Thursday, February 11, 2010

Montessori Values Explained: The Importance of Eye Contact in the Prepared Environment

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. ~ Pope John XXIII (1881-1963)
NAMC montessori explained importance of eye contact prepared environment grandpa looks at toddler
One of the greatest joys of a new parent is when their baby makes and maintains eye contact with them. At birth, babies tend to look at the borders of objects and will look at the hairline or edge of the face of a person who is talking to them. Between 6 and 8 weeks, infants begin to focus more on the internal feature of the faces and are able to make eye contact and by 3 months, prefer to look into a person’s eyes over any other part of the face. By the age of 4-5 months, infants are able to distinguish their caretakers’ faces from all others.

It is often said that they eyes are the window to the soul. Indeed, making or maintaining eye contact often communicates the real intent of our verbal message. In western societies, people who make eye contact come across as confident and honest. People take you more seriously and believe that what you are saying is important. Eye contact also provides an emotional connection between the speaker and the listener. Eye contact is an important non-verbal means of communication, and is a critical component for creating an ideal Montessori learning environment.

Montessori Values Explained: The Importance of Eye Contact in the Prepared Environment


NAMC montessori explained importance of eye contact prepared environment teacher looking at student
In the Montessori environment, we are sure to establish eye contact with a child before we begin speaking. We do this by respectfully bringing our eyes to the same level of the child. We are not merely establishing eye contact, but using our whole body to communicate a respectful presence and relationship with the child’s body. We do not look down at the child or merely bend at the waist, as this can be intimidating. We must bend our knees and lower our body so that we are on the same or closer level as the child. This respectfully helps focus the child’s attention; she is ready to listen and learn.

We do the same thing when a child is speaking to us. If for example, a teacher is standing watering a plant and a child requires help, the Montessori teacher lowers herself to the child’s level in order to fully attend and engage in what is being said. This courtesy extends to the child that what they are saying is important to the teacher.

When inviting a child to participate in an activity or lesson, the Montessori teacher makes deliberate eye contact with the student, smiles, and then begins the demonstration. By making eye contact before beginning a Montessori lesson, you are signaling to the student that they need to give their attention to the lesson and they in return are telling you they are ready to learn.

Humans communicate thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions through our use of language. We generate and share new ideas and tell stories of our past through the spoken and written word. But language is not limited to words; it includes the messages we send with our bodies.

As Montessori parents and educators, let us remember to engage our children and students by being truly present whenever we communicate with them. The eyes have it – they can clearly express our interest in, respect for, and connection to the child.

Related NAMC Blogs:

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, February 11, 2010.

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