educate me on becoming a Montessori teacher, please!
February 11, 2009 9:08 PM   Subscribe

What are the "cons" of becoming a Montessori teacher and the teacher training programs?

I'm considering pursuing AMI certification or a master's degree in Montessori education (primary - ages 3-6). I am a recent college graduate with very little experience in teaching; however, I know I want to work in early childhood education and, from the research I've done thus far, I'm impressed with the Montessori method.

I've talked with local Montessori educators, but I came away with little more than the shiny pamphlet version of the job and the teacher training programs.

So I'm turning to you to help me create my pro and con list, as I continue to research the field.
Personal anecdotes are more than welcome, as are answers to some specific points:

I'm not going into education for the money, but in this economy, I want to make a decision that will be smart and cost effective. Is a M.Ed worth the extra cost and time? What is the current job outlook? How intense is the training? Is there any stigma to obtaining certification abroad (I live in the U.S. and I'm thinking of completing the program in the U.K.)? Any horror stories about life as a Montessori teacher?
posted by bluestocking to Education (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Go work in early childhood education for a year or two first. My sister just quit her job at the day care, throwing away her college diploma in ECE, to go serve coffee at the Second Cup. She said it wasn't worth the pink collar ghetto gossipy backstabby bullshit that happens when a bunch of women with lukewarm IQs making $12/hour hang out with a bunch of needy kids all day. My sister likes both kids and teaching, mind you - she happily teaches dance lessons to kids in the evenings, but she can. not. stand. the environment any more. She is happier serving coffee and talking to adults.

I could not imagine paying for a master's degree with zero experience in the field. You're not going to get paid much and you may regret the investment.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:21 PM on February 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

Okay, this is completely and utterly biased. I am speaking as a person who used to live with a person that was going to school for a BA in Montessori Education. Said person and I were very good friends for years and once said person began their training, they quickly became a very snobby, ridiculously self-important asshat. They were constantly degrading every other type of education and general education that was non-Montessori related, was ridiculous, worthless, and completely ignorant.

Just go into it with full knowledge that Montessori is just one of many MANY different types of education and while you might like it and think it was completely awesome, please, please, please do not be ridiculous and terrible.
posted by banannafish at 9:21 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I never got a certificate, but I went through an "informal" Montessori training program (all the basic coursework modified a little, no certificate), and worked as an assistant teacher for just over two years, both in the 3-6 year-old class, and in a first grade class.

I think the Montessori experience is great. A child put through the entire program (if at a well-run school), say, from 2 years of age through 2nd or 3rd grade, is going to have a great education. More years after that, the better, but it's great stuff.

The problems I saw came from a few places. First, a lot of kids are dropped in for part of the program, and lack the environmental experience to succeed. Everything builds on what comes before. Second, the parents really need to be involved and reinforce what happens in the classroom. I suppose this is axiomatic of education, but everything in Montessori is repetition, practice and self-teaching. Lastly, the quality of teachers and schools varies widely, and a bad Montessori environment can be very frustrating to work in (lack of support from other teachers, lack of proper materials, lack of knowledgeable administrators). All three of those could be addressed by landing at a high-quality school.

The hardest part for me, and the one of the main reasons I ultimately left, was the rabid adherence to the philosophical underpinnings of the system. A lot of it comes from Piaget, and some of the most basic tenets of Piaget's theories simply aren't correct (such as knowledge coming from interaction). Full disclosure, I spent three years studying under people who worked to disprove Piaget, so I went into it biased :-)

Having said all that, I still love the way a well-run Montessori classroom is run, and I think if you can find a good program (accredited, run by people who are passionate without being rabid) you'll enjoy it.
posted by Gorgik at 9:30 PM on February 11, 2009

My son went to a quasi-Montessori pre-school. The ECE teachers were dedicated, hardworking, creative and wonderful. The wages must have been pretty low, but they did a great job anyway. If there were any petty politics, I never saw it, but, then again, being a man, I could never work in a matriarchal workplace. It's more intense.

I am going to avoid the editorializing, and just say: find out more about Montessori. Get a criminal records check, and try volunteering in a classroom. Talk to more educators, specifically school principals. Figure out if Montessori fits with your values as an educator.

But cost it out: will the wages as a Montessori teacher be a return on your investment in a Master's degree? Are wages different in different parts of your community? Can you teach at a school in a more affluent neighbourhood where they pay teachers more? Or, when doing your Masters, can you add value to your degree by minoring in something like accounting, project management, commerce or leadership, that will perhaps pave the way for leadership opportunities in the future, while making you a more attractive hire in the meantime.

It's important to pursue a career or vocation that will fulfill your mission and your goals, and that will satisfy your needs. I wouldn't pay any attention to anyone who says Montessori is snobby or wacky or pretentious, if it's the right teaching methodology for you.

It's also important to think big (one day you are going to run your own Montessori school) and think strategically (and you are going to lay the foundation for this audacious goal now).

But petty negativity should be brushed aside, as long as you do not engage in petty negativity yourself.

My only caveat (and I say this as a former teacher who was essentially forced to change careers because of a changing job market) is: what are the longterm prospects for Montessori schools? Is the population ageing where you live, or will there be consistently stable, large cohorts of children to teach? Are there going to be families who can afford to pay for Montessori, even in the face of what appears to be five years or so of very limited economic growth?

Or can you combine Montessori with some other career to earn a living?

If this is your passion, you have to go for it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 PM on February 11, 2009

Alright, I work in the after school program at a Montessori school right now, and have come in a few times during the regular school day because I didn't have my classes to go to and decided to go help out. And I know a lot of teachers in the public school system.

There are kids at my school whose parents teach or have other positions at public schools. I doubt those children would be here if Montessori teachers were snobbish as a rule.

Also, the kids at my school are a lot better behaved (generally) than the kids at the area public schools. Their bad days are a lot of public school teacher's dream days. And as far as being needy, they are either exactly where other children their age are or a lot more independent.

Likewise, the amount of "pink collar ghetto gossipy backstabby bullshit" is not any higher than at other schools. It happens when people are around each other than often.

And as Gorgik has already said, we can't know how things will be at your school because of the variety in the programs. Some of that can be controlled, such as how strictly run the program is compared to the original Montessori model. Some of it can't, such as children entering and leaving the program. You'll have to feel that out for yourself.

All of that summed up: You'll need to evaluate this program for yourself. And don't write off the entire philosophy because you found one bad school.

Now onto other things. How much experience is very little? I know tons of people who are former education majors. They were fine with everything until they actually got into the classroom for observations. I know even more who realized that they do want to teach but couldn't handle the age group (k-3) that early childhood covers. I'm not saying that you won't make a good teacher, or that you can't hack it as this level. But at this point, I really recommend against jumping into this.

This isn't like babysitting, where you're with the kids for a while and give them back when the parents come home. You're going to be with these kids all day every day for a large portion of the year. You're not going to be able to pass them off to someone else when you feel like you're about to lose it.

See if you can work yourself into the school. Maybe a PE or fine arts class, so you're they're constantly but know that if things get bad you'll be able to give them back to the "real" teacher after a while. Even better would be something like I do right now. By the time I get there the kids are sick of listening to the other teachers (they've been doing it for about 6 hours by the time I get there), and they listen to me a lot more than the other teachers. It's not just me, when people come from the local university to do volunteer work the same thing happens with them.

Hit me up if you have any other specific questions. I'll answer them the best I can.
posted by theichibun at 9:57 PM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a great question and I'll be watching the answers. I was raised in Montessori (see my posting history for my completely biased comments on that) and I've started thinking about becoming a Montessori teacher myself. I currently work in environmental/outdoor education but am considering whether classroom based teaching might be right for me. When I think about being a formal teacher, my mind always goes to the dynamic, lively Montessori classrooms I grew up in.

A sense of the job outlook can be gained from Montessori Jobs, the AMS job board and the AMI job board. My sense is that if you're just starting out in life, and can go where the jobs are then you'll have plenty of options. According to the North American Montessori Teachings Association, there is more demand than supply for teachers right now.

About the cost - where are you looking at M.Eds or other certification programs? I've just started my research and came across the diploma program through the North American Montessori Center. The distance format would be perfect for me, and the cost is much less than a masters program. Here's what they have to say about their associations with other certifying bodies, but I'm still digesting that myself.

As far as where you obtain your certification - the Montessori world is not very homogeneous when it comes to where or when or by whom you have to be certified. It depends on the school where you're trying to get hired. There are some schools that do strictly demand a AMI or AMS degree, but many others that are just looking for those who can teach and have some training in the methodology. I'd take a look at job postings' minimum qualifications.

But something that theichibun comments on, and I will too is that you can't know whether you ought to be a teacher, Montessori or otherwise, unless you spend more time with kids being a teacher. There will always be demand for teachers (especially well trained science and math teachers in any setting), but all the training in the world is moot if you get into a classroom and can't handle the reality of children. Kids are some of my favorite people, but they are also screeching germ factories that are almost always sticky, crying, or rolling their eyes at you. They will fight you tooth and nail on how to play tag, and then want to hold your hand for hours. They are by turns brilliant, engaging, and wonderful, and flailing on the floor. Truly, my best description for the life of a teacher is that "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." But I find this utterly thrilling, and I feel that being a teacher in some capacity is my life's work. You say you won't be going into education for the money, which is good because no educators make money except tenured professors. The reward is in the teaching itself, and for some people that's enough - for others, another career would be better.

I can't recommend enough that before you spend any time in any certification program that you get yourself into a classroom or volunteering with a local nature center or after school care like theichibun suggests - just spend more time with kids. Best of luck!
posted by nelleish at 6:02 AM on February 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to getting experience working with the children, see if you can't get experience dealing with their parents and with the administrative side of things.

One of my dearest friends founded and runs a large preschool (not Montessori, but I don't think that matters for this example). Her two greatest frustrations are dealing with money and parents. It can be very soul-destroying to spend most of your time trying to raise or save money, and much less time on the actual thing that led you to the profession in the first place (the children!). And she has to constantly deal with parents who think they know how a preschool should be run, just because they happen to have a child in the school.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:44 AM on February 12, 2009

« Older How do I curb obsessive hypothetical relationship...   |   iTunes iPopup Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.