World Teachers' Day - What Would Dr. Montessori Say?

NAMC World Teachers Day

With the theme: “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession,” we recognize the critical importance of reaffirming the value of the teaching mission. We call upon governments to make teaching a profession of first choice for young people. We also invite teacher unions, private sector employers, school principals, parent-teacher associations, school management committees, education officials and teacher trainers to share their wisdom and experiences in promoting the emergence of a vibrant teaching force. Above all, we celebrate the work of dedicated teachers around the world who continue to strive every day to ensure that “inclusive and equitable quality education” and the promotion of “lifelong learning opportunities for all” become a reality in every corner of the globe.

—Joint Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP and David Edwards, General Secretary, Education International, on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day “Young Teachers: the Future of the Profession”, October 5, 2019.

Since 1994, the ILO/UNESCO (International Labour Organization/United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) have celebrated World Teachers’ Day on October 5. This year celebrates the future of education by recognizing new teachers entering the profession.

We at NAMC work with many such new teachers. Some are entering the classroom for the first time, while others are experienced teachers who are new to Montessori. Whatever your experience, let’s imagine if Dr. Montessori were to give the World Teachers’ Day address to the ILO/UNESCO conference. What would she say to new teachers?

An ordinary teacher cannot be transformed into a Montessori teacher, but must be created anew, having rid herself of pedagogical prejudices. The first step is self-preparation of the imagination, for the Montessori teacher has to visualize a child who is not yet there, materially speaking, and must have faith in the child who will reveal himself through work. The different types of deviated children do not shake the faith of this teacher, who sees a different type of child in the spiritual field, and looks confidently for this self to show when attracted by work that interests. She waits for the children to show signs of concentration.
—Maria Montessori
Education for a New World, p. 67.

Dr. Montessori believed that in order to help guide children, the teacher must transform into something beyond what she has already experienced from all previous teachers and educational experiences. This new teacher must begin anew, believing that the child will be the teacher of teachers.

Now the adult himself is part of the child's environment; the adult must adjust himself to the child's needs if he is not to be a hindrance to him and if he is not to substitute himself for the child in the activities essential to growth and development.
—Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood, p. 106.

This new teacher becomes part of the whole classroom. This is not the teacher’s classroom; it belongs to the children. The teacher, like the rest of the environment, must not stand out and call attention to himself or be the center of attention. He must blend into the background and quietly and humbly guide children to their next level of concentration. If he does not, he becomes a hinderance and not a help.

The work of the teacher is to guide the children to normalisation, to concentration. She is like the sheepdog who goes after the sheep when they stray, who conducts all the sheep inside. The teacher has two tasks: to lead the children to concentration and to help them in their development afterwards. The fundamental help in development, especially with little children of three years of age, is not to interfere. Interference stops activity and stops concentration. But do not apply the rule of non-interference when the children are still the prey of all their different naughtinesses.
—Maria Montessori
The Child, Society and the World: Unpublished Speeches and Writings, p. 16.

NAMC World Teachers Day

Contrary to popular belief, the teacher’s job is not to fill the child with knowledge. It is to help the children learn to concentrate so that they can teach themselves. The Montessori materials were created to be auto-didactic, or self-teaching. Once shown how to use them, the child is free to repeat the activity over and over, experimenting along the way with new extensions of the same work. With this repetition comes mastery. It is then that the teacher introduces the next level or activity in the sequence. If she intervenes too soon, concentration and interest are lost. Only through attentive observation will the teacher know the difference between hindering and helping. She must learn amazing self-control and patience, trusting that the child will self-correct and learn virtually without her. She is the guide, not the conductor.

The teacher of children up to six years of age knows that she has helped mankind in an essential part of its formation. She may know nothing of the children's circumstances, except what they have told her freely in conversation; possibly she takes no interest in their future: whether they will go on to secondary schools and the university, or end their studies sooner; but she is happy in the knowledge that in this formative period they were able to do what they had to do. She will be able to say: 'I have served the spirits of those children, and they have fulfilled their development, and I kept them company in their experiences.'
—Maria Montessori
The Absorbent Mind, p. 259.

In this last quote, Montessori is addressing that need for “inclusive and equitable quality education” mentioned by the ILO/UNESCO. This child before her is any child. He could come from the humblest of villages or the wealthiest of mansions. He could become president or sweep the streets. None of this matters because in the eyes of the Montessori teacher, all children are equal. They all have the same developmental, emotional, and social needs. They all have the intrinsic capability to learn. They all have the same potential. The most important part of teaching children is understanding that under her guidance, the Montessori teacher helps lay the foundation of the children’s spirit. She observes their journey and is their helpmate along the way.

Works Cited
Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1964.
Montessori, Maria. The Secret of Childhood. New York: Ballantine Books, 1972.
Montessori, Maria. Education for a New World. Clio Press Ltd., 1989.
Montessori, Maria. The Child, Society, and the World: Unpublished Speeches and Writings. Clio Press Ltd., 1989.
UNESCO. World Teachers' Day.

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate


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