As Montessorians we focus a lot on “the prepared environment,” in the meantime forgetting, we cannot hope to have a prepared environment without a prepared teacher. I do not mean prepared in the sense of training, I do not even mean prepared, as in having a plan for the day, week, or even the year. I mean prepared as in our whole self, from the way we enter a room, model grace and courtesy, and carry our self throughout the day.
The training and experience are important in terms of preparation. You must learn the philosophy in order to teach it. More importantly you must live the philosophy in order to be it. The children in our care are reflections of ourselves. We can see our actions mirrored in their tiny bodies from the way they care for the environment to the way they speak to others. The next time you see a child kick in a chair with their foot or use a sharp tone while speaking to a friend, reflect upon yourself, they are mimicking the behavior of what they see. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and slide a chair in with your foot, or abandon your work entirely to handle a crisis. Being mindful of these instances is so important to growth of the teacher. The tone, and flow of a classroom can be shaped so fluidly by the adults within.
Personally I feel the preparation goes so much deeper than training, books, and observations. My preparation began in my training. While taking part in a lesson with my instructor I gathered my things and stood up from the table. He graciously asked me how I expected a small child to hold so many things in their hands and still be able to push in their chair. It was in that moment I realized that my manuals could be beautiful, my shelves inviting, my lessons without fault, but my children would still be lacking if I did not first prepare myself. Even to this day, I still catch myself moving in my classroom with my arms filled with things, all the while reminding my children “one at a time.” Just like all things in life I am as much a work in progress as my classroom, my children, and my work.” I find it important to remind myself to slow down a situation, and do things in the proper way. Put down my work, tuck in my chair carefully, put my work away slowly one piece at a time. I often remind myself that nothing is so urgent that I must diminish the child’s independence to complete the task more quickly. This mindfulness is a key part in my preparation as a teacher.
Maria Montessori referred to the teacher as “beautiful and sweet smelling.” This goes beyond dressing appropriately for work. Not only should I be well groomed and dressed accordingly, but I should be aware of the impact my appearance has on my class. I may prefer a glossy hot pink manicure and bold statement jewelry, but those things greatly detract from the fluidity when presenting a lesson with my hands. The child is no longer focused on the grace and technique of my hands, but with the color and shape of my nails or jewelry. Something as simple as brushing your hair out of your face, during a lesson, can break the concentration of an inquisitive child. When children are modeling our motions so intently our focus should be on the work at hand.
One morning at my local coffee shop, I was stopped by an employee as I was picking up some paper from the ground. The employee assured me there was no need for me to pick it up. My response was that I cannot expect the children in my class to care for the environment in such a way if I am not willing to myself. Our efforts to teach our children should always extend out of our classrooms and in to the world. I leave you with this… “The purpose of life is to obey the hidden command which ensures harmony among all, and creates an even better world. We are not created only to enjoy the world, we are created in order to evoke the cosmos.” ~Maria Montessori
Written by Meghan Redman