When I first started in Montessori I was overwhelmed with the verbosity of people declaring a set of letters after they introduced themselves in Montessori Circles. I found this rather odd because in mainstream teaching here in New Zealand people do not go around declaring which University they trained through the minute after introducing themselves.
My first foray into Montessori professional development showed me that certain people believed that an AMI qualification meant the teacher had more gravitas, this meant my lowly NAMC qualification came at the bottom of the food chain. I now have a qualification from MWEI Australia, as well which has slightly raised my gravitas here in NZ however I am still looked down on because I do not have a 'real' qualification and therefore it is assumed that my classroom must be not authentic - all conclusions people reach without seeing my classroom or teaching!
As a side note, what is authentic? Is Authentic following word for word the lessons from the first Montessori manuals (the AMI ones of course) or is authentic adapting to the child in front of you that the child's human potential is released?
The 'real' qualification fallacy
AMI = real training = real montessori classroom
So goes the line of thinking that I find online and in Montessori face to face discussions. This is an interesting thought. I agree that quality training is important however I do believe that any one training can make a teacher a great teacher. Being a teacher requires skills that can't be taught such as the dispositions one has, ones personaility, ones level of reflection. These things can not be taught by a training programme. One of my trainers for MWEI an incredibly awesome woman who is currently Principal of a Montessori school in Australia, said to me that when she is looking for teachers she is less interested in their training and more interested in their 'fit' in Montessori, for example whether they are collaborative, willing to learn, understand the ethos of Montessori - if they have these then she will fund appropriate Montessori training for them.
I remember visiting a Montessori classroom early on my Montessori teaching career. When I explained that I was undergoing NAMC training I received a long recitative on why I needed to get AMI training as that was 'real' and would make me a better teacher. While in this classroom I saw things that I was gobsmacked at. One child with special needs was left to his own devices with minimal input from the teacher, one time he ran out of the room and the teachers had no idea where he was. Two other children were at a table having a paper fight, several other children seemed to be biding their time rather than doing any deep work. At 'group time' children chatted throughout the entire time of the teacher reading a story. It was at that point once and for all I came to the conclusion that having the letters AMI after your name did not mean a person was a quality teacher.
Obviously this was one classroom. However it proves that categorical statements such as 'all AMI classrooms are real quality' is false. If one is going to make such statements they should be true!
One of the marketing campaigns for NZ is the 100% campaign, e.g. NZ is 100% Pure in its environment so people should visit. The 100% pure Montessori theory often given by AMI teachers I have come across fascinates me. Montessori pedagogy was created over 100 years ago and many teachers I have come across believe that are classrooms should emulate the original Montessori classrooms. While many of the observations and conclusions that Montessori conjectured have been proven to be true (See Paula Polk Lillard's book for more information on this)
I wonder what she would say about the world we live in today and the skills our children need to be global citizens and capable citizens of their country.
There are a rising number of children with neurodiversity alongside children who have experienced trauma and children with disability. From my frequent interactions with people online I hear that many trainings have not had any or enough training in helping these children thrive in Montessori by adapting the curriculum and material to fit their needs.
Consider the following topics, how should we integrate them so they are a very real part of our classroom and nestled within the culture and curriculum of our classrooms?
- History of Indigenous peoples in our country (other countries)
- Worldview of Indigenous culture
- Language of our countries
- History and geography of our specific country
- Social Justice
Here in NZ I believe our Montessori classrooms need to have Māori language activities that follow the Montessori philosophy in them, we also need to talk about Māori and things such as Indigenous knowledge. We need to talk about them because they make up the fabric of the country we live in. As Montessori herself said the child on the 6-12 plane is very interested in the world around them, if we ignore these parts of our country/culture we are not really educating our children for peace. How is a child meant to speak into a culture if they do not have the tools to do so?
Here in NZ we generally only have access to AMI 3-6 training, to get AMI training for any other level means travel which also means paying for accommodation. From my observations I have seen that the teachers who go overseas to get AMI training are usually at schools who charge a lot of money for children to attend, thus the communities they serve are wealthy. I think is a huge irony given where Montessori started. What about all the other children who are not wealthy? Are children in other communities less worthy of Montessori simply because they are not in these communities? If we want Montessori to reach a bigger audience why are we not encouraging quality Montessori qualifications and teachers regardless of the letters (AMI, AMS)?
Things to ponder
Maria Montessori wasn't AMI trained.
Montessori doesn't have a corner on the truth
If Montessori is meant to be about liberation how can we put people in figurative chains by demeaning their training?
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