The Montessori teacher’s role is to connect the children with the Montessori prepared environment. In general terms the teacher’s role includes:
- preparing the learning environment
- linking the children to appropriate and challenging activities
- leaving children free to engage in an activity until their interest is satisfied, only assisting where required.
- coordinating the dynamic balance between freedom and discipline
- recording children’s progress and achievement
Montessori teachers develop warm and supportive relationships with children, marked by respect for the children’s abilities and individual developmental needs. While children in the Montessori environment are not given unfettered freedom, they are free to choose their own work. The teacher respects children’s work choices, ensuring individual choice does not become secondary to group activities.
Montessori teachers are trained to observe children’s interests and activity carefully. The way Montessori teachers observe children’s activity can be compared to the ‘fluid rather than static’ approach to observation advocated by Fleer and Surman (2006: 145) for teachers working in early childhood settings. Knowing how to observe constructively and when, and how much, or how little, to intervene, is one of the most important talents the Montessori teacher acquires during a rigorous course of training. Close observation provides the evidence teachers use to make decisions about how to foster children’s interests and meet children’s learning needs. Observation is also used to monitor children’s progress.
On the basis of their observations Montessori teachers introduce developmentally appropriate challenges by showing children how to work with Montessori materials matched to their current needs and interests. For this reason, Montessori teachers must know the scope, sequence and use of the Montessori materials in sufficient detail to be able to select and present lessons effectively at point of need. The repertoire of Montessori activities and exercises across the curriculum for each stage of development is extensive. Montessori teachers draw on this repertoire as they strive to offer just the right lesson or activity to each child at just the right moment.
In the context of literacy education Snow, Burns and Griffin (1998 executive summary, cited in Freebody 2007:59)
59) point out that ‘the identical mix of instructional materials and strategies’ do not ‘work for each and every child’. Drawing on their research findings, they argue that ‘effective teachers are able to craft a special mix of instructional ingredients for every child they work with’ chosen from ‘a common menu of materials, strategies and environments’. This is the approach used by Montessori teachers in all content areas for children and young people at all stages of development.
Montessori teachers consult regularly with parents throughout each three-year stage. When necessary, Montessori teachers also work closely with other professionals, including, for example, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and specialist curriculum consultants.
Montessori teachers have Montessori qualifications for one, or more, developmental phases (birth to three, three to six, six to twelve) as well as teaching qualifications recognised by state educational authorities. Each Montessori teacher-training course comprises a full academic year, or equivalent, of a study of the Montessori method as well as Montessori professional experience through practicum.
Extract from Montessori National Curriculum, Montessori Australia Foundation