The first time I ever observed in a Montessori classroom, I was blown away. The night before that observation, I had attended a talk by a well-known Montessorian: Betsy Coe. I was brand new to Montessori education and somewhat naive, having been hired as an assistant head of school for my administrative (not Montessori) credentials.
Betsy Coe spoke to us for about an hour, and I took notes. In retrospect, I believe cynical would be the wrong word, but I would say that I was a bit dubious. I thought to myself, “Well, this all sounds swell theoretically… in fact, it sounds ideal. But, how could anyone claim that all of these wonderful things actually happen regularly? I mean, these must be things that happen… sometimes. But there’s no way that this is the day-to-day experience of a Montessori classroom.”
Those “things” Dr. Coe discussed were the hallmarks of a Montessori classroom: older children teaching lessons to younger children, children choosing work that interested them, and the teacher blending into the environment as the children fastidiously go about their own course of learning. Dr. Coe spoke about children acting independently, respecting each other and their environment, and entering a deep state of concentration while engaged in their work. Despite my wariness, I took my notes, being careful not to show any skepticism.
The next morning, I arrived at a primary classroom and took an observation seat, and, notepad in hand, I observed. I immediately noticed children so deep in concentration that nothing would have distracted them from their work. I saw older children teaching lessons to younger children. I saw children and teachers being respectful of each other. I saw children making their own choices about what work to do, developing their ability to be self-directed. I saw younger children using advanced materials. And, I saw children practicing patience.
In short, I saw first-hand that these characteristics of Montessori education were not sparse… they were constant.
I was hooked. Hearing a respected Montessorian speak about the Montessori learning experience was exceptionally informative, but seeing Montessori education in action was literally life changing. After that, it only took a moment for me to decide that the Montessori world was what I wanted for my family and for my profession—and I’ve been in it ever since.
Wherever you are in your Montessori journey, I hope that your experience is as life-changing—and rewarding—as mine was and continues to be every single day.
Head of School