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We’re “Montessori-like”; That’s just not possible!

A real source of contention with a Montessori Director, Teacher or Administrator, is to hear “Our school is like a Montessori School”, or “we’re Montessori-ish”. NO! OUCH! BUYER BEWARE!

Montessori is a method of teaching that is both recognized and applauded for its results around the world. With this proven track record comes those who want to take short cuts and throw the “Montessori” name around without fully embracing the true methodology and training that is necessary to insure a quality Montessori program. It is important for parents looking into schools for their children that they are aware of this. The “Montessori” name is not protected under copyright or trademark laws. In other words, anyone can call themselves a “Montessori School” or use terms such as “Montessori-Like” even if they have little knowledge about the Montessori Method. So how do you know if the school you are considering for your family is the “Real Thing”?

1. Check for Certifications
There are various certification agencies for Montessori Schools: American Montessori Society (AMS), American Montessori International (AMI) and International Montessori, Montessori School Accrediting Center (MSAC) and The International Montessori Foundation are probably the top certifications.

The certification processes are rigorous, take two years to complete and are labor intensive and expensive. Not all schools, especially small preschools, can afford the time and money involved to acquire certification. Does this make them unacceptable? Not necessarily. There are other ways you can investigate whether your Montessori School is using the Method’s best practices, or if they are just exploiting the name. To put this in perspective, of the approximately 4,000 Montessori schools in the U.S. only 1,100 are members of the AMS.

2. Check the Teacher Training
The lead teacher in EVERY SINGLE classroom must have formal Montessori training. They should be trained in a MACTE accredited training center. Some schools allow “In-school” training or “on-line” training; I do not think this is satisfactory for a Lead Teacher, and I don’t think you should either. Simply purchasing Montessori materials and mixing age groups does not a Montessori School make! The Lead Teacher in the classroom is of the utmost importance as they will be preparing the environment, directing the children and offering all the benefits of her formal training to her students.

3. Observe the Classroom
Montessori teachers do not teach; they guide. An experienced Lead teacher will prepare an environment rich with a multitude of learning manipulatives. We like to say that the “shelves call the students”. Having opportunities to handle learning tools they’ve never seen before is both stimulating and rewarding. A proper environment will allow children to complete a task start to finish without adult intervention. This results in a feeling of “I can do it” for the student. It allows them confidence to branch out to more challenging activities without fear of failure. Self-esteem blossoms under this method. Videos, computers etc. are generally not typical in the Montessori classroom. Dr. Montessori preferred the children handle the various learning apparatuses’ allowing children to fully grasp the concept at hand. The teacher in a Montessori classroom guides, assists and helps each child on an individual basis. Learning is personalized to each child’s needs and level of ability. Learning in the Montessori way develops self-confidence and it affirms the child’s sense of self-worth.

Mixed age groups are critical to the Method. Younger students have the older students who model appropriate behavior and help the youngers with their work. This continues to build leadership and self-esteem in the older students while they reinforce their own lessons. The younger students also benefit from being in an environment where more challenging work is being done around them every single day. The effect is twofold: 1)they want to do what the “big kids” are doing and they strive to get there. The motivation is completely intrinsic, they push themselves! 2)They’re not intimidated by the more complex concepts being presented as they’ve watched it being used around them each day.

A Montessori classroom should not be silent. It should hum! You should hear children’s voices and the sounds of music, chimes, bells, sinks running, blocks clacking etc. You should not hear the sounds of discord, arguing, whining, bickering, shouting. It should be a peaceful environment full of activity. Allowing the children the freedom of choice in the classroom creates this harmony. When a child is free to choose what interests them, their concentration and attention is focused on that activity. No one likes being told what to do and children are no different.

About now, you should realize that you may not have any idea where the teacher is. The teacher may be sitting quietly with a child or two giving a lesson. She may be standing near a student quietly observing them. The teacher may be helping a couple of students resolve a difference, or she may be refilling a water pitcher. The teacher may simply be standing in the corner overlooking the classroom full of children who do not need her right now. If that is what you see, you are certainly in the right place! For the ultimate goal of the teacher is to create independent students in an environment so prepared she is not needed at all!

Once again it is important to note that Dr. Montessori did not trademark her education methods, approach or philosophy. As a result, you will surely encounter a wide variety of schools claiming to be a Montessori School. To me the physical attributes of a Montessori school are very important. They should be beautiful, well-kept and be void of teacher’s desk, chalkboards etc. which would indicate a “teacher-directed” environment.

For me, the most important thing that should matter as a parent is the teacher and the way she teaches. It takes a very well trained teacher to manage a multi-age class. It takes a very well trained teacher to gently move from one child to another in order to guide and facilitate the learning which is taking place all the time. The best Montessori teachers are keepers of the Montessori Method and are exemplars of intelligence, patience, gentleness and kindness.

If the teachers don’t meet these standards, it’s probably not a real Montessori school.

Laguna Niguel Montessori Center is an MSAC Accredited School and a AMS and International Montessori School member. We have served the communities of Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Laguna Hills, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente among others for over 20 years.28083 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 - OCMONTESSORI.COM - 949-643-1200

© 2017 Laguna Niguel Montessori Center. All Rights Reserved.
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