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Guides and Teachers

May 30, 2018

 

What do we call those people who share and prepare Montessori environments? Are they Teachers? Guides? Directors? Facilitators? You'll find special language in most Montessori schools to reflect the distinct role we believe adults play in the environment. You may have heard about it during an admissions tours or been chided about it by your own child the first time you accidentally asked about their teacher. 

 

Many Montessori schools choose language that pushes back on the direct instruction suggested by the term, "Teacher." In an effort to better capture the work of adults, we steer clear of labels that define what adults do here in ways that evoke traditional expert-student relationships. Instead, we find terms that indicate a support role, like a person who is there to guide or encourage or suggest possible paths to the child, but who does not teach them directly. 

 

There is a limit to language, though, and each term that we select narrows our shared understanding of what we do here and how we do it. That is not to suggest that we should just do away with labels entirely, but be aware that your child's teacher does much more than just guide them. Indeed, the work of a Montessori teacher is more complicated than could be encapsulated by a single term. And, because Montessori environments are both prepared for the specific children they serve and responsive to the dynamic needs those children express, any one day could entail an endless number of roles for the "teacher." 

 

You may hear Montessorians describe their role as, "Scientist, Servant and Saint." We are scientists, observing children to understand their unique needs and ways of understanding the world. Those observations inform our role as servants, preparing environments within which we believe that the children can thrive. And within those environments, we simultaneously aspire to be saints, modeling for children the peacefulness, empathy and responsiveness we hope they'll demonstrate themselves. 

 

But we are also parent educators. And first responders. And conflict managers. We are zoologists and botanists, mathematicians and referees. We are sometimes bookkeepers, sometimes marketing gurus. Because we hope to prepare environments that are propelling and responsive to whatever needs the children demonstrate, and because we understand those needs to be diverse, complex and sometimes unpredictable, Montessorians must be prepared to play may roles at once. Even, sometimes, "teachers." 

 

Use your school's choice of label as a starting point from which you can ask more informed questions about how Montessori looks here, about the work the adults expect themselves to contribute and the ways in which they limit or describe those contributions. But don't presume that any one label is going to completely capture the work completely. It's lofty work, described by labels inherently limited in their completeness. Let those labels initiate a conversation, knowing that, if all these things we say in Montessori are true, the label could describe, at least in part, anyone in service to the child, as much to the nature of classroom teachers as it is to role of parents.  Remember what Montessori tells us, "Our aim is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core."

 

 

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