TMM spotlight: Nathan Archer

Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

I worked in arts administration and for children’s charities for a number of years. I came to Montessori education in the late 90’s through the Early Childhood Diploma (and later the Primary Diploma) working with family members and close friends in a Montessori school in Lincolnshire. The site extended from nursery to Primary (Elementary) years in 2004 and ran for ten years as a wonderful community from Infant/Toddler through to Upper Primary (Elementary).

I recently completed an MA in Early Childhood Education with the University of Sheffield and am just about to start a Doctorate. I plan to research what motivates and inspires others to advocate for/become activists for early childhood.

When I’m not working I enjoy the benefits of having the Peak District on the doorstep, as well as cooking, theatre, cinema and sunshine (wherever in the world that happens to be).

Q: What was your first experience with Montessori?

I first experienced Montessori education through my aunt who was a Montessori teacher and trainer. Seeing her passion for the principles and pedagogy developed by Maria Montessori, her belief in following children’s interests and investing in a beautiful environment, inspired me.
I had the privilege to go on to work with my aunt and see her patience, understanding and commitment to Montessori education in action for a number of years. Whilst I am not currently working in a Montessori classroom, this experience will stay with me.
Nathan Archer at the Nursery world awards 2009

Q: Can you share with us a Montessori moment that continues to inspire your practice?

During a school OFSTED inspection, one of the class members (aged 5 ½) was working with a bread making machine, weighing ingredients and following a list of instructions to make bread.

Inspector: ‘Can you read any of the words on these instructions?’
Child: ‘Yes, I can read ‘dough’ and ‘yeast’’
Inspector: ‘That’s very good, well done’
Child: I haven’t finished yet! (proceeds to read whole instruction sheet)

 This, for me, illustrates not only the power of early reading materials to engage young children in real life contexts , but the confidence and quiet self belief that a sound Montessori education can offer.

Q: What’s your favourite Montessori quote? And why?

That’s a tough one – but am inspired by:

“The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.”

At a time when children can, for various reasons, be restricted in their outdoor play and learning, and also engaged for periods of time in technology, I believe it is crucial to ensure children remain connected to the natural world.
On a fundamental level, the learning potential of the great outdoors, coupled with the mental, emotional and physical benefits of connection with nature feel more imperative to share than ever. Richard Louv’s work on ‘nature deficit disorder’ feels very prescient.
I believe Montessori also wanted us to develop and share the notion that we are custodians of the environment, both local and global and to share this with children.

Q: Is there a Montessori material you love particularly and

I am huge fan and advocate of the maths materials. I am an English graduate by background, however, I struggled with mathematics at school. When I discovered the Montessori maths materials as a teaching student I was wowed by their simplicity and potential.

As with all Montessori materials there is nothing superfluous about their design and when used in an enticing but systematic manner, they are truly engaging and lay the foundations for much later learning. I only wish I had benefited from them as a four year old!

Nathan’s graduation at University of Sheffield with Dr. Jools Page Director of MA in Early Childhood Education