One of the eye-opening experiences I had during my Montessori training was the spiritual journey that is required of teachers as they prepare for their role in the prepared environment. As a parent, especially committed to Montessori, to intentional parenting, to respectful parenting, to positive parenting, and so on, taking the time to look inward and to leave my baggage “at the door” is critical and absolutely necessary.
How to Prepare for Your Role as Teacher in a Montessori Classroom
So, how do we prepare to teach children?
The starting point to preparing yourself for the classroom, or for parenting, is to make time and space to work really hard to understand our role in the presence of a child. Our “aura” or “vibe”, for lack of better descriptive words, really do matter a lot. The impact can be powerful & negative, or it can be powerful & positive. You pick. Yup, we have a choice. We have to create a sense of urgency around this ridiculously important role because it is so meaningful to our child’s state of being at that time, that day, and subsequently his development and learning.
That is great to hear, but how do we begin to ‘work hard' to prepare ourselves spiritually?
Here are a few ideas to think about as you consider your role in educating your children. By embracing these ideas, you will be more aware and present in your daily interactions.
- Be Proactive – Prepare your home environment including materials according to your child's developmental stage and desires and by gently introducing topics (e.g. diversity) that will be much more difficult to tackle as your child grows older.
- Be Self Aware – Think about the qualities that you might want to emphasize or manage in your own temperament. What are your triggers? For example, personally, I tend to be way too passionate (if there is such a thing) about an experience. So I rush into an activity and then rush that activity along to get to the next exciting thing on the list. That is something I'd like to work on controlling.
- Practice Active Listening – Acknowledge and respond to your child. Listen to his words.
- Be Compassionate in all Instances – Model Empathy and Respect in ALL encounters
- Practice Reflective Listen – State “I see that you seem upset…”
- Use Gentle Words – Words like “confused”, “frustrated” and “overwhelmed” are easier for kids to digest. Words like “angry” are heavier.
- Use Positive Words & Phrases – Examples include “encouraged” and “happy”. So, “I feel very encouraged when you help your classmate” or “I support your words”. “Please be careful with my body” instead of “Don’t hurt me” or use ‘I’ like “I feel happy when you help me. Please ask me again sometime.” I also really like to respond to kids in this way to make the situation less of a battle: “I can't let you hit your brother,” instead of “Don't hit your brother!”
- Gather Information by Asking a lot of Questions – Examples include “How did that make you feel?” and “Did you speak to him about it?” “How does Tommy taking your car bother you? What is it about the car?” and “Would you like some help speaking to him?” or “How does your body feel right now?” The more information you gather, the more effectively you will be able to respond to the situation and to the child.
- Empower Children to Solve Problems – In other words, don’t jump in to solve the problem for them. Check out this post I wrote on Conflict Resolution and this one on Toddler Communication for more concrete guidance on this one.
- Honor their Spirits – Pretty generally if they are energetic, find a way to embrace that quality. If they are introverted, allow them space to be that way.