The Montessori Educator, Teacher, Guide or Directress is one of the main components that make Montessori as a method of educating the child stand out. Why is this? The Montessori Educator has the unenviable job of doing that which is usually considered difficult yet this same job if done well satisfies the yearnings of the child in no other way.
What am I talking about?
Let me tell you about Ayo.
Ayo is a 3 year old boy, child of Mr Bode Alade, a banker and Mrs Iyabo Alade a lawyer. His parents are both hard working and very busy. They are doing great financially and building their careers slowly but surely. Mr and Mrs Alade have two helpers in the house, a nanny and a cook, and a driver whose main job is to get Ayo to and from school daily. So for them both the home and school fronts are well covered.
Ayo was going to a Day Care center last year but he has since been enrolled in a top Montessori school once he clocked 3 on his last birthday. Everything is going well enough for the Alades except for this nigigly feeling Mrs Alade has at the back of her mind…
‘Why is Ayo not writing yet?’ She has been considering several lines of action she would like to take. One of them was to remove Ayo from his present school next term. She discussed this with her husband, who adviced her to talk to his teacher and get them (the school ) make him write. ‘If there are no changes in the next term or so then remove him from the school, but I do understand from what people are saying, that this Montessori method is a bit slower than the norm though very effective!’
So Iyabo decides to take some time out to go and have a quick talk with the teacher on Monday morning. The teacher, Mrs Chinwe Agbor was so glad to see Mrs Alade. This was actually the first time she would engage with the school as she was always too busy to attend the PTA meetings or Parents Forums held for the 3 to 6 classes in the school.
When Mrs Alade had finished complaining about how disappointed she was with the progress of Ayo, Mrs Agbor herself also was disappointed with her parent. She could see that Mrs Alade did not understand her child or her responsibilities towards Ayo But she contained herself and calmly tried to explain the situation to the angry parent before her.
Here is what Mrs Agbor said to Iyabo:
‘Ma, thank you very much for bringing this to our attention, we are aware of the fact that Ayo has not started writing yet, he is a great communicator though. When it comes to speaking up and answering questions, telling stories and even speaking in the group at circle time, Ayo does exceptionally well.
We have been working with him with some important skills to help him to learn to eat his meals himself and also just doing lots of activities with his hands and fingers to help develop the skills he needs to write. Can I ask Ma, who feeds Ayo at home?’
‘The house girl does actually? Why can’t you people feed him in school? He is only 3 years old for crying out loud!’ was Mrs Alade’s outburst.
‘Yes ma, you are right he is only 3 years old’ replied Mrs Agbor trying not to laugh at this absurd idea that some parents have of wanting their children to write but not feed themselves at 3 plus!
‘What we have found though,’ she continued, ‘is that children who learn to feed themselves and do various simple house chores are more likely to enjoy writing as well. If they cannot feed themselves, their hands are not trained to help themselves, neither will they be interested in using it for that external activity of writing.’
‘Hmm,’ said Mrs Alade, ‘you know I never thought about it that way! You these Montessori people. Hmmmm.’
‘Yes ma, the Montessori Parent Forums we have held for the last two terms delved deeply into what we need to do at home to prepare the children’s hands for writing. We sent a summary of the discussions to our parent’s email boxes. I hope you got yours?’
‘I did, but must confess I did not read it! I should have done though’ she got up and said, ‘Please forgive my rudeness, it is obvious to me now that I have not really been paying attention to some important things I need to be doing. I came here with the express conviction to shake you up or remove my child. Now I can see that I am the one who needs shaking up. Thank you for your time. When is the next Parent’s Forum?’
The rest is history, Mrs Alade made some changes to how she ran her household, spent more time with Ayo and on things that related to him. She has not missed any Parent forums or PTA meetings since that day.
Mrs Alade is now a strong Montessori advocate, as she has seen Ayo grow into a confident happy young writer at 4 plus. He is now able to feed and dress himself, he helps to clear the table and wash the plates, he can now make his bed and clean the room. Not perfectly, but he tries, and most importantly he just gets it done! No one has to force him to do all these things! Mrs Alade is so happy she listened to Mrs Agbor who has now become her very good friend.
The Montessori Educator has a duty to help the child get to where they need to be, but with love, understanding and encouragement. As a Montessori Educator you must also help the child, the parent and the family get to where they need to get to. Ultimately, you must respect and love the children in your care. Help them to reach within and learn to be happy confident joyful learners. Your first job as a Montessori Educator the way I see it is help the child gain use of the hands, to care for self, the environment and then to communicate.
This is how the Montessori Educator begins the journey of educating the mind, starting with the hands.