My coursework has already begun for the Montessori teacher education program I’m doing through CGMS, the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. It’s a hybrid of a distance learning program plus a 2 1/2 week residency and a whole school year of student teaching / practicum / internship.
One of the assignments for the orientation is journaling. This week’s prompt is to reflect on our sense of calling to work with children, what draws us to this work, what we feel called to do in this work, what we hope will come from it.
My thoughts turn toward two youth ministers. Brian talked and listened to us, even when we were middle schoolers, as if we were really people, whose ideas, feelings, dreams, and thoughts were legitimate, worth taking seriously. I’m sure he knew when we were being irrational and overly dramatic, but he didn’t treat us dismissively or ridicule us at such times.
When I was an adult volunteer with another church youth ministry, the youth pastor Tim modeled respect and compassion in another way. When kids were whispering to or poking each other, or when someone was just wiggly, he invited them to step out of the room to work it out. Anyone could say those words, and for most adult leaders it would be spoken as a threat and a criticism — as if the kid is being bad or needs to be punished or singled out and shamed. But Tim spoke it as a real invitation. He acknowledged just how normal it is to be distracted, to have the wiggles or the giggles, and encouraged kids to see taking a quick break as a positive strategy rather than a mark of shame or a punishment.
These two guys — and I’m sure I could think of many other people — modeled what have become my core values, compassion and respect. In all my interactions with people I hope to be governed and marked by these values. They have guided me as a volunteer in youth ministry, as a camp counselor, as a high school teacher, as a parent, and in situations that have nothing to do with kids.
There are other things that have drawn me to work in early childhood education. I find it fascinating how little children observe and explore their world, how language develops, how learning works, how social graces coalesce. I like how open, energetic, and curious kids can be, and how surprising their thoughts and feelings can be. I’m enthusiastic about how Montessori created an educational program (among others) that makes so much sense in real life. I want to be part of it all, and I think that these core values of compassion and respect will serve me well as I grow into teaching, will serve the children well as recipients and practitioners of these values, and will fit harmoniously with Montessori’s emphasis on peace, grace, and courtesy.