My Montessori journey began three years ago, when I decided that I might be ready to go back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for twelve years. Prior to having children, I had worked as a Museum Educator for over ten years. Through that work, I gained a strong appreciation for the value of hands-on learning and providing students with opportunities to learn about subjects that they are excited about. A friend had suggested that I consider teaching at a Montessori school, based on my beliefs about how kids learn best. She thought I would enjoy that type of educational environment. After doing some research, I found the Montessori Center for Teacher Development (MCTD) program, and decided to apply.
The first step in the application process was to do an observation at a local Montessori school. That first observation was eye opening. From the moment I stepped through the door and observed the students quietly concentrating and working on many different lessons at the same time with gentle and encouraging guidance from their teacher, I was hooked! I knew nothing about the Montessori Method, but what I did know was that any method of teaching that kept the children so engaged and clearly happy to be at school was a method of learning that I wanted to know more about.
I was very excited to learn that the MCTD program provided a certification to teach students ages 2 ½ to 6 years old because I have always found myself being drawn to the natural curiosity and enthusiasm that young children demonstrate in the classroom when they are provided with the right opportunity and environment for learning. Of course, along with my excitement, I also had many questions and concerns about going back to school. How would I balance going to school while also handling my many responsibilities at home? Would I remember how to write a research paper and have enough confidence in class to present lessons? Luckily, with the support of my family, the other Adult Learners in my cohort, and the truly wonderful MCTD staff, I have been able to successfully navigate this new chapter in my life.
When I began the MCTD program during the summer of 2017, my plan was to continue to stay at home with my children while completing the Academic Phases and go back to work during the fall of 2018 when I began my Practicum. Plans changed though, when an opportunity presented itself, and I was hired as an Assistant Teacher at a local Montessori school. I began working that September. I cannot express strongly enough how helpful it was for me to be taking courses and learning more about the Montessori Method, while at the same time being able to observe and apply what I was learning at MCTD in an actual Montessori classroom. I was hired as an ‘on-staff substitute assistant’, which meant that I was able to observe many different classrooms and styles of teaching. I have always been a strong promoter of the hands-on approach to learning, and I found that as an Adult Learner, this hands-on learning was also the best method for me!
The Montessori courses that I took during the Academic Phases of my program started with a very thorough course about who Maria Montessori was and how her beautifully created didactic learning materials truly prepared the students to be successful and to gain a love for learning. I think it is impossible to really understand the Montessori classroom before learning about Maria Montessori’s background and her philosophy. When I think back to my first few weeks and months in the classroom as an Adult Learner, I realize just how little I knew and how much I have learned about this remarkable woman and about what she found to be the best way to work with children.
During the Practicum Phase of my program, I continued to learn more every day. My Supervising Teacher provided me with endless opportunities to present lessons using the Montessori materials, as well as to develop new lessons to add to the classroom. I had once again found my passion for teaching, and I looked forward each day to observing students as they have those “ah-ha” moments when they independently succeed at understanding a lesson that they have worked so hard on in the classroom.
The MCTD program provides all of the guidance and support that is needed to be successful to Adult Learners who, like myself, have no prior knowledge of the Montessori Method or experience in a Montessori classroom. In addition to growing in my understanding about Montessori, I have also changed and grown personally as well. While juggling my many responsibilities, I have been forced to become more organized, to procrastinate less, and to be more confident both in and out of the classroom. I had forgotten how much fun it is to learn, and the great thing about being a Montessori Teacher is that the teachers never stop learning along with their students! There have admittedly been many late nights writing papers and last-minute shopping trips to stores to find the materials needed for a lesson, but looking back, it was all worthwhile. I now know that I have found what I want to do during the next phase of my career, and I look forward to what the future holds.