When we hear a title or label our mind conjures images and stereotypes from memory and repeated experience. The stereotypical role of the conventional teacher is so different from the role of trained Montessori adults working with children in a prepared environment, that the term teacher misleads and confounds our understanding. It is for this reason that I consciously choose the term Guide.
When he came to the community at three years old, he established himself right away as ‘individual’ and ‘decider’. The guide thought he was extraordinarily self-aware and self-defined, with a prodigious vocabulary and an adult-like presence. He had a head of blondish curls and a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of his nose. He intense brown eyes peered out from his glasses with dark rims – somewhat the little professor in appearance. She liked him right away. She had long since found this “liking” to be the key to working with each and every child, regardless of the challenge she might find herself facing.
Since leaving the classroom recently, after thirty-some years in the delightful company of children, I have spent a considerable portion of my time leading the development of the parent education programs for our school. It has given me a new and different joy, and a great appreciation for parents. It is an honor to work so closely with parents who are the primary educators of our children, who are the children’s models, their supporters, and their greatest source of love and admiration.
Soon enough our early elementary classrooms will be filling once again with children excited to begin the new school year. Among the happy faces will be those of the youngest children, those who are making the leap into the second plane of development and experiencing for the first time the elementary environment that we will have so carefully prepared for them. In all the excitement of welcoming the new children, let us not forget their parents – for their parents, too, may be new to the elementary and just as much in transition as their children.
With a dismissive gesture of the hand, Paula replied, “Nah, don’t ask her. She doesn’t know anything! I saw a chemistry book in the library, let’s look there.”