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Moms, Teachers and Montessori

March, 2011
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Three mothers who are also teachers at the Montessori School of Shanghai share with us their choice of Montessori education for their children as a parent and also their decisions to be a Montessori teacher…

varole-and-her-daughtere589afe69cacTeacher Carole:

I found out about Montessori when I took a job at a Montessori school in the US. I had worked for many years with children so I applied to work in a kindergarten. It was a Montessori school but I didn’t know anything about Montessori at the time. I worked there for almost 4 years with children 2.5 to 6 years old and I grew to love it. I saw how advanced the kids were in language and math and how peaceful they were each day while in school.

When my husband and I decided to have a child, I knew that I would send my child to a Montessori school because I knew about Montessori. I loved the hands-on approach and knew that, no matter what kind of learner my little daughter was, she would learn quickly and easily in a Montessori classroom.

I decided to be a teacher because I love children and it seemed like a natural progression: I had worked as a baby sitter, a nanny, and so becoming a teacher, a trained Montessori teacher, seemed like the next step in understanding and teaching children.

What I learned about my child is that she is a lot stronger that I thought! Before she went to Montessori, I thought she was shy and even fragile. I was worried that other children would push her around and take advantage of her. I had no idea that Montessori teachers help the littlest children stand up for themselves. There was a much bigger boy in the class. One day I went to the observation room of the Montessori school. The children were playing with scarves and he took the one she had. She turned around and took it right back! The teacher sat them both down and talked to them about using words and not taking things from each other. I had a whole new appreciation of Montessori education and Montessori teachers after that. And I never worried about my little girl at school again. 

My favorite story about my child is when she was 2-and-a-half. She was always saying “No”. Her Montessori teacher pretended that my daughter was saying the word “gnome”, which is a creature like an elf and kind of sounds like the word “no.” The teacher was creative, turning “no” into “gnomes”. She would ask my daughter, “Where are the gnomes?” Then they would look around the room and laugh together, and my daughter would do the thing the teacher had asked her to do!

I think that the teachers are great. I love how the teacher makes time to talk with me whenever I have questions and that she takes the time to explain what is going on to me. Montessori teachers move slowly and gracefully. They talk softly and are respectful when speaking with the children. They can think of many ways to get children to love to sit still, to love to learn, and to love school. Children just don’t spend hours in school memorizing. Children are active, engaged learners. It is very hard to misbehave in a Montessori school as the teachers are great, the materials are highly interesting to children and there is so much respect and kindness. The children become creative, independent thinkers.

julia-and-lelee589afe69cacTeacher Julia:

I found out about Montessori when a friend invited me to see a Montessori school in Shanghai. I immediately thought I would like to work there as I had never seen such well-behaved and happy children on campus! I knew that I wanted to be a teacher who treated children kindly and where children were so motivated to learn!

My son was only 16 months old when he started nursery school. I had seen how the children were taught in the Montessori School of Shanghai. He loved the teachers in his class from the beginning! The teachers spoke both English and Chinese. I couldn’t believe that having him in this class would produce such a change in him!

The Montessori school has firm rules and loving teachers so he now listens and knows how to follow directions and does what we ask him to do; well, most of the time! What is amazing is how he used to not focus on anything for even a minute, and now he can pay attention and do something for many minutes at a time, without an adult being right there!

What I learned about my child is that he is very capable and competent. When he is treated with respect and given a lesson he can do almost anything! He is still only a little more than 2 years old, but he puts his work away in school because he has been taught to do that so that another child can use the materials. Now, he puts his things away at home, too! We are so happy to see this. We know that he is being responsible for his own things and not thinking that Mommy or Daddy will always be picking up after him.

My favorite story about my child is about how he has learned so much Chinese and English. He listens to both languages all day. At home, we only speak Chinese to him, but at bedtime now, he talks to me. He can tell me about what happened at school and what he has done. I cannot believe that he has learned so much already. Now we both look forward to bedtime because it is such a lovely, quiet time together and we can be so close to each other.

I think that Montessori teachers are very good. They love all the children, even the ones that are naughty. They can even help those children and parents so that there is more peace in their lives. One of the ways they do this is by observing children. They really watch children carefully to find out what each child needs or what to teach next or how to give that child exactly the kind of attention that will help the child be better. The best thing is that the children consider these adults to be both teachers and friends.

ji-with-everest-whitneye589afe69cacTeacher Ji:

My husband had a sister who worked as an assistant at a Montessori school in Massachusetts. She loved her job and told me it was a good choice for my son who was about 2.

I found out there was a Montessori school in our neighborhood! I went to see it and was so impressed by how well the children were working, how quiet they were and how they were working on little clean mats. I was not working at the time. I had planned to send my son to school at around 3 years old so I put him on the waiting list because I knew that this was a good option for my son. He started at 3 1/2 and a few weeks later he was doing addition! He could hardly write, but he understood the concepts of combining numbers and he knew what the numbers were. 

I decided to be a Montessori teacher because I thought it was the best choice, and I could be part of my children’s lives. I decided I did not want to spend time away from my children during the day, or on weekends, which might happen if I took a different kind of job.

My favorite story about my daughter is when she was about 4, and we went to her doctor’s office for a physical examination that included an eyesight test that day. The doctor was pointing to the chart for little children that had objects not letters. When he pointed to one object, she answered “trapezoid”! Her vocabulary had gotten bigger and when she saw the mug, it looked like a triangle and she already knew the names of some triangles! She knew the shape from her Primary class. The nurse was surprised…and so was I!

I loved all the Montessori teachers! One of my son’s teachers said one thing that really touched my heart. “We feel very honored that we can spend time with your children,” she really meant that my children were precious to her. Now that I am a Montessori teacher I feel the same way, even though every child is different. I always remember this and try to be the same way by loving and honoring each child.


Interviews by Judy Townsend

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