The concept of small children learning from one another, being independent and engaging respectfully with peers and adults is what teachers strive for. The transition from dependence on a caregiver to their independence is often facilitated through preschool. This paper will discuss this evolution through the social embryotic stage, some of the obstacles children need to surpass, the benefits of the right environment, the changing role of the teacher throughout this process and the optimum guidance for a child (Montessori 1966, 2007a, 2007b).
There are three terms which require defining prior to understanding the role of a teacher. The first is the term “teacher” as Montessori’s expectations of a teacher are vastly different from what has and is expected. Secondly there are the deviations which hinder a child’s natural path. And the final term “normalisation” which suggests some sort of psychiatric reprogramming, but in fact is the exact opposite (Montessori, 2007a).
A Montessori teacher must be a guardian for the child’s learning and care, a custodian to the favourable environment, an observer of each child’s nuances, a gentle hand that leads and an instructor to those in their care. When Montessori began her schools the teachers had to be untrained and taught how to teach by example, guide based on the individual needs/observations and exude patience and love (Montessori, 1966). The typical perception of a teacher is the director of the class. The teacher controls the content, schedule, volume and often tone of the classroom whilst insisting on a degree of subservience. Montessori teachers contradict many of these roles and follow the lead of the child, recognising opportunities to teach rather than demanding attention.
The term “deviations” conjures up an image of going the wrong way either physically, mentally or both. Although somewhat accurate the harshness of the term and application to toddlers makes it unsavoury in 2012. That said these deviations were just that, a side step from the natural course a child was meant to follow. Montessori’s every attempt was to bring the child back onto their intended, bespoke path through the process of normalisation. The deviations Montessori identified were rooted either in adult misguidance or socially accepted misbehaviours. Children strayed / deviated from their natural path through: attachment, possessiveness, desire for power, inferiority complex, fear and lies; Montessori hoped to realign them through normalisation (Montessori, 1966).
The third term to be defined is normalisation, a process through concentration and work a child returns to their natural path freed from deviations (Montessori, 2007b). Rather than goading or forcing a child into certain behaviours and patterns the child is encouraged to be independent and obedient through their own will and intention. A normalised child is described by their: love of work, concentration, self-discipline and sociability (Montessori, 2007a). Montessori was able to identify the favourable environment that allowed children to shed their deviations and progress into a normalised child with the assistance of teachers. The environment is the responsibility of the teacher and provides the right conditions for the child to progress along their natural path (Montessori 1966/2007a). The teacher must create a place where the child is the master from being able to sit on an appropriate sized chair, finding the activity in the same place day after day, and receiving consistent treatment from the teacher. In the favourable environment “A child chooses what helps him to construct himself (Montessori, 2007a, p. 203).”With these characteristics in place the teachers may now begin to influence the children in their care. The influence must be made based on careful observation. Understanding how a child learns (demonstration, verbal explanation or leaving them to have a try), the flow of his/her day and presenting activities which...
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