This article is Part 1 of a two-part series, and outlines briefly some key elements of both becoming a preschool / kindergarten assistant, and the role in the Montessori classroom.
Becoming a Montessori Preschool / Kindergarten Assistant: Role and RequirementsWith the exception of the infant and toddler environments, most Montessori classrooms have between 25-35 children with one teacher and one non-teaching assistant. In the preschool environment, the Montessori assistant plays an active role with the children. As most of the lessons are presented to individual children by the teacher, the assistant is responsible for maintaining peace and order in the Montessori classroom. Knowledge and understanding of the Montessori philosophy and methodology are vital, along with a calm, respectful approach.
The Montessori assistant values and respects the uniqueness of each child while consistently nurturing and modeling a love of learning. The assistant often finds herself in the role of helping to resolve conflicts between children. She must be able to use positive language to redirect student behavior. The assistant is a keen observer and is knowledgeable about developmentally-appropriate behavior and practices. She is aware of the individual needs and interests of the children.
While the Montessori teacher is presenting lessons, the Montessori assistant moves quietly throughout the classroom. She understands the importance of the uninterrupted, three-hour work cycle and values the importance of the children’s work as well as the necessity for intense concentration. She makes it a practice to never interrupt a child who is working. If she sees a child who needs help, she crouches down to child’s eye level and quietly and respectfully asks if the child needs help rather than taking over the task or giving unwanted help. She may say “It looks as if you are struggling. Would you like me to help you?” If the answer is “no”, she respects the child’s wishes and only assists if the situation seems unsafe. If she has questions about a work or material, she makes notes and asks the teacher at the end of the day.
The communication and trust between a Montessori assistant and lead teacher is vital to the success of an organized Montessori classroom. Often, the day is so busy that the only time to really communicate is before and after school. The Montessori assistant should make clear, detailed observations of what happened in the classroom during the day and share her notes with the teacher at the end of the day. Confidentiality is of utmost importance, and parent communication regarding student progress, behavior, etc. is the lead teacher’s responsibility. Additionally, the Montessori assistant needs to observe the teacher and learn how best to compliment her classroom style.
An assistant’s day begins by arriving early, often before the teacher, to begin the daily preparations. The Montessori environment is clean, beautiful and at all times, welcoming and inviting to the children. All preparation work must be completed before the children arrive so that they may start working as soon as they enter the classroom. In addition to preparing the environment, the Montessori assistant may be responsible for:
- Preparing snack
- Greeting early arrivals and taking them to before school care
- Greeting children and parents as they arrive
- Assisting children with outdoor clothing and shoes
- Observing children’s needs and adjusting the activities based on the level of energy
- Observing the dynamics of the classroom and looking where to be most useful
- Ensuring safety and harmony outdoors
- Helping children get ready, wash hands, etc., at lunch
- Supervising at nap time
- Administrative duties – filing papers, making copies, laminating and cutting materials, sharpening pencils, cutting paper, etc.
- Replenishing supplies, snacks, etc.
- Checking to ensure that all parts to all the materials are in working order
- Cleaning the classroom and shelves at the end of each day
Further related NAMC blogs:
- The Montessori Teacher and Her Role: Learning More About The Method
- The Goals of Montessori Education - Reaffirm Your Belief in the Method
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, November 19, 2009.