Friday, January 25, 2013

Montessori Teacher Development: A Three Year Cycle

If you think that the three-year Montessori developmental cycle is only for children, think again! Montessori teachers go through the same developmental stages as their students.
NAMC montessori teacher development three year cycle novice practicing mastery
The developmental stages of Montessori teachers
Much like a first-year student, first-year Montessori teachers are, in general, full of excitement and wonder. Everything is new and amazing, and they work hard to create a peaceful and nurturing environment. Novice teachers greet their students with a mix of joy and trepidation. They sometimes feel as if they are in survival mode and often feel overwhelmed. They may even become disillusioned, wondering if it gets any easier.

The Three Year Cycle: Montessori Teachers Develop Alongside Students

Seeing the ease and fluidity in the classrooms of experienced Montessori teachers, they may wonder what they are doing wrong in their classroom. Some try to fall back on the conventional methods they know best, only to realize that they need to trust the Montessori method. They seek the advice of experienced Montessori mentors to help them along the way. First-year Montessori teachers rely concretely on their manuals and practice, hands-on, with the materials before presenting lessons to their students. They review their own work through self-reflection, making notes on how to improve the next time. Novice teachers consult Montessori books, read blogs, and attend conferences looking for quick, practical fixes. First-year Montessori teachers, like first-year students, come to the end of the year feeling like they have learned a lot, but knowing there is plenty more learning to do.

Second-year Montessori teachers are more relaxed. Having reflected on their previous year, they and have made some changes in the environment and their personal approach to Montessori. They understand the basic tenets of the Montessori method — the three-year mixed age group; giving children choices; positively guiding behavior; and more. They still rely on their manuals and the materials, but they do not need as much concrete practice as they did the year before. Second-year teachers are more adept at conducting student observations and supervising a classroom of children working individually and independently. They consult Montessori books, read blogs, and attend conferences to gain validation. Like second-year students, second-year practicing Montessori teachers are comfortable in their environment and are eager to learn.
NAMC montessori teacher development three year cycle novice practicing mastery two teachers talking
During the third year, Montessori teachers approach mastery. They know what works and what does not. Third-year teachers may wish to change some of the lessons and create new approaches, extensions, and materials. They consult manuals infrequently and give lessons without practice. Master Montessori teachers hone their skills by rereading Dr. Montessori’s books and they have both the experience and time to delve deeper into the philosophy presented. Third-year teachers attend conferences for insight, new perspectives, and networking with other Montessorians. Like third-year students, master teachers are capable and confident and are often called upon to mentor novice and practicing teachers.

Wherever you find yourself along your Montessori journey, it is important to surround yourself with professional mentors who will help guide you, just as you guide the students in your care.
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 25, 2013.


  1. I like the analogy in this article! It is easy to understand and makes me laugh as I think about the first years in our classroom. :)

  2. In addition to this article it would be really interesting to discuss the problems and difficulties a directress faces as they develop their practice.

  3. Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog. We have many topics for directors and directresses that may be of interest to you. If you have a specific question or idea, please feel free to leave it in a new comment and we'll see if we can address it in a new blog post.


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