Friday, January 07, 2011

The Art of Observation in the Montessori Classroom — Helpful Tips For Parent Observers

NAMC montessori classroom parent observer girl watering helpful tips plants
A teacher is destined by his own special work to observe…man when his intellectual life is awakening.
—Maria Montessori
The Discovery of the Child

The above quote is very much applicable to parents and teachers. Being able to observe your own child in a Montessori environment is very special, and can be both eye opening and entertaining. I remember years ago, I observed my daughter in her classroom, and expected to see her working with the Pink Tower (which she always talked about), doing her beloved ‘spooning’ work, or the ever-popular ‘color mixing’ work. Clearly she had a different agenda! She was so aware of my presence in “her” Montessori classroom that she wasn't herself at all, and ended up spending the entire time building a block tower.

I must say it was a lovely tower, but certainly not what I was expecting. It did, however, give me the opportunity to see the other 19 children bustling around the classroom, busy with their work, and it was amazing! It truly warmed my heart and I felt so appreciative for the Montessori teachers, the materials and the environment, and I completely understood why my daughter looked forward to Montessori preschool each and every day. I tried observing at a later date, making a point of being as unobtrusive as possible, and it made a world of difference. Finally, I had the opportunity for a true glimpse into how my daughter spent her time at Montessori preschool... and I was so pleased with what I saw.

Here are a few thoughts for parents to consider before attending a pre-arranged observation of their child’s Montessori classroom in action.

The Art of Observation in the Montessori Classroom - Helpful Tips For Parent Observers

Tips for the parent when observing your child:

  • Be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible when entering the Montessori classroom to ensure you get an accurate picture of the workings of the environment.
  • Be patient and avoid the temptation of having expectations. Just be in the moment and enjoy every second!
  • Once the observation begins, avoid talking to the children or trying to get your own child’s attention … blowing kisses, winking, waving, smiling and making faces are sure ways to disrupt the entire class as well as your own child.
  • Blend in as best you can and avoid making eye contact; it doesn't take much to disrupt a child’s concentration.
  • Be respectful to the Montessori teachers. You are there to observe your child, not discuss your child’s progress. You can always arrange a meeting at a later date when the children aren't present.
  • Arrive and leave on time to keep the scheduled observations running effectively.

Things to think about while observing:

  • Is there a harmonious tone in the Montessori classroom?
  • Are the children being courteous to one another and are they helping each other?
  • Is my child happy and busy?
  • Are the students working independently?
  • Is there a variety of work going on?
  • Are the Montessori teachers interacting with the children in a subtle, respectful manner?
  • Is there a busy hum in the classroom?
  • Are the students behaving in a respectful manner with their words as well as their actions?
  • Are the children taking care of their Montessori classroom?

This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Child’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that have arisen from one real student's Montessori journey.

Bree — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

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 Friday, January 7, 2011.


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