I know the theory. I can say the right things and know what I am supposed to do. But as a wise man once said, “…knowing it, doesn’t necessarily make it so!”
What makes being a Montessori teacher so hard? Why is it that when I “know” not to do something I sometimes do it anyway? Why do I, for example, continue to use the words “no” and “don’t” even though I have learned and experienced much better way to communicate with children. Why do I let that one kid (okay, 2 or 3 kids) get my goat? Do I really have a mind of my own or am I really like a trained seal in a circus and my past is my master? Well I have to disappoint you…I have no answers for you.
But this incongruity between knowing and doing is without doubt the largest source of frustration in my work in the Montessori classroom. Dr. Montessori wrote that a teacher needs to be a scientist, servant and saint to be a good guide. I think the saint part is really what’s fouling me up! I developed my personality a long time before becoming a Montessorian and, for good or for ill, that comes with it. I do still learn and grow of course as I get older and I find that I am more open to new ideas and behaviors. But I have a hard time integrating these into my personality. I am a victim of myself! Help! How do I expand my integrity to incorporated ideas that are sometimes contradictory to what I learned so long ago?
Unfortunately it takes experience, which is associated with time. It takes time. Apparently I am not the quick learner I thought I was. Sadly I make the same mistakes over and over again. Slowly, though, I recognize these mistakes quicker. Before, it took a day to see where things went wrong. Then, minutes. Now it’s right after I make that mistake (for the umpteenth time). With a dogged determination I plod forward with the great hope that someday soon I will see the mistake I am about to make! Until then I must eat the humble pie. I bow my head in recognition of the wrong I have committed. I move forward seeking to integrate my knowing and my actions.
But all is not black. I have the greatest respect for these small human beings who I meet and interact with daily. I do a great deal “correctly”. And they, always forgiving (often unknowing of my blunders) come to me year after year, knowing they will meet someone who will do his best for them in ‘helping them to help themselves’.
All in all I realize that I have a far greater portion of “proper” behavior than fumbling mistakes. At the end of the day, I ponder gratefully, that I have far, far more good days than rough ones.
Robert Fischbeck is a Montessori practitioner from Norway. He is married and has 2 children. Rob has a diverse interest and has worked in wide variety of jobs, from a sewer worker to fish cleaner; from kitchens to preschools. He studied Montessori with Waterpark in Oslo and has been working at Bambini Montessoribarnehage in Hamar, Norway since 2004.