Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Substitute Teachers in the Montessori Environment

NAMC substitute teachers in montessori blowing nose
Winter means cold and flu season in North America. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 5–20% of Americans get the flu each year, with more than 200,000 case requiring hospitalization (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011). The reality of working closely with children is that Montessori teachers often contribute to these numbers and fall ill. When this happens and you need to miss some days from work, how will you take care of your classroom?

What to Know Before You Get Sick

Find out well beforehand what the substitute policy is at your Montessori school. Montessori schools often lack substitute resources of public school systems. For instance, one school I taught at did not use substitutes and asked parents to fill in if needed. At another school office staff and floating aids helped when a teacher was absent. At my first Montessori school, I was responsible for obtaining my own substitute teacher — and there were only five teachers on the approved substitute list for a school of 30 teachers! There were times when I would request a substitute only to find that all five were committed to other classrooms. On those miserable and unfortunate mornings, I had to drag myself to work, knowing I was really too ill to be around children. Whatever the arrangements are at your school, knowing them ahead of time makes it easier to plan accordingly for those times when your absence is unavoidable.

NAMC substitute teachers in montessori taking notesLeaving Plans for a Substitute Teacher in the Montessori Environment

The Montessori environment is radically different from a conventional classroom. An unprepared substitute may find herself completely frustrated and overwhelmed by the seemingly lack of adult defined order. There are no seating charts, no set schedules, and the children are all working on different lessons at the same time.

The best thing a school can do is be sure that all adults who will substitute have a training session on the Montessori environment. Discussions on the role of the adult, positive discipline techniques, and the classroom setting will ensure success of the class in the absence of the teacher.

It is also important to discuss with your students what the behavioral expectations are if you are ever absent. Let them know that when you are not there, individual lessons and presentations will not be given, but they are free to work with the materials for which they have already received lessons.

Having a substitute teacher also allows time for the class to work together on a whole group project. Students can create murals of marine animals, planets, or dinosaurs and write mini research reports using books found on the science shelves. They can create a play about famous historical figures. Or write and illustrate stories and books for the younger children. Project ideas are endless and the students will enjoy the break from normal activity!

Taking time off due to illness is necessary and unavoidable. Advance preparation ensures that both students and substitute function successfully in your absence.
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 Tuesday, January 15, 2013.


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