“We then become witness to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man, who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to his clarity of vision, will become able to direct, and to mold the future of mankind.”
Maria Montessori -The Absorbent Mind
I had the privilege of attending the AMS Conference with Stepping Stones’ staff. I set out on this journey with a clear focus to find process, order and actions to put into place. Initially, I felt like I failed the school because I was not able to build actionable plans to aid in the growth of our school and our community.
In my career, process, order and action are at the core of what I do. I know how to define them and I know how to carry them out well. However, at the Conference, I was so focused on the outcome, I almost missed the beauty of the journey.
Observation is one of the pillars of Montessori education. I observed both Stepping Stones staff and strangers from afar and had intimate conversations with them. Some of the SSMS staff may not have even known I was in the same session they were and I was watching and listening. At the core of everything I observed was beauty, concentration, love, peace, and thoughtful preparedness.
I was not Montessori educated and I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my life. The essence in the air was different than anything I have ever been a part of.
The Importance of Montessori Educators
There are often misconceptions that Montessori teachers have an “easy” job because they get to just sit and watch students. What many people fail to realize is that much of the work happens within the teacher prior to a child ever entering the room.
Our teachers must first find the peace within and understand their universe. Without this crucial step, our teachers are not ready to truly be in tune with the environment in the classroom and the children they are there to support.
The Montessori Curriculum is Purposeful.
Our teachers think deeply about the work (materials) in their classrooms. I have never seen individuals agonize over why they are drawn to something like I experienced at the AMS Conference.
First, there is a focus on whether the teacher loves the work or believes the child will love the work. Our teachers analyze what our children will build within themselves from carrying out a task. This isn’t always a concrete measurable thing, but instead provides pivotal development of the whole child.
The next step is the actual placement of the work within the child’s environment. If a work is not placed in a way and location that is beautiful and meaningful, the child may miss the opportunity to interact with it.
Then, the teacher watches how children actually interact with their environment. The teacher is so in tune with both the child and the environment that he or she is able to understand what is and is not working within the classroom.
If the teacher observes that the work is not giving the joy and benefit they so carefully designed, then they have to go back to the drawing board to understand why. This is crucial to the success of a prepared environment.
The teacher’s job is never done nor easy. They are the facilitator of the thoughtful environment.
What I Learned at the AMS Conference.
Having read books and research on the Montessori method, I understood the importance of the prepared environment. But I did not realize the amount of time, effort and thoughtfulness required to achieve it. In talking with many individuals, I’m blown away by their insightfulness and ability to reflect on themselves.
Our teachers are constantly changing and evolving because they want to put their best self in the classroom with the children. Much of this understanding can only come from observation, not words read on a page. You need to be present to feel the power washing over you. This is what I almost missed.
The beauty. The care. The love. The passion. The respect.
I often don’t take the time to really reflect on things and fully take in what is going on around me. I’m process driven and focus on long-term goals because that is how my mind works. Because of that, I’m missing so much in my day-to-day life.
There is so much opportunity for joy and happiness. So much opportunity for growth that is not measurable, but felt. So much opportunity for peace within that is not embraced. So much beauty that is passed by.
While I did not take away what I thought I would from the weekend, I think I gained more. The ability to really observe and allow the beauty to shine through.
-Jacqueline Bertsch (Parent and Board Member)