I recently had a conversation with a NAMC student who has accepted a position as a Montessori Infant/Toddler teacher. She is quite excited about the position and the school, but she is also nervous since the new school seems to have some different philosophies from her previous school. For example, the teacher comes from a school that follows Montessori’s view of keeping the environment clean and simple, using real photos or real representational artwork of children and families. However, the new school has animation art on the walls and no realistic artwork. This is just one of the differences the teacher has observed already. She is conflicted about working in an environment with such different views and asked me for advice. Based on our conversation, here are some thoughts for Montessori teachers starting in a new position.
Tips for the Montessori Teacher Searching for the Right Fit
First of all, it is important to remember that some schools choose to interpret Dr. Montessori’s methods exactly as they were originally written and others use a more liberal approach to their interpretation. Knowing this, it is best to be prepared when interviewing for a Montessori position so you can understand the individual school’s philosophy and ensure that it aligns with your ideas.
Before going on a job interview, create a list of terms that you feel are important in a Montessori environment. The list is for you alone, so it can be a simple list or it can be more imaginative, like the following Wordle example.
If you find yourself in a situation where there is a difference in philosophies or if you would like to implement some new ideas, there are three steps in changing an organization’s culture to keep in mind.
As the “new kid on the block,” I would advise you to really watch, observe, and learn from your environment during the first year. Before you can change a culture, you must first understand it. Avoid being defensive or inflexible. Even the most challenging environment has many teachable moments. Focus on asking questions out of curiosity. For instance, you may want to ask why everyone eats snack together rather than allowing the children to eat individually throughout the morning. You may find that there is a practical reason for the school’s decisions, such as the morning milk delivery is at 10 am.
The next year, as you become more comfortable and confident in your environment, you can start to implement more changes, especially if they are in line with the overall goals of the community. If there is a rule about having assistants rather than co-teachers, you may not be able to alter that. Consider changes that will best suit the students as well as the community.
Finally, find individuals that share and support your ideas. If you are the only one on staff that values a particular idea, it may be hard to convince the community. On the other hand, if others see the potential in your idea, it may be easier to implement.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.