Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary

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I've been considering as of late what makes a good Montessori teacher.  We can all agree that the teacher must be trained in the materials and the theory.  The teacher must understand child development.  The teacher must communicate effectively with the parents.  The teacher must be able to present the materials effectively, and keep adequate records.  But what is the element that elevates an ordinary teacher to extraordinary?  Dr Montessori says, "To stimulate life,–leaving it then free to develop, to unfold,–herein lies the first task of the educator. In such a delicate task, a great art must suggest the moment, and limit the intervention, in order that we shall arouse no perturbation, cause no deviation, but rather that we shall help the soul which is coming into the fullness of life, and which shall live from its own forces. This art must accompany the scientific method. (The Montessori Method; Maria Montessori). It seems to achieve this "art" our observations must be discerning and unbiased, so that we may recognize the moment where we may stimulate the inner life of the child.  We must also be attuned acutely to the child, so that we know when to leave the child free to use his own "force" to develop.  Montessori also states, " It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism (The Montessori Method)."  So while we may possess all the mechanics of a Montessori teacher (materials, education, etc.) without the necessary inner spirit and art we will fall short of being the complete teacher.  I think I understand.  I have seen rooms which operate well, are managed well, but there is no great love.  The children have not coalesced as a community, they show little excitement, and the work is confined to the materials.  I have also seen rooms where there is a living spirit, where the children are respectful yet alive, where education comes in many shapes and forms.  What do you think?  What is the intangible something that transforms a Montessori teacher into a phenomenal Montessori teacher?  Perhaps it is the living of life with a true excitement that is generated by all the possibilities.

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