The Custodian of the Environment (5)
We have looked at how Montessori is misunderstood, how we struggle to find means of explaining what we do, how it can be challenging to conform to regulations and yet keep the Montessori method alive and well, and finally we looked at a way of explaining how we can “sell” ourselves better. Throughout this we always have the challenge of protecting the Montessori philosophy and methodology so that it does not get “watered down” as others seek accountability from us.
Montessori said we need to be Custodians of the Environment. This is much wider than protecting the materials and cleaning the shelves. How do the adults protect the Montessori system from outside interference? We need to believe in what we do, we need to show that we are confident in what we do, and we need to give importance to the aspects of our work that protect us and the children -the Custodian of the Environment! Let me explain some of those aspects of our work that will protect us. Most of the tasks below can only be done by a specialist who understands the Montessori method deeply, in other words, a trained Montessori educator.
The adult must protect the prepared environment – do not allow changes to the schedule, the curriculum or the methodology without reflection on how it will affect the overall benefits of the Montessori method. Examples:
[In many cases new ideas, that are tempting to incorporate, are already in the Montessori curriculum, but under a different name. for example – you are offered a new programme to prevent bullying – first look at how you are implementing Grace & Courtesy – rules on how each child gets to use material for as long as they need it, systems for interrupting and so on. Readjust the new programme to take these into account]
2. The adult needs to discover ways and means to explain simply to others (parents, authorities) how the Montessori method works very well but in a different way from other methods of education. This protects them from undue pressure from worried parents or authorities.
[See the points that explain Montessori philosophy briefly in last blog.]
3. The Montessori educators need to match the Montessori curriculum to the state curriculum. We should prepare new Montessori-style activities to match any state curriculum requirements not already covered – the “gaps” in the Montessori curriculum.
[If the state curriculum asks that children learn to express themselves in a variety of mediums, you should add activities to your list of Montessori materials – for example: Writing a story on a tablet or Using media software to record. Next you should design a presentation format – you will need to show these new activities to the children as
[If the state curriculum asks that young children are exposed to imaginative constructive interactive play, you should add to your list of Montessori materials -for example: Imaginative/interactive play – blocks.Next you should design an activity – for example a mat with three marked places and a box of varied blocks set in a marked place on the mat. Design a presentation format. You will give to three children, showing them how to control the number working at the mat, how to take the blocks out and put back again, and showing one example of building something simple. Their imaginations will do the rest.]
[If the national testing system is adding undue pressure, you should add to your list of Montessori activities – Practising national tests for Mathematics. Then you must design suitable tests, make problem cards, provide answer card. Then you need to design a presentation format. This format will include showing the children how to self-assess, and helping them to set up personal goals.]
4. Every Montessori environment or school needs to set up clear recording systems showing what materials or activities the children have been shown, have practised with and have mastered. This structure, when it has been matched with the state curriculum in advance, provides a tool for showing easily what has been achieved, essential when protecting yourself from undue outside pressure.
[There are many possible systems for recording, on paper or digital. The system should allow you to record easily and quickly, and to access progress reports for you, the educator, and for others. Flex Montessori is an example of a digital system for recording, planning and managing your curriculum]
5. And the most important of all!
Montessori educators should first and foremost manage their environment as a Montessori environment, following totally the Montessori curriculum.
Reference to the state curriculum should happen at the beginning before the children arrive, matching it to the Montessori curriculum and filling those gaps. Thereafter refer to it only every couple of months.
IF the systems above are in place it is possible to run a totally Montessori environment and at the same time include the state curriculum requirements.
Let us be kind to ourselves and protect ourselves from the worry and pressure. The work we put into setting up good systems for protecting ourselves from pressure will save us twice as much work dealing with “problems” caused by pressure. And more importantly it will protect the Montessori method. Surely that is what we all want!