Role of the Adult

Montessori educators embark on a long-term learning process in order to earn certification as a Montessori teacher. First, they receive extensive training in the life of and educational philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori. Next, Montessori teacher education provides specialized training in the purpose and implementation of Montessori's innovative curriculum and developmental learning materials. Finally, candidates for certification are instructed in the unique teaching method and intern in a classroom under a master Montessori teacher.

The teacher . . . must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself through work. She must free herself from all preconceived ideas concerning the levels at which the children may be.

The many different types of children . . . must not worry her. . . . The teacher must believe that this child before her will show his true nature when he finds a piece of work that attracts him. So what must she look out for? That one child or another will begin to concentrate.
— Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind (1949)

So how exactly does the role of a Montessori teacher differ from that of more traditional educators? Here are just a few key differences:


Guide on the Side

Montessori teachers are often called guides--they show a child how to use the materials or interact with their peers but then step back to allow the child the space to explore and discover independently. Children are encouraged to work on a material for as long as they need and the teachers trust that the child is driven to explore the materials that they choose in order to fulfill an inner drive.

Allowing Children to Be Who They Are

A child’s intuitive ability blossoms best in an environment of non-judgement. We avoid traditional reinforcement mechanisms like gold stars or point systems. Instead, we use self-correcting materials and reminders, giving children the framework to develop their own capacity for judgement. We find that children develop a true sense of being loved for who they are when they do not encounter a constant stream of praise or punishment for what they do. 

Family Connections

We begin cultivating relationships with a child’s family long before they enroll and develop those relationships over a three year period (sometimes longer when siblings attend). We visit each child’s home before they begin to attend in order to spend time with the child and family in a neutral space. Once the child is attending regularly, we continue to connect with families when parents participate in the classroom, during parent education events, and at regular family outings and celebrations. In the classroom, we serve as compassionate guides and objective observers. The loving, trusting bond that develops between each teacher and child provides for a sense of security and confidence in the child, and increases that child’s own intrinsic ability to extend love and support to others.

Joyful Learners

The result of our emphasis on mindfulness and compassion is a true joyfulness in the classroom. Children are confident in themselves, serene, and happy. They love coming to school every day (as do we!). Our own sense of purpose is strengthened when we see the genuine happiness in the children as they work, learn, play and grow each day.