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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Montessori Field Placement

children playing in a playground

As part of the curriculum for my Introduction to Education class, we were required to complete a field placement. Given my interest in working with young children, I expressed a strong preference for a kindergarten or elementary school setting. Although the field placement was primarily supposed to be an observation, I told my professor that I wanted to take a more engaged role in the classroom. After a long wait, I was thrilled to learn that I had been placed in a Montessori school in Media, a town conveniently close to Swarthmore.

Before diving into my hands-on experience, let me give you a little background on the Montessori philosophy. Founded by Dr. Maria Montessori, this educational approach emphasizes child-led learning, independence, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Key aspects of this philosophy include the theory of play pedagogy and the pedagogy of care. The theory of play pedagogy is all about valuing 'play' as an essential part of learning, allowing children to explore, experiment, and understand the world around them in a stress-free environment. The pedagogy of care focuses on nurturing each child's emotional and social development by creating a supportive and caring classroom atmosphere.

I spent an hour and a half every Thursday for eight weeks at the Montessori school. Initially, I was a bit nervous since I hadn't worked this closely with a large number of kids before. However, the teachers were incredibly welcoming, and the children quickly grew to like me.

Here are some key observations and lessons I gathered from my time there:

  • Child Autonomy: The Montessori method places a strong emphasis on children making their own decisions and being in charge of their learning. This autonomy was evident in the classroom, where students chose their activities and worked at their own pace.

  • Respectful Interaction: The teachers treated the children with respect, referring to them as 'my friends' rather than 'the kids,' even when talking to me about the children.

  • Learning Through Play: The classroom activities were primarily based on learning through play. The children engaged in various playful yet educational tasks that made learning enjoyable and stress-free.

  • Emotional Regulation: I rarely witnessed any emotional outbursts. When they did occur, the teachers managed them calmly and effectively, maintaining a soothing tone instead of shouting.

  • Self-Motivation: The children were incredibly self-motivated to learn, which was refreshing and inspiring to see. They took pride in their work and showed genuine interest in their activities.

  • Unicorn Drawings: On a lighter note, the kids were always amazed at how well I could draw unicorns. It became a little tradition for me to draw one whenever I visited :)

On my last day at the Montessori school, I wanted to leave the children with something to remember me by. I had grown so close to all of them and had a blast getting to know them better. I brought in unicorn keychains for everyone (unicorns were a big theme for us), and in return, the children surprised me with a book filled with drawings they had made for me. It was such a touching gesture and a perfect end to my field placement.

This experience has solidified my desire to work with children in the future. This happened during the process of selecting my major—I ended up bumping education up to a Special Major instead of a Minor. If given the opportunity, I would love to work at this Montessori school or a similar environment. The lessons I learned and the bonds I formed during my placement will definitely play a central role in my future steps in working with kids!

A girl standing with a group of children under a tree
had to cover the little ones' faces because... privacy!

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