I still cringe at the thought of the mistakes I made as a new Montessori teacher. I had no background in teaching, and this was my first experience. Honestly, teaching young children isn’t as easy as it looks and sounds, but it’s very fulfilling. In today’s post, I want to highlight some mistakes I made and how you can avoid them.
I used lots of worksheets
It’s the death of the Montessori method.
I used different worksheets such as tracing, colouring, or writing as activities for my students. Not that these activities were bad, but if you are teaching 2 or 3-year-olds, they are not the right activities. A child should start working with pencils and paper at 4 years. Younger children are not ready yet. Instead, the focus should be to work on their motor skills first, to prepare their hands for the skill of writing.There is no point in forcing a 2-year-old to write because his or her muscles aren’t ready for that yet. So, instead of using worksheets, prepare hands-on activities such as spooning, transferring, pouring, beading,. These activities will get the children to be more involved and less fidgety.
I didn’t give my students a choice
Here is another area I missed totally. I chose each student’s activity per time and insisted on it. One of Montessori’s principles is the freedom of choice. Children are to be encouraged to pick whichever activity they want. But there is a caveat. The teacher should have prepared various activities with much thought on what each activity will achieve. It’s called freedom within limits. I did not understand this concept, so I never prepared activities beforehand. This made the whole process of keeping my students engaged very stressful.
I determined how long they stayed on an activity
We all know that children have a very short attention span. I hadn’t realized how annoying and tiresome this could be until I taught them. Remember that I didn’t prepare, so I never came up with interesting activities on the moment’s spur. This was a terrible mistake, because the children never spent up to five minutes on my impromptu activities before they got bored and started making noise again. To combat this, I started forcing them to stay on an activity for about 30 minutes!
Because it didn’t work, and I wasn’t happy about the results of my efforts.
So, what did I do wrong?
- I didn’t prepare.
- I didn’t give my students the freedom of choice
- I didn’t show them how to perform the activities given to them.
- The activities were not challenging enough.
What’s the way out?
The best ways to avoid these mistakes are:
Educate yourself about Montessori
This is an easy decision. For you to teach with the Montessori method, immerse yourself in studying it. Unfortunately, very few teachers in Nigeria have an in-depth knowledge of this method. Many of us attend one workshop, introducing us to it, and then we go to the classroom and wing it. This isn’t right. We have to understand the science and philosophy behind this method so we could use it effectively in the classroom.
Always be prepared.
When you are prepared, everything works like a well-oiled machine. Setting up the classroom activities for the day before your students arrive is a life saver. Activities in the Montessori classroom are very concrete and experiential. Be familiar with the tools and understand what they are used for and why. Also, know the ability of each child in your classroom. What are they struggling with? What is the next step in the sequence of lessons? What activity will help your students advance? These are questions that have to be thoroughly thought about. When answered, you gather all the materials needed for that activity and set it up in the classroom, ready for your students to enjoy.
Presentation is a big part of the Montessori way. After you have chosen the activity and you have set it up in the classroom, the next step is to show your students how to use it. You can do it in a small group presentation or individual presentation. Remember that your presentation has to be simple and deliberate so that your students can understand it and be able to perform it themselves without your interference.
Having made these mistakes, I resolved to learn more about Montessori and these 3 books by Maria Montessori herself have opened my eyes to the beauty and effectiveness of this method of teaching.
The Absorbent Mind
The Montessori Method
Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook
I recommend you get your hands on these books. They are in the public domain, so you are free to download them from the web.