Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discovery of Montessori

For years I've wanted to be a teacher, and spent most of my high school time at the local elementary school as a teacher's aide, assistant, leading special topics, volunteering in other capacities, observing, interviewing, etc. Something wasn't right, but I'd determined to be a special ed teacher, working with children who have emotional and social handicaps.

I started college before finishing high school, beginning an associate's in child development so I could transfer into elementary ed at a 4-year school and have my ZA endorsement. Yep. I had it all planned out!

But a student in one of my child development classes asked about Montessori. The professor said that she didn't know much, but she'd observed one day. She described the following incident and asked us, "What is missing?"
A child went to a shelf and chose a tray with items on it. He brought it back to a table and sat down. He removed all the items from the tray, did something with them, and after a little while, he put everything back on the tray, carried it back to the shelf and replaced it. He then walked away to wander the room for a little while before choosing another tray. 
Of course we all responded, "Socialization!" But still it didn't sit right with me. Why would all these people go to an elite school (I really didn't know much about Montessori at the time except it was a unique program and anyone earning their associate's degree while working at this type of school had to have modifications made to their requirements), spend all that money, for their children to work with items on a tray?????

I didn't have time to research it, but I did sign myself up to be a substitute at all local area schools, daycares and the like.

One day I was called to sub at a Montessori school. I thought, "This will be great to see what is going on with all this hoolaballoo!"

Oh my! I had NO IDEA what I was in for! At first, I only subbed in the childcare room at this particular school - designed for the 3 and 4 year olds in the afternoon who did not nap but whose parents were working (the nappers joined when they woke up); then the elementary children came in after school until everyone was picked up. Not all of the materials were pure Montessori materials, but the methodology was there, the attitude, the respect ---- the entire atmosphere, environment and the prepared adults. I was told to just sit and observe - quietly notify the main teacher of any issues she didn't see right away, and to please do intervene for anything dangerous. Ok - that makes sense - it's a new environment for me, so I appreciated the expectation that it would be all new and overwhelming for me.

The children - get this - they *socialized!* They worked together, they played games, they watered plants, read stories to each other (whether made up or actually reading, I don't know!), they had a loft that was set up for housekeeping play (this was the childcare room after all), they had some of the typical Montessori materials, and they had some additional building materials. They even had work on trays. Everything was very well laid-out, organized, inviting... The children were cooperative with one another, respectful.... I can't say enough!


The following week or so, I was asked to cover in a lower elementary room. The main teacher would be out, and the assistant would take her place, so I was the fill-in assistant for the hours I was available. She was very gentle in guiding me in my expectations and how to interact with the children - verifying their work, rather than "checking". These children were so peaceful, so joyful, and working so hard!

The grammar materials, what I now know as the Logical Analysis material, were what hooked me at this level. These children were writing or copying these beautiful literature phrases and studying the function of words and analyzing their meanings... and of their own free will, writing them out again with the symbols above their words - and even further illustrating their work!

Another group of children were working on a BIG project that was nearing completion. I was not fortunate enough to be there for their final presentation - but if it was as good as the portions I saw - WONDERFUL!

These were "normal" children - without the typical attitude and lack of respect you find in so many other schools. They were cooperating, responsible, following work contracts and journaling their progress - and these were only 6, 7, and 8 year olds!

After that, I subbed in several of the other classrooms as well as the first two again. The infant/toddler room just threw me off. I couldn't grasp it at first or even for a quite a while, but I had a deep appreciation for it. Now I get it, but that is another story!

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