Teaching Through Observation

In traditional classrooms, teachers typically recite lessons while students are expected to quietly listen and learn. In Montessori classrooms, however, the roles of teacher and student are quite the opposite. Montessori teachers will often observe students, with seldom interference, while the students have the freedom to choose and learn their lessons. From a traditional standpoint, the Montessori way of teaching doesn’t seem like teaching at all. How can students learn without any instruction? Although the Montessori way of teaching doesn’t involve the obvious guidance found in a traditional classroom, Montessori teachers provide their guidance through the art of observation.

During her research with child development, Maria Montessori observed the transformation of a classroom into a flourishing self-sustaining unit. Following Montessori’s research, modern-day Montessori teachers respectfully and objectively observe their classrooms and allow students to learn at their own pace by choosing their own lessons, engaging in hands-on activities, and respectfully interacting with their peers. (To learn more about how the Montessori classroom and its students thrive, read this article: http://www.inspirekidsmontessori.com/stem-stream-montessori/). In order to keep the classroom balanced and healthy, teachers keep a careful eye to recognize the needs of individual students and of the class as a whole. As long as the classroom is functioning as it should, a teacher should have no reason to intervene in its affairs.

Montessori teachers must know when and what to present to their classroom, whether they be presenting new learning material or redirecting the behavior or activity of a student. For example, a teacher may notice a student has reached a “sensitive period” for learning, in which the student will be most-inclined to learn a certain subject, such as language or movement. In this case, the teacher’s role is to provide learning material that will best suit the student while keeping track and ensuring the success of his/her progress. If a teacher were to observe a student misusing classroom materials or misbehaving, the teacher’s role then would be to redirect the student’s behavior into the correct action. Often times, however, a teacher does not have to intervene, as students are usually more than happy to help their fellow classmates learn how to use a new work material or resolve an argument. Through careful observation and minimal guidance, Montessori teachers not only prompt their students to explore and reach their full potential, but also maintain a nurturing and engaging community within every classroom.