When did you decide to be a teacher? Was there something in particular that inspired you?
I am the oldest of four siblings and nine cousins. I would come home from preschool and teach my sister -- she says that I taught her how to read. I remember taking care of my youngest sister and my younger cousins. Growing up, I heard “you are so good with kids” a lot.
One summer, I was working at a traditional day care and was fortunate enough to be paired with a woman who was a Montessori Kindergarten teacher.
She opened up a whole new world for me. I was so inspired and motivated by what she shared with me that summer that I decided to work with her again the following school year, and I took a position as her assistant in a public Montessori school.
What was your own early education like?
I remember making peanut butter balls. I attended a traditional morning program for a year before starting Kindergarten.
Which lesson do you particularly enjoy giving and why?
I enjoy giving practical life washing lessons such as cleaning the shaving cream off of a mirror. Washing activities are longer lessons that require multiple steps: getting your small dish, walking over to the shaving cream, shaking the can and spraying it into the dish, walking back to the rug and mirror, going to get water for the tub, rubbing the shaving cream all over the mirror and enjoying the gross motor movement, drawing a smiley face for fun before methodically wetting and squeezing the sponge in order to remove ALL the shaving cream. It is amazing how long this holds the children’s attention and you can feel the excitement in the room, they all really want a turn! Then when you are watching them do it on their own you see their focus and concentration increasing as they are having fun!
Describe one of your student's ah-ha moments that you particularly remember.
A-ha moments are actually very personal, the child is typically working in sensorial or practical life when they figure something out on their own and they don't always share that with me.
I will say that there is one A-ha that the kindergarten students share with me every year and it involves the counting chains. The kindergarten students watch as I progressively add longer chains for them to count. They build their sense of mastery after having counted the square of a number and then being challenged to count to the cube of the number as well. The children get excited as the chains get longer and longer and then they realize... the longest chain (the cube of 10) is actually the easiest to count! By the time they are given this assignment they are gaining skip counting skills and counting by tens is "so easy"!
What is the question you are asked most frequently about Montessori?
“They do that at school?” I frequently find that parents are surprised to hear how independent their child is at school. Sometimes parents are surprised to see that the child is putting on their own shoes or preparing their own snack. They are surprised to hear that their child helps to take care of other children or attempts to do the work of an older child, like the three year old who became obsessed with the 100 board this year because his five year old buddy enjoyed it so much.
Parents are universally impressed that their child cleans up after themselves at school and puts their work away when they are done, this demonstrates their completing the cycle of activity and shows their respect for the environment. Both are inherent to the Montessori classroom but do not necessarily make it home with the child (sorry their room will probably not be as neat as the classroom).