My name is Alyssa Zander, and it is a pleasure to share with you all my personal experience and growth that took place during my first year in the classroom. I graduated from SIMS in June 2017 and finished my Master’s through Loyola the following month. After completing my training, I moved back to Bend, Oregon, my hometown, where I inherited the Primary classroom in which I was once an assistant.
Coming away from the training I felt a tremendous amount of transformation; meaning I underwent a process of relearning what it means to interact, support, and love the child in an unconditionally profound way. In the core of my Being I knew that this work is a privilege and meant that I would continuously be working on myself to preserve and protect positive lasting relationships with the children and families that I would be serving. To prepare before the school year I re-read some of the pedagogy, sifted through my albums, spent time in our soon to be classroom, and made materials. I lived and breathed the work. Even still, nothing could have prepared me for the moments when children walked through that door.
There is something that happened in those first few weeks. It was a lesson I had to be taught over and over again throughout the year. The only thing that changed is that I started to move through my personal lessons with more grace. If you can take away one little nugget from my story it is that the children will teach you. The children will teach you where you are lacking, where you can improve, where growth is possible and necessary for you. When a child isn’t listening, I began to ask myself, “Am I listening to him?” When a child is struggling with empathy I ask myself “Am I showing him empathy?” This takes true effort in back seating your ego and becoming present in the now with the children.
I spent the year experiencing highs and lows, all of them rewarding in their own respects. In the beginning it was easy to be hard on myself. I questioned my adequacy, and felt like I was completely failing a time or two or three. It took reaching out to my fellow cohort (my tribe!) and brainstorming with other Montessorians, who are my rock. I had to remember that I am not alone in all of this. Once I began to reconnect and tell my stories I was able to receive other perspectives, ideas, and see much more opportunity in the “lows”.
So, here are some things I learned quickly:
- Do not skip the Grace and Courtesy’s! They are essential, and the children will thrive when they know the intricacies of their interactions. It will take more than one lesson, you’ll be doing them well into the year; and one day you’ll look around the classroom and sigh a beautiful breath and see the gift of it all.
- The primary goal should be the development of concentration, independence, and self-formation.
- Collaboration with parents is key in supporting each child. Being able to freely and openly come together with parents has been such a profound experience. Supporting parents and having the parents support has helped nurture and create really amazing relationships.
- When the class is awry, which it likely will be from time to time in the beginning, look toward myself. What am I doing, or not doing?
- Be gentle with myself. I will not get things right every time, but if I am willing to look back and acknowledge that there is a better way and actively work towards being better, then I am doing my best. And that is enough.
Ultimately, remembering that the spirit of the child is the world’s greatest gift. We have been given the most precious opportunity to guide children in their discovery of self. This gift should not be taken lightly, and it is my responsibility to extend unconditional love, and conscious support. This is the work of the adult. Maria Montessori knew that there is a spiritual journey that the guide must take in this work. She realized the vast greatness that the children provide to the adult, in which we must extend the same opportunities to the children. We come into union, connected oneness, we learn from one another as we walk and respect each other’s personal journey.
About the Author:
Alyssa Zander is currently a Primary Montessori Guide living in Bend, Oregon. She began her Montessori journey in a Primary classroom as an assistant in 2014. In 2016, Alyssa moved to Phoenix, AZ to attend the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies and obtained her certificate and Master’s through Loyola University in 2017. After finishing her studies she moved back to Bend, Oregon where she inherited the classroom she was once an assistant in. Alyssa just completed her first year teaching and enjoys living in Central Oregon, the “adults” playground, with her boyfriend in the busyness of the city. She loves hiking, paddle boarding, and reading along the river.