What’s the difference between a Montessori Director/Directress and a Teacher?
Many parents and educators are surprised by this different name we have in the Montessori environment, where with a firm voice we agree that the adults on the rooms are to be called Director/Directress, not teacher. but why so much conviction?
The term teacher or master comes from the Latin terminology “magister” and it refers to the person who is proficient on a subject or specific field and it’s therefore in charge of passing along that knowledge to students. This role has always been given in the past to the type of teacher most commonly defined by the conductivism theory, where the child is just a passive element of the education system, an empty vase destined to be filled with the knowledge poured by the teacher.
The teacher of this education theory, uses books and notes to aid his or her task, and works with the memory of the child and his ability to memorize facts, not the different skills and learning experiences. Besides the above described, there are some “support” measures: ergonomic desks and chairs so the child would stay put longer, activities based on fantasy so children get distracted in the process so they “pay more attention” and the use of technologies to “help the teacher’s tasks”.
Not all the teachers nowadays think or act this way, although there is a tendency in the universities to teach the future teachers to conduct a class in this manner; taking around 30 children, of the same age and make sure that they learn all the same at the same time; conforming to the law of Education approved in that moment.
This type of education is forgetting a very obvious part of the child, which is as important as breathing: the ability to move. The child that is between ages 0-6 years, needs to be able to explore the world, learn what is in his/her nearby surrounding, develop his/her senses and incorporate all this knowledge into his/her mind, so he/she can manipulate and later on create the reality he/she lives in and make it his/hers.
This is the main reason why adults who work and live through the Montessori method try to get as far as possible from the preconceived image and thought that people make or have when they hear the word “teacher or master”.
The Montessori Director/Directress has gone through a transforming process of learning about the child and his/her development, but also about his/her own personal development, observing and analyzing his/her own behavior and thoughts and working on them to avoid having prejudices when observing the child. The Montessori Director/Directress is not sitting behind a desk, but sitting with the children, on a small stool or on the floor and doesn’t make the children memorize, rather he/she let’s them explore and learn for themselves, according to their interests. When they see a child, they don’t assume “he/she has this kind of behavior and skills because he/she is this age, so this are our expectations”; instead, they look with a clean and open mind, each and every movement and actions the child performs, offering the according materials and chances to learn and explore, adjusted and customized to each child’s learning process.
A 2 1/2 year old child starts climbing up on the chairs and the shelves of the classroom:
- The teacher of the traditional conductivism theory, will ask the child to get down and sit properly on the chair, and if he/she doesn’t obey, will be put on time out or sit on “the thinking chair” so he/she can “calm down and start reasoning”.
- The Director/Directress will observe the behavior, will get close to the child and say: “it looks like you want to climb, come, I will show you where you can do it”, and bring the child to some stairs, climbing bars or climbing wall, something in the center that is under the safety rules according to the law.
Which one would you rather have if you were that child?
It’s important to talk to the child from a positive perspective, instead of saying “not there, not this, no, you can’t” it’s better if we say “yes, is better in here, you can do it”, looking for the chances and places where the child can express their needs and develop his/her own persona, something they can’t stop.
Each child develops in a different way, even when they are the same age; it is of vital importance that the Montessori Director/Directress observes the child, his/her actions, his/her behavior, preferences, things the child is not working at the moment; and after collecting all this data, set an action like the one described above. After it, observes the child again to see if the help offered was adequate and they can move on or if it wasn’t and therefore he/she needs to readjust and correct that help provided.
This is done with each and every child in the environment.
Another difference is the fact that in a Montessori environment, there are mixed ages for a period of three years, meaning children are grouped from 1 to 3 years old, 3 to 6 years old, 6 to 9 years old, 9 to 12 years old… This helps the children can follow their stage of development with a classmate in the same stage and on top of that, they can observe older children and show younger ones, with the unique perspective a child has that an adult will never reach as is his/her condition of adult.
To finish this post, I would love to leave you the Montessori Decalogue, needed in your life as a Montessorian person:
- *Never touch a child, unless you are invited (in some way). This doesn’t mean we should treat the child in a distant manner, but rather to give him/her space and wait to be invited by the child, whether verbally or non-verbally. Especially in the case of children ages 0 to 3, it’s important to pay attention to the non-verbal cues: cry, extend arms, look, smile to the adult… this are the more obvious invitations.
- Never speak ill of the child, in his/her presence or absence.
- Focus on reinforce and support the development of that what is good on the child, so it takes more room and leaves less room for the bad.
- Let’s be always ready to prepare the environment. Take care of it constantly and meticulously . Help the child create a constructive relationship with him/her. Assign an appropriate place and time where means of development are taken care of and respected.
- Always be prepared to listen to the call of the child who needs you. Always listen and respond to the child who appeals to you.
- Respect the child who makes a mistake and can fix it on his/her own; but end immediately and firmly any action that could put the child, his development or others in danger.
- Respect the child who rests and observes the work of others, is thinking of what he/she has done and what is he /she going to do next. Don’t ask him to make a task or force him to do some other form of activity.
- Help those who are looking for an activity and can’t find it.
- Repeat tirelessly presentations to the child who has refused them before, helping this child to acquire what he/she hasn’t made of his/her own and get over his/her imperfections. This should be done in a loving, quiet and calm environment; with soft words and loving presence. Make your presence available and known to the child who looks for something and hide it from the child who has found it.
- Always treat the child with your best manners and offer the best there is in you.