If you consider sending your child through Montessori education but are unsure what to expect from the educators, take a deep breath, we are here to help. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori Method of Education believed that “The teacher has two tasks: to lead the children to concentration and to help them in their development afterward.” You will find that your child’s Montessori environment flourishes because of the teacher. We will walk you through what to expect from a Montessori-trained teacher, how they will differ from other teachers, and what qualities to look for.
A Montessori teacher is an educator trained in the Montessori method, disciplined in child observation, recognizing and adapting to the needs of the child, and creating an environment conducive to exploration and self-sufficiency. A Montessori teacher is trained to empower the student to be creative and curious learners who work at their own pace and on a path that works for them. Additionally, teachers of the Montessori method are adaptable to various environments and ages, comfortable with taking a step back to embrace child-led exploration, and able to be empathetic and encouraging for the various interests of the child.
All Montessori teachers need basic certifications for teaching, however, all educators need specific and separate training to embrace the Montessori method. The Montessori method requires special elements that teachers should have in order to create the most encouraging learning environment for their students. These qualities are unique to Montessori teachers and help create the environment Montessori parents know and love for their children.
Difference Between a Montessori Teacher and Traditional Teacher
There is a drastic difference between Montessori teachers and those in other types of schools. In many typical schools, teachers often plan and directly teach the students according to district curricula which are geared toward a specific population of students.
Montessori classrooms, on the other hand, are child-directed and based on traditional academic disciplines, with a strong focus on emotional, social, and physical well-being as well. While each parent can determine the education that would work best for their child, it is important to understand the types of teachers in each school and they are the direct link between your child and their knowledge in a school setting.
Maria Montessori wrote in her book The Theosophist that “… in every child is the seed that will mature into an adult.” Teachers in Montessori settings are helping to guide our children to be successful in life, both developmentally and intellectually. While research is still young, early studies are showing that there is a direct association between Montessori schooling in childhood and higher adult well-being.
In fact, three of the strongest contenders in well-being were self-determination, meaningful activities, and social stability, all of which are encouraged and embraced through teacher guidance and the Montessori classroom. These skills are built and formed by the child, with the assistance of the Montessori teacher and the environment which is structured around self-sufficiency, empathy, respect, and tolerance in the classroom.
To help plant the seeds Dr. Montessori was writing about, Montessori-trained teachers are skilled in building a culture of creativity in their classroom, which sets the stage for the way Montessori children learn, develop and grow. Creativity is more than just the arts in Montessori. It is the ability of a child to critically think, adapt and problem solve. The teacher is crucial in the creative role as researchers have found that the environment in which a child is exposed to creativity has a direct impact on how their growth in that field. In fact, one study concluded that children in a Montessori program had higher performance rankings in creative tasks than a comparable education program.
In her book, The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori discusses the importance that children develop optimally and completely, not just academically. Dr. Montessori believed that children should develop in a certain way but one in which children grow intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically–all while learning.
Professor Angeline Lillard, one of the leading researchers in Montessori education wrote a brief article that stated that Montessori 5-year-olds had better social skills, moral reasoning, and executive function. Professor Lillard also mentioned that Montessori 12-year-olds wrote “more complex and creative stories” and saw their schools more like communities. This research backs up Dr. Montessori’s hope that children would be well-rounded developmentally.
Such positive research on the skills of the students reflects back to the work of the teacher. Each teacher is not only trained in creating an environment for the Montessori method but also is charged with creating it. A Montessori-trained teacher must observe what does and does not work for her students, and adapt to best meet their needs.
Qualities of a Montessori Teacher
What are Montessori teachers like?
- They are great observers.
Montessori teachers are trained to observe the student in the environment. By watching them, the teacher can not only adapt the environment to the child’s development and strengths but also encourage the child to embrace their natural desire to learn through play. In fact, Maria Montessori once said “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”
- They are guides.
The goal of a Montessori teacher is not to tell your child what they will learn, but to provide the tools they need to obtain the knowledge. The Montessori teacher will guide your child to materials and resources needed to obtain the information on their own terms. The teacher is the link between the knowledge and the child.
- They are role models.
To create an atmosphere where there is positivity, creativity, empathy, respect, and a sense of curiosity, you have to have someone to model it. That is where the Montessori-trained teacher comes in. They are the lead model for this environment and a cheerleader for the children embracing a natural curiosity for learning.
What is expected of a Montessori teacher?
In addition to being a role model, observer, and guide, there are additional expectations of a Montessori teacher.
- Continued to develop professionally as both an educator and in the Montessori method
- Montessori teachers are required to not only be certified in education and the Montessori method but also partake in up to 50 hours of continuing education during the time of the certification. By doing this, they keep up to date on Montessori philosophies as well as in the education profession.
- Be respectful of your child’s individuality
- Each Montessori teacher is trained to adapt to each child.
- As a child grows, or struggles, the teacher will guide the child to assist in their development.
- The teacher makes a conscious choice to step in when needed or simply observe the child.
- Montessori teachers respect that a child learns in their own unique way and embraces their own interests.