This is a lovely post from a school in South Dakota.
What is this teacher doing? She is doing nothing! What are we paying her for??
Montessori wrote: “the greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘the children are now working as if I was not there.’”
What on earth? It might help to say that Montessori called her teachers “guides”. This has not caught on, but it is a great reminder. A guide sets the framework for your own appreciation and enjoyment. The guide supplements what you already know and follows your interest. The guide does not do the exploring for you! The guide invites, and shares his or her enthusiasm. The guide is thrilled when you want to take it further on your own.
This teacher has successfully set the stage, and is observing. Montessori talked a lot about observing. If you have ever watched an occupational or physical therapist, or been on a hike with a specialist (ornithologist, entomologist), you know that they are “seeing” things which you don’t see. The entomologist might leap up in front of you, landing with something in her hand that you had never seen at all! The ornithologist can tell what is around by listening.
As a Montessori teacher, we spend a long time in training learning to “see” children, and working on this “vision” never ends.
If we have grown up in traditional classrooms, we start off thinking that nothing will happen in the classroom unless we make it happen. We are the impetus of all knowledge! In my experience, I had my supervising teachers stop me from going to a child, from “interfering”! What a shock! I am interfering? I remember asking a teacher why they did not give the words for what the child was doing?(“Throw those facts at them! was what I was thinking.) She replied: “Children learn in one modality. She is exploring with her senses. She can do this many times before she will want the words.” Shocking!
Many times, when it seems the classroom is “going to hell” (my words), we teachers sit down and observe. Once we stop moving, they generally settle down to nice work on their own. This may mean that our actions have been disrupting their ability to concentrate! How humbling!
This necessitates a lot of trust. You must trust the process, the materials, the children and yourself. This is frightening at first, and you will make a lot of errors. I still interfere when I need not. Then I forgive myself, try to learn and go on. The children are tough and very forgiving.