One of the factors that drew me into being a Montessori guide was, and still is, the self-reflection that comes with the “job”. Being a Montessori guide calls for self-reflection, and with that, self-improvement, because the children look to you to imitate and emulate. There is much to learn and grow in this area and that is what makes a Montessori guide’s work interesting and challenging.
Without doubt, the mixed ages of the children also offer a variety of interesting experiences for the guide and was another factor that drew me into being a Montessori guide. I get to see a young 21/2-year-old child, learning to separate from his/her mother, and years later, that same child at age 6, confident and independent, ready for the next phase of growth; or a confident and independent 6-year-old, and years later, an intelligent and witty 12-year-old on the cusp of adolescence. It is with such joy and satisfaction to see these little ones blossom that this could be said to be the sweet rewards of the “job”.
Finally, an equally important factor that sealed the deal for me in being a Montessori guide is the philosophy behind the Montessori method. The Montessori philosophy is such a gentle and respectful philosophy that supports the holistic developmental growth of children at all ages and in all levels. I do believe that anyone who has gone through an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) training would never look at another way of educating children. It is the only educational philosophy I know that formulates the education of children from birth to 3, 3 to 6, 6 to 12 and 12 to 18 years of age.
Qualities we look for in our guides
When we started Lodestar Montessori School, and now, Lodestar Montessori Preschool, we wanted to offer Montessori education to children in its original form, without dilution with other philosophies.
To do this, we wanted to get only AMI-trained guides as we could rely on the authenticity, quality and rigour of the training. The AMI organization is a bastillion or keeper of Dr. Maria Montessori’s works. It was set up by Dr. Maria Montessori herself and her son to safeguard her work and it offers training to adults who would like to work with children at the various age levels. Over and above the required training, we also look for the following qualities in a Montessori guide:
Willingness to learn and grow
This is an important quality. We, as guides, need to be open to learn from other adults and from the children. Montessori has always said that “Education is an aid to life”, so education begins from our birth till our death as we can never exhaust learning about our world, our universe and new skills. Even now, at the ripe old age of 51, I am inspired to learn more about music and the arts so that I can introduce these to the children! We can learn from the children, the youth and other adults because there will always be something that someone can teach us if we are open to it. Humility to acknowledge that we do not know everything and that we are not right all the time is essential to inner growth.
Gentle and respectful
We are the examples the children see so it is of no use to tell them about respect if we do not show respect to those around us. Being respectful extends to all we come into contact with. How can we be respectful? Being gentle in speech, slow to anger, using one’s authority over others humbly, and following the golden rule- treating others how we would like to be treated. One can get one’s point across politely and respectfully without resorting to anger, threats or put downs. Dag Hammarskjold expresses it nicely: “Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can receive your orders without being humiliated.”
Having said that, we have to be firm when children or adults start pushing the boundaries and do not know how their actions affect others. We can always remain gentle and polite yet unwavering in our decisions.
We have to think about our community of children and act with the good of the group as a whole. Rules must apply to the community for fairness and equality. There will sometimes be exceptions to a rule, and the guide is called to step in to explain to the community when exceptions have to be made, the underlying factor is always mercy over justice.
Belief in the Montessori philosophy
This cannot be emphasised more. If, as a Montessori guide, I do not wholly believe in the Montessori philosophy, then how can I be a Montessori guide in the first place? I can only be an effective guide if I truly believe in the Montessori philosophy.
This is the ability to not take oneself too seriously all the time, and to be able to laugh at oneself. Read this article which expounds on the ability to laugh at oneself.
Sense of adventure
By this I mean to find joy in simple pleasures and to see adventure in the ordinary, like making a trip to the supermarket can be an adventure with the children. A sense of adventure will keep one excited about life and open one up to learning.
This is an important quality sought after in most job types and certainly no different for a position as a Montessori guide. The Montessori guide works with the other adults (the assistant, the language guide, etc.) in the environment and presenting a united and cohesive front to the children is paramount. Children are very intelligent and they will test boundaries. If the Montessori guide and her team are not in sync when it comes to the boundaries set, the children will immediately pick up on it.
This quality underpins a guide’s dedication and outlook on his/her work with the children. Being responsible means not needing a contractual work obligation to determine when you leave school, but rather, leaving at the end of the school year, because you want to minimise disruption to the children’s educational journey. Being responsible means putting in your best in anything that you do, because that is what you expect of the children and that is what you must expect of yourself.
The list does seem like a tall order or a job for an extremely evolved person, does it not? The truth is being a Montessori guide has been beyond a “job” for me. What started as an interest at the beginning has become for me a passion and a journey. As the saying goes “Every journey must begin with a single step” and being a Montessori guide is a work-in-progress; we know what we should be, and we have to continually introspect and work on ourselves. Knowing what we should be is not meant to overwhelm us into despair, but rather, keeping our eyes on the goal, we must continually work on ourselves one day at a time, and one step at a time.