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The Montessori method of teaching was created by Maria Montessori who developed her teaching strategies to allow the child freedom to learn within a structured environment.
At Buttercup Montessori Kindergarten - Galleywood in Chelmsford, Natasha Taylor, a Montessori directress, believes ‘if the environment is stimulating the Montessori child will flourish’.
“At our nursery Maria Montessori's philosophy enables children to become independent, confident and socially aware by taking them through a progression of social and practical skills within a prepared environment,” she said.
“The Montessori teaching methods are based around approaching an 'educational' task in a manner that appeals to children so that the child is not conscious of that fact that they are 'learning'. Emphasis is placed on independence, freedom within limits and respect for a child's natural psychological, physical, and social development.”
’Enticed into the Montessori world’
Mrs Taylor’s inspiration to become a Montessori Directress began when she had her first child, Charlotte.
She said: “I had the desire to give her self-confidence and self-esteem to develop into a confident young woman within a prepared environment. In 1990 I enrolled on a Montessori Course in London which focused on all five areas of Montessori along with the philosophy and understanding of the key principles. The course opened my mind and showed me how innovative classroom practices have a profound influence on the education of young children.
“Once qualified, I joined a small South London Montessori Kindergarten where I began my childcare learning journey. Being enticed into the Montessori world of wood, water and natural products as well as materials to support independent learning and life skills, I ventured further to create the perfect environment for the young learner.”
Buttercup Montessori Kindergarten was established in April 2001 and provides childcare for 64 children aged from birth to five years. As well as leading the children and staff, Mrs Taylor’s daily role includes showing prospective parents around, interviewing staff and promoting the Montessori experience within the setting for new staff and children.
“When the children arrive in the morning we encourage them to hang their coats and bags on their names pegs, place their shoes in their named trays and put their slippers on to promote independence at all times," Mrs Taylor added.
“The Montessori curriculum is woven into each room and with clear divided areas the child can openly choose which activity to work on throughout the day.
“During each session the children will work within the Montessori field, for example pouring, polishing, snipping and transferring. Practitioners also support children to develop their language skills and help them to understand the world by exploring plants, wildlife and life cycles.
“The activities are carried out in an ordered sequence at the child’s pace which develop concentration and lead to greater independence and self-esteem. Some children will need more direction than others and so the teacher acts as a guide to help them move on when they have mastered a work. Having other children in the classroom also serves as motivation.”
Buttercup incorporates the Montessori philosophy alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and traditional play activities, giving an independent education and start in life for each child.
The Montessori Curriculum is organised into various areas of developing learning, including: practical life, discovering the five senses, language, mathematics, geography and botany. The materials support an aspect of child development, creating a match between the child’s natural interests and the available activities.
Key skills of a Montessori teacher
The role of a Montessori teacher is that of an observer whose ultimate goal is to intervene less as the child develops. The teacher's first objective is to prepare and organise the learning environment to meet the needs and interests of the children as well as promote independence.
To be a successful teacher of a Montessori nursery Mrs Taylor believes a person should be passionate about the environment delivered to the children, remain thorough and methodical at all times and understand the needs of different people.
“My advice to anyone would be, if you feel passionate about childcare and more importantly the Montessori education, start by working or observing in a Montessori setting to gain some experience, and feel the calm aura that this brings. It’s an amazing feeling.”