Observation is one of the most important tools in the Montessori teacher’s toolbox; in any teacher’s. We observe without knowing we do it. In fact, I’d argue that observation is the human condition. It’s impossible to be in relationship with others without observing those around us. It helps us determine how to interact with the other beings in our environment; it helps us determine how to interact with our environment. Observation has become so integral to our survival that it has become second nature.
In the Montessori classroom, Observation tends to be more deliberate. We observe individual students, pairs, small groups and large, entire classrooms, and the whole school. Even the relationship between the students and the environment comes under our scrutiny. We’re even observing ourselves. Then we take our observations a step further: we use them to individualize curriculum, adapt the classroom environment, and stop conflict before it starts.
I don’t want to make it sound like every moment of a Montessori teacher’s day is spent on high alert, but we are constantly aware. I recently saw this quote on Pinterest and identified with it immediately:
Maria Montessori built her educational beliefs on observation. In The Montessori Method, she says,
To one whose attitude is right, little children soon reveal profound individual differences which call for very different kinds of help from the teacher. Some require almost no intervention on her part, while others demand actual teaching. (52)
The only way that we can determine these “profound individual differences” is through observation. And the only way we can decide what kind of intervention is required? Yes, you guessed it. Observation again. It is the backbone of our teaching method.
Here are a smattering of observations that a Montessori teacher might make:
- James and Nick like to chat to each other during group time. They should probably sit apart.
- No one is using the rice pouring work. It may be time to switch it out with something else.
- Kim is struggling with the “sh” sound. It might be a good idea to review the “sh” phonogram before she reads next time.
Often our observations help us to prevent problems before they even start. That’s part of the beauty of a prepared environment. We take what we learn from your children every day and use it figure out how to teach them.