The fist time I observed a Montessori classroom was such a beautiful experience for me. There was a quiet shuffle of children working throughout the room, as they politely navigated around their peers and myself. They worked independently on what some would have deemed too complex for the child's mind. This had me thinking about all of the potential we can allow the child to have when given the opportunity to grow beyond our understanding.
Growing up in tradititional schools, I already noticed the difference. The standard in most classrooms are rows of desk with the teacher front and center, providing lectures, while delegating and choosing assignments. In the Montessori classroom, however, there were very few tables. Instead children used rugs for their works while the teachers, quietly walked around and observed. Occasionally they would step in to check work or give a lesson to a few students.
One may think the class must be chaotic or that there is no way these children are learning. But if they are learning, then how, especially since the teacher to student interaction seems to be at a minimum?
It is a freedom that you see in the classroom that allows the child to learn far beyond what we can imagine. Once a child has been given a lesson they are free to choose their work. They may gravitate towards math, science, language, sensorial, practical life and other subjects. This is where you would then see the pure focus of a child come to life.
One of my biggest questions was, "what if the child wants to focus only on one work or subject all of the time? How do I know they are learning all that they need?"
That's where the observant teacher comes into play as well as the concept within Montessori, Freedom with Limits. Children still need guidance and they still need order (something they desire). The child can choose a work but they first need a lesson on it. They can choose when to eat snack but must clean up afterwards. For the child who is focused on only one work, the teacher may note that they are new to Montessori and that specific work is comforting for them. The child may not be ready to fully acclimate themselves to the entirety of the classroom. They could also note that the child may avoid more challenging works or in turn, challenging themselves. So they may guide and encourage them to do other things. The teacher may also note the child's interest, and decide to incorporate that love into other works and subjects. This could look like mini dinosaur counters in math or a dinosaur 3-part lesson in science.
The possibilities are endless and the best part is that each individual child can be met where they are. There is still order but in turn, the child has their independence and a since of pride in all the things they can learn and do for themselves.