The Classroom Environment
Fifteen years ago, when I first walked into a Montessori classroom, I did not understand why the environment was prepared with glass bowls and spoons. As I continued to tour the classroom, I noticed many other materials that did not seem like learning material for young children. Now, after so many years of working in a Montessori environment, it all makes complete since to me. Children are born into this world with a keen sense of awareness. According to Dr. J. L. Hopson in Psychology Today, before a child is born they are already responding to sound, taste, and smell. They are already beginning to experience the world.
Dr. Montessori was also aware of the keen sense of awareness of young children and believe that they learn best from using as many of the five senses as possible, which explains the sand paper letters she designed for learning letters, and the red and blue rods for counting. She designed many other materials to capture the students’ focus and concentration for hours.
Children enter the classroom each day with excitement and expectation, ready to charge their time into their three hours uninterrupted work cycle. They are able to explore, investigate and repeat the lessons that interest them until they are ready to move on to another one. Dr. Montessori created the uninterrupted work cycle, understanding that and young children need time to discover without being disturbed, until they are satisfied with the knowledge they have gained.
As a Guide (Teacher), after we have introduced a lesson to a student, we observe, and assist only if a student asks for help. One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Montessori is “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” When adults take that moment away from them, by completing the task for the child, it decreases the child’s ambition to keep trying and perhaps lead them to conclude that they are not good enough.
I have learned there is no greater joy in this profession than to see the light in children’s eyes when they have discovered for themselves how to do something for themselves that they have been working toward mastery for some time. Touring and observing a Montessori classroom is like walking into a laboratory filled with scientists researching, exploring, and investigating the next great invention for the world. By my third year as a Guide I understood why the class is designed like it is and with great joy I return every work day.