacher Education

With the steady growth in the number and enrollment of Montessori schools around the world, certified Montessori teachers are in great demand.

Montessori is not simply a method of teaching children to read; it is a philosophy of life!

Montessori teachers come from a wide range of backgrounds. Except for areas where even private school teachers are required to hold a State teaching credential, it is not necessary for prospective teachers to have first graduated with a degree in education. Many Montessori teachers studied another field first.

Many Montessori teachers began first as parents with children enrolled in a Montessori school. Often the very factors that drew enthusiastic parents to a Montessori school in the first place offer the possibility of a professional life beyond their roles as parents. It is common for enthusiastic parents to approach their children’s school, or are themselves approached, about the possibility of taking a course in Montessori teacher education.

Montessori teacher education programs are available from hundreds of colleges and independent institutes across America and Canada. For the internationally minded, courses are available in many other countries as well.

Courses usually involve a year of study. In the U.S. many courses are organized into summer institutes, which can involve one, two or more summers of intensive study, followed by a supervised year-long practicum/student teaching experience. Some courses run during the school year. Each model has its loyal advocates, and selection of one over the other is a matter of personality and preference.

Montessori teacher education programs are typically offered at the infant-toddler (birth to age 2), early childhood (ages 3-6), lower elementary (ages 6-9), upper elementary (ages 9-12), and secondary levels (ages 12-15 and ages 15-18))

Most courses in the United States require a college degree; although, students who have yet to complete their undergraduate diploma may be able to take a Montessori teacher education course and receive a provisional Montessori teaching certificate. Tuition will vary from one program to another.

Unfortunately the quality of Montessori teacher education programs can vary. One basic consideration is the credibility of the diploma received upon completion. Since 1990, the United States Department of Education has recognized the Montessori Accreditation Commission for Teacher Education (MACTE) which is generally recognized as the essential sign of a program’s credibility.

There are several Montessori organizations that accredit Montessori teacher education programs. Most, but not all, of their accredited programs are also accredited by the MACTE commission. They include the American Montessori Society (AMS), the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI), the National Center for Montessori Education (NCME), and the Pan American Montessori Society (PAMS). A number of smaller Montessori associations and a number of independent programs also offer accredited Montessori teacher education programs.

Distance Learning: Several organizations around the world offer distance learning programs or correspondence courses, which allow students to complete most, if not all, of their Montessori teacher education studies on an independent basis. Keep in mind, that teachers in the United States normally graduate from colleges or teacher education institutes that offer a traditional face-to-face academic program. If you are considering a distance-learning program, you should understand that a number of states do not accept these credentials. Individual schools may also be unwilling to consider graduates of a distance-learning program. It is always a good idea to check with several schools where you would like to teach to determine if the Montessori teacher education program that you are considering will meet their standards.

Salaries for teachers in independent/private Montessori schools are generally acceptable, but are normally below those offered by local public schools. Many teachers feel that these lower salaries and benefits are more than offset by greater job satisfaction and freedom from the paperwork and bureaucracy found in many public-school systems. Salaries in are often calculated on a scale based on degrees, experience and duties. Montessori teachers are generally in short supply, and in many situations certified teachers will find several schools competing for their services.

Elsewhere in this website, we have listed the contact information for many of the Montessori certification societies in the United States.

If you are searching for a Montessori teacher education program, you might also wish to contact the Montessori schools in your area. Through them, you will obtain information as to what is available in your region and what form of certification they require , especially if you are hopeful of obtaining employment with them in the future. There are many good teacher education programs available in the United States and abroad. In the years to come, there will undoubtedly be even more, as the demand for Montessori teachers increases.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 21 July 2010 12:28)