All Montessorians have their own little ways of running the classroom. Some things are not set in stone and are left up to the individual style of the teacher. Methods may be learned in training or from your mentor. Sometimes they’re borrowed ideas from observing other classrooms. What are some of the different areas that a Montessori teacher can shine with their own personality? (aside from the obvious decor) I’m going to examine different areas one at a time, starting with the Snack Area.
The self-serve Snack Area is a truly beautiful part of the Montessori classroom because you see so many fundamentals learned coming together at once. The child must use Practical Life, Math, Social, and Language skills to properly serve themselves. I’ve seen many examples of individual teacher’s snack areas and through my own experimentation have come across many different ideas for a well-loved area of the room.
In my own classroom I generally had two snacks available for the day. One was a self-serve style snack usually for two children at a time. The other was some sort of Food Preparation that involved the child doing all of the work themselves and then serving friends first, then enjoying their own portion.
Self-Serve Snack Areas
The snack area is really an area that is dictated by the individual teacher’s style and the ability of the children in the classroom. I know there are many different ways to set this up, I would LOVE to see pictures of everyone’s tables!
I was recently observed by my Field Supervising teacher as a requirement for my Montessori training class. As nerve-wracking as my first Observation was, I learned A TON from it. I’ve focused for a long time on the major things I’ve been changing in order to be a great teacher, but this visit gave me the opportunity to examine the small things.
Positioning when talking to a child
I’m sure many people have heard that kneeling to talk to a child is better than leaning over to talk to them. It’s about respecting the child by giving them the opportunity to look you in the eye. You’re showing them that what they say matters to you by being on their level. I try to do this often, but I do notice I don’t do it if the child is seated.
This goes along with your positioning when you’re responding to the child. I try to always look people in the eyes when they are speaking to me, and I notice this is something that seems to be less prevalent as I meet people in life. It’s sometimes quite hard for me to focus on what someone is saying unless I’m looking directly at them. As a part of Grace and Courtesy in the classroom I try to always turn to the child and look at them while answering their question. I’ve noticed that if I am not looking at the child and answer their question without making eye contact, they don’t seem to realize I’m speaking to them. Perhaps children actually NEED to have eye contact to successfully communicate?
Tone of Voice
There are those times when you know you’re at the point where you need a few moments alone, but that won’t always happen. It’s hard to remain cool and composed at this level. When I feel myself getting upset, I try to step back for a moment and think “How would I want someone to talk to me right now?” It’s hard sometimes. However I have noticed I’m getting better at not carrying my attitude towards a different child. Little steps!
I am finally starting to see the product of an independent child. I’ve been in the same classroom now for going on 3 years, so I’ve seen the full cycle of several children coming into our classroom and leaving at 6 years old. What a wondrous and beautiful change it is! From the 3 year old who needed lessons on everything in their reach to the 6 year old working independently for hours at a time making fully colored and labeled World Map. Every little step of independence we give these children leads to a magnificently self-confident child. It’s very tempting sometimes to constantly assist the youngest children in the class because they’re making a large mess, or not doing something in the most efficient manner. However if we don’t interfere and instead let the child see things on their own, they blossom into self-aware and self-confident children.
Of course knowing that you’re being watched causes you to focus on your every move. “Did I use my left hand instead of my right hand? ” I found myself turning to see if she was watching me sometimes to find that of course, she was. I want to do as great as I am capable! No more silly mistakes! “Oh man I should have knelt down with that child. ” Being a teacher is a work in progress – what a ride!
Ahh, the new school year! Many children moved on, many new ones moved into the class. New names to learn, nametags to make, lessons to give. We’ve been very busy, leading to me coming home and basically turning into a vegetable on the couch, staring into space. (As I keep doing right now, it’s very hard to concentrate lately!)
It’s an emotion-heavy time of year for any teacher. We’re sad to see the children we’ve worked with for so long move on in their educational career, but also very happy for the child as well. Initial anxiety of getting new children in the class is replaced with happiness of the new little lives we get to help grow. The addition of new children to the classroom is often a somewhat rough transition. I know that if you have a classroom that is not year-round, you can give all of the introductory lessons in the first few weeks of class. At our school the new children aren’t all introduced at the same time. They move to our classroom when there is a spot available, and not all of our older children left on the same date. So lessons and introductions to the classroom are somewhat sporadic, but we’re managing – as you can see below!
The blindfolds in our classroom have gotten more use lately than they ever have, as children have been experimenting with what works can be accomplished blindfolded. I had one girl ask me one day if she could attempt to put the Binomial Cube together while blindfolded, and she put it back together perfectly. I regretfully did not get any pictures, but the classroom fell perfectly silent as everyone watched her feel each piece and reassemble the cube. It was absolutely beautiful.
The child who is writing that story comes to me for help spelling larger words, but prefers to work alone and sound out each word. They may not be spelled correctly, but you can read what she’s writing! We correct her writing if she asks, and offer helpful tips when she’s stuck, but the rest is all her.
I’m sure that some of my posts in the near future will be taking a language turn- as that is the next class I am taking this semester in my AMS training. I’m very excited! I am also working on my internship too, which requires me to do many original lessons and do some student teaching in the morning class. I can’t believe how quickly one year of training went by, only one more to go!