If a Montessori teacher was a superhero, observation would be their superpower. While the Montessori classroom encourages self discovery and for the child to choose their work, it is all within the limits and preparation of the environment created by an observant teacher.
Preparation is indirect
Dr. Montessori created her child's method out of the science of observation. She found that through her observations, she was able to provide the child with what they needed. She noticed that children have an innate love for order, they learn from self-exploration and they love movement. Montessori was then able to provide an environment and materials that would meet the child's needs while simultaneously cultivating their development.
Since the beginning, Montessori stresses the importance of an observant teacher. Through observation, the teacher can see where the child is at academically, emotionally and socially. They can see when a child is ready to move on to another lesson, when they don't appear to be their normal selves, what they enjoy and don't enjoy doing. The teacher is to do all of this free from prejudice and biases.
"Let us know the child first in order to educate him...We must proceed, not on the basis of our own ideas or on our own prejudices, not on preconceived methods, but by observing the child" (London Lectures - Lecture 2)
The child and parent as the observer
Children are powerful observers. This can be seen through a longer than planned walk to the park, a five minute fascination with an ant moving through the grass, or through their imitations of the adults in their environment. Children absorb everything around them and appreciate everything.
However, it's always hard as a parent when your child doesn't seem to run on the same time clock. I unfortunately, do not have the solution on how to get out the door on time, but I know there's something beautiful to see when we start to see what our children see.
Since COVID, one of my family's favorite thing to watch at the end of the night is the Country Life Vlog on Youtube. You may have seen the ASMR cooking vlog where the family from Azerbaijan show picturesque landscapes, cute farm animals and pets, shots of harvesting foods and cooking yummy meals. All of this is done without the sounds of voices but through the crackling of the fire, the sifting of flour or the pouring of milk. In a recent episode, you could hear the rain and thunder through the silence.
Every aspect of this show reminds be the importance of just being patient and still, noticing the tiniest of details around us. It helps me appreciate the little big things, such as how my son wants to slowly balance along the sidewalk on the way into school. At first I would tell him to hurry up or we would be late. But I noticed something. His balance was getting stronger. His steps were more careful and his focus was very intentional. He was honing a skill through a process that I initially tried to interrupt.
Now, when my son starts to point out, "she's making tea probably" when he sees water flowers and hot water poured together, or "she's making bread" when the woman starts to knead a big ball of dough, I am fascinated to see how he processed the steps from earlier vlog videos.
I can see how the child can observe and soon come to conclusions without having been told. Imagine what conclusions we can come to from truly being present and making observations.
"All great observers are fundamentally people having great patience." (Lecture 3, Some Suggestions and Remarks upon Observing Children).
As the observing adult, patience is key. Some days we may see something great, but most may seem very mundane and normal.
Over time, however, you will start to see the tiny details that develop and create something phenomenal and new within the child. Because of our observation, we discover the 'why' and are then able to apply what we've learned from the child to their work. It's as if the child becomes the teacher, and we the eager student.
"When I say that we must take the child as our teacher you will probably object, saying we must educate the child and give him all sorts of information, that he must learn the subjects we think important. Do not have these prejudices. When his energies are freed, the child will be better able to learn than before." (London Lectures - Lecture 2)