Yesterday afternoon I witnessed something in the Extended-Day classroom that typically would not occur in a Montessori class until later in the year, if at all, depending on the make-up of the class. I reflected on what I saw several times throughout the evening and I thought it was well worth sharing today as it speaks to the caliber and diligent efforts of the teacher (and foundation of the previous years in Casa) as well as to the respect and trust which is clearly the foundation of the student-teacher relationship. It is achievements like these, which most Montessori Guides typically accept as the ‘norm’ while quietly going on with the rest of their day. Achievements such as these however are indeed worthy of acknowledgement and celebration!
Yesterday I had a quick message to share with the Extended-day Guide while the class was in session. To mitigate my interruption to the class, I peeked through the large classroom window to locate her and catch her eye so she could meet me at the door when she was free. My eyes scanned the room and I couldn’t see her at first glance so I scanned more carefully stopping at each individual child or small group of children thinking that perhaps I missed seeing her because she was sitting on the floor or was hidden by a small group of children while sitting on one of the child-sized chairs to give a lesson. Again, I couldn’t spot her. On my third scan of the room, I more carefully observed each child in the room to make sure I covered every individual. Where was she? There was a child working with the Movable Alphabet, there were two children working collaboratively to sweep up a mess, there was a boy looking at a book in the library, there were two boys working with geometry material, there was one child washing his hands and there were two more children quietly observing a third child do her work. Their hands were clasped behind their backs as they quietly stood watching. The children were working so diligently and the classroom running so smoothly and beautifully that I had to look three times to come to the conclusion that Guide was not there!
It was at this point that I looked up and saw the Guide organizing something on the bulletin board just outside the open classroom door. I approached her and together we stood just out of eyesight of the children watching intently as they exhibited the self-direction, independence, collaboration, self-control, self-discipline, flow, respect for each other, and joy in their work that is one of the primary measuring sticks of the success of Montessori education.
After careful observation of the developmental needs of the children and providing the uniquely prepared Montessori environment where children learned, explored, were guided with respect and were trusted to follow their own natural interest, Dr. Maria Montessori first recognized her own success as an educator. She observed, “The children were working as if I was not there.”- Maria Montessori.
Of course this occurrence does not happen all day, every day. There are far too many needs, desires and personalities for that to be the case and we must remember, the children are only 5 and 6 years old. Developmentally they are learning to be part of a social community, to be benevolent leaders, to control their impulses, excitement and feelings, and to make compromises that benefit the group rather themselves.
As the children continue to grow and mature physically, intellectually and emotionally, it is important to widen our viewing lens from one myopic glimpse, one situation, or one isolated moment in time, to that of the larger picture ‘window’, and celebrate!