The Role of the Montessori Directress

When observing in our classrooms, you are likely to see our teachers ensconced in the reading corner with a small group of children enjoy a quiet story’ or perhaps sitting on the floor with a child arranging colored rectangles from darkest to lightest, or intently observing as a handful children wield their magnifiers to investigate a leaf found on the way in to school.

Called a “directress” by Montessori Method founder Dr. Maria Montessori, and sometimes known as a “guide,” the Montessori teacher plays many roles as she directs, or guides, her students. She won’t be presenting information for rote learning. Rather, she’ll be demonstrating specially designed learning materials that serve as a springboard for investigation and discovery.  At the heart of the Montessori Method is the concept that mastery is best achieved through exploration, imitation, repetition, and trial and error.

The Montessori teacher thoughtfully prepares a classroom environment with materials and activities that meet her students’ unique interests, academic level, and developmental needs. These she introduces to each child sequentially, laying the foundation for independent learning.  Always, the teacher is aware of each student’s progress as he works toward mastering the particular concept or skill. She knows when to step in to offer special guidance, and when to challenge a student with the next step in a learning sequence.  Montessori education addresses the whole child: his physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth. As well as helping each child become an independent learner, the teacher helps turn his attention outward, fostering community, collaboration, and respect for the dignity of others.

A Montessori teacher is a skilled observer.  Through careful observation, the Montessori teacher comes to know each student’s interests, learning style, and temperament. She understands the student’s developmental needs, and is receptive to his “sensitive periods,” when he is most ready to learn a new concept or skill.  With this information the teacher chooses materials and lessons that will capture the student’s attention and entice him to learn. When she observes that the student has mastered a concept or skill, she introduces new lessons that become increasingly complex and abstract.  As students progress, the teacher modifies the classroom environment, adjusting the learning materials to meet the students’ changing needs.

By her own behavior and attitudes, the teacher models values such as empathy, compassion, and acceptance of individual differences. She encourages the students to be courteous and kind. And she brings students together in collaborative activities to foster teamwork, responsibility, self-discipline, and respect.

courtesy of The American Montessori Society (