When Montessori spoke about the spiritual embryo of the child, she also addressed the spiritual preparation of the teacher. In fact, she emphasized the spiritual preparation of the teacher over the necessity for academic training. She said that teachers must divest themselves from thoughts of what is “normal” behavior. She trained Montessori teachers to recognize in themselves their own limitations and prejudices as those negative characteristics are readily identified and absorbed by the child. She cautioned Montessori teachers to give up their need to control and to learn to support the child and the learning community. She taught teachers to approach the developing child with reverence and humility. The dynamic and the relationship between the Montessori teacher and child depends upon the attitude with which we approach the child.
Personal Preparation and Development for the Montessori TeacherTo become acquainted with the material, a teacher should not just look at it, study it in a book, or learn its use through the explanations of another. Rather, she must exercise herself with it for a long time, trying in this way to evaluate through her own experience the difficulties of, or the interests inherent in, each piece of material that can be given to a child, trying to interpret, although imperfectly, the impressions which a child himself can get from it. Moreover, if a teacher has enough patience to repeat an exercise as often as a child, she can measure in herself the energy and endurance possessed by a child of a determined age. For this final purpose, the teacher can grade the materials and thus judge the capacity of a child for a certain kind of activity at a given stage of his development. ~Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child.
Montessori also believed that teachers should be prepared technically. Montessori teachers must have a thorough knowledge of the stages of child development so that they are best able to meet the needs of their students. It’s also important to fully understand the use of the Montessori materials and for which students they are best suited. Montessori said that part of the technical training of Montessori teachers was to understand the importance of pedagogy: the three-period lesson; using controls of error; using minimal words in lessons; maintaining student interest; establishing firm ground rules with consistent implementation.
In addition, Montessori stated that teachers should be prepared scientifically. Montessori teachers are keen observers of the children and the environment. Carefully documented observations allow the Montessori teacher to be consistent and objective when working with students. Observations also help Montessori teachers and parents from approaching the child with preconceived ideas or expectations. Our observations allow us to document child progress and development and allow us to be flexible follow the child, rather than following a prescribed linear curriculum.
The teacher's skill in not interfering comes with practice, like everything else, but it never comes easily. It means rising to spiritual heights. True spirituality realizes that even to help can be a source of pride. ~Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind.
By committing to study the philosophy and method of Maria Montessori, we are committed to becoming lifelong learners. Our most important teachers are the children we have chosen to guide. Through them we are humbled and our eyes are opened to the great possibilities yet to come. Through self-preparation we are then able to meet the needs of the children in our care.
Our goal is not so much the imparting of knowledge as the unveiling and developing of spiritual energy. ~ Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, April 9, 2010.