Thursday, July 17, 2008

Suggestions for beginning work in Montessori

I received an email from a woman asking for suggestions on finding a job in a Montessori classroom. I thought I would post my response here in case it should ever prove helpful for others, and so that any other Montessori teachers can add their thoughts as well. If you have any, please add them in the comments. Let's discuss!

I've never had trouble finding a job in the Montessori world. If you are working toward a degree in education, that shows a real interest in not simply playing with children, but helping along their education and development, so you should be a great candidate and find a position easily. Any lead teacher will be certified by either the American Montessori Society (AMS), Association Montessori International (AMI), Montessori Centre International (MCI), or some other training. These are the three most common, and most respected in the US. If you have not worked in Montessori before, it's probably advisable to seek out a position as an assistant to a teacher at the level you are most interested in. With a resume that shows an interest in Montessori, and work toward a degree in education, this should be easy. If you find that you love the work, you can then consider going on to training yourself (most trainings are full time for a few months, or part time for a year and are followed by an internship that runs one school year. They are incredibly intense, so you will want to take this time off from working on your education degree, or wait until you have finished).

Simply look for Montessori schools in your area, and start sending out your resume! Be careful about the job you choose, however, as the Montessori name is not protected, and anyone can call their business a Montessori program without having been trained, or even read a single page of Montessori's works. This is really the reason for mixed opinions on Montessori. Many people think of Montessori as being incredibly rigid and overly structured, while others think of it as far too loose, with no structure at all. This is because there is no one to say what is a Montessori school and what is not. Make sure the lead teachers in the school you decide on are trained, or you are likely to be turned off without ever gaining a true understanding of how a Montessori classroom should work. In your first year, if you have the option, you may look for a school that has been around for quite some time, and is well-established. Classrooms in newer schools are seldom good samples of what a Montessori classroom is like. In the first two years of a school, it is almost impossible to have a class that covers the range of ages it is supposed to cover equally, and if it does, the older children may be in their first year of Montessori and are not typically able to act as role models for the younger children in quite the same way as children who have been in Montessori since age three. A large part of setting up a classroom that meets the children needs is getting to know the children and observing them as they work to determine what will best meet their needs. A school in its early stages has not had sufficient time to do this, which is perfectly fine, but if you are new to Montessori it will be better for you to see what Montessori is intended to, and can be. However, if you find a great position with a dedicated teacher in a newer classroom, you will be just fine.

Lastly, if there is one thing I have learned about children, it is that they are incredibly perceptive. In environments where the teachers do not get along, or even where they appear on the surface to get along, but harbor unspoken frustrations, the children respond. It is important that you make sure before taking on a position that you can respect and work well with any adults that will be in the classroom with you. In any other job, you may be able to get by with being friendly and civil to people, even if you do not like or respect them, and everything will be perfectly fine. This does not work with young children. My suggestion would be that before accepting any position, you observe the classroom during work time, take note of how the teacher responds to the children, and make sure that you can support her in the way she engages with the children. If there is something you do not like, it will almost certainly be amplified when and if you spend your work days there. Take a few minutes to talk with the teacher or teachers as well, and make certain that you will be comfortable relating to and working with them.

If there is a Montessori training center in your city, they may offer a one or two day workshop for assistants, which would prepare you incredibly well for your first experience in the classroom.

I know I'm long-winded, but hopefully that helps. Let me know if there's anything that doesn't make sense!


Matt said...

I just got your comment on my myspace wall. This is a great post.

You may also want to include something else. AMI schools tend to be very strict on the role of the assistant that they not help the children do work. AMS is often very different in this idea, but this may come as a surprise to this person who wants to learn how to be a Montessori teacher, dive in, and get their feet wet. So it would also be important to learn what, exactly, her role is as an assistant so she is not too upset on day 1.

She also might be able to find a school that would sponsor her. (I hope!)

Good luck to this person. I hope things work out.

melissa joanne said...

Excellent point, Matt. Thank you!

Susanne said...

Fantastic post! I've just forwarded it to a friend who is thinking of getting into Montessori.

Anonymous said...

I was a montessori aid and absolutely loved the position! I think your article was beautifully written and very true! Patty

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this post.
I have been assisting in Montessori classrooms for a few years. This school year I've been freed up on teaching hours and am currently looking into starting my Masters in Montessori. I found this post to be very relevant to my needs, your help is much appreciated!

Anu Prabhu said...

Hi I am an engg graduate from India,I want to pursue my career as Montessori teacher.going to join a AMS accredited course this summer.can I join as assistant before doing any proper course related to Montessori

Anu Prabhu said...

Hi I am an engg graduate from India,I want to pursue my career as Montessori teacher.going to join a AMS accredited course this summer.can I join as assistant before doing any proper course related to Montessori