To know the individual child is always the first priority in my preparation to serve the child as an elementary teacher. When looking at new faces and returning students after a long summer break, it is fundamental to ask: Who is this precious one? What great things have their hands experienced? How do these experiences bring to manifest the wonder the child is invoking in front of me? Careful observation, conversations and interactions envelope the first few weeks of class and are key elements in the revealing of answers to the questions posed about the child. The discoveries of who this child is and seeing the potential of where he or she can potentially go becomes the formation of the first presentations and assistance to the child. This work opens up the adventure of exploration, creation, and connection within the new prepared environment (the elementary classroom) and sets on fire the work of self-construction.
In support of preparing the Elementary teacher for the work to assist the child 6 to 12 years of age, the Elementary training program provides a Primary Introductory Course. The course consists of a brief survey of the theory of the children ages 0 to 6, theory lectures and presentations and practice of exemplar lessons of the Children’s House. This course provides a glimpse of the younger years natural development and a notion of how children and guide work together in the primary environment, which was very valuable in my practice. After years of teaching in elementary environments, I appreciated more the Primary Introductory Course and yet, realized the need to learn more about the child’s natural development in the younger years to better serve the child entering my classroom. The child who requires remedial work more importantly needs the teacher to be intentional in what is appropriate assistance and to be reassured that the work does not in any way demean or give the child a sense of lack or deficiency.
I made the decision to enroll in the Primary (3-6 years) Teacher Training Course in search of discovering the child’s natural state of self-construction in the younger years. I felt this would allow me a greater awareness of who the child is, and prepare me to better serve him in his trajectory through the elementary years. The process of completing the Primary Course fomented in me a deeper appreciation of each lesson, by allowing me an understanding of the direct and indirect preparation the younger children experience. It permitted me to see how each lesson prepares the child for working in a very concrete way and leads the child to the abstract thinking of the reasoning mind of the elementary child. I witnessed how the teacher is able to walk, talk and be with the children as he/she is consciously aware of the child’s ability to learn and absorb on his own through the work of the absorbent mind (3 to 6 year old). This experience granted me, as an elementary teacher, the ability to more intentionally gift to the child’s self-construction nothing superfluous and everything necessary.
During the final presentations of the Primary Teacher Training, in The Passage to Abstraction (Math) section of work, the wholeness and interconnectedness of the work of the Children’s House Teacher and the Elementary teacher was made apparent to me by Ann Velasco, Primary Teacher Trainer, when she gave a vivid depiction of the child in transition. “Think of a long hallway or passage. The children will start to walk down that passage while in the Children’s House and each child will arrive at a different distance down that hallway. Then they will continue down this same passage in their Elementary experience.” The wealth of wisdom available when a teacher can understand and meet the child where he or she presents himself or herself in his journey in this passageway, with a view of possibilities because of all that he or she has accomplished instead of deficiencies, is a remarkable gift. I have a vision that the work of the Children’s House guide is to be inspiring and to nurture the child so he or she can go as far down that passage as possible and for the elementary guide to be welcoming in meeting the child in the passageway where the child stands and lead him or her into all that is possible in his or her new home.
The richness of understanding the work of a guide comes with years of experiencing the daily life of working with the children and it also exposes the gaps of the mystery of each individual. Not every child comes to the elementary classroom with identical preparation, interest, identity, etc.… and so the teacher will need to meet each one where they are, learn who they are and where they want to go. All this is possible for the teacher to discover with arduous intention. The Primary training experience has brought more depth, meaning and inspiration to my work as an elementary teacher. To serve the child is to know the whole child and to have witnessed the amazing potential of self-construction. It cultivates an unyielding belief in the child and the Montessori Method.
As an experienced elementary guide having completed the Primary Teacher Training, I highly recommend all Elementary teachers consider undertaking this added preparation to better serve the children under their guidance.
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