How the Montessori approach is helping us at this time

By Anna McLean – Preschool Deputy Principal

Who could have predicted the impact to our daily lives in the last two months? As adults, some of us have had to undertake a major shift in the way we work. Working from home, holding meetings via Zoom and managing to separate work from home life and much more!

Now that preschool is open, it is worthwhile looking at how Montessori philosophy has played a part in preparing tamariki for the changes they have been experiencing.

One of the big changes at school is asking whānau to drop off and pick up their tamaiti at the gate. For the most part, we have seen the confident way that tamariki have been coming in the gate and heading to their classroom. They have to take off their shoes, hang up their bags and coats and make their own way into the class, sometimes on their own. And they have been doing it!

Montessori talked about education being an aid to life. The lessons in practical life prepare tamariki to be independent. From the start of preschool at age three, our tamariki are shown how to look after themselves through the lessons of self-care. The dressing frames help them to learn how to do up buttons, zips, domes and eventually how to tie bows. When a tamaiti has not learnt one of these skills, there is always an expert who can help them!

One of the very first lessons a tamaiti receives is handwashing where they are shown, step by step how to wash their hands properly.  Through grace and courtesy lessons (small group lessons focusing on one action) we are able to introduce and reinforce the etiquette of how to cough into your elbow, blow your nose, how to change our greetings from handshakes to elbow bumps, how to say excuse me if you are walking past someone.  These group lessons can be used to introduce a wide range of behaviours that need to be explicitly taught.

Throughout the day, tamariki have been carrying on with their mahi (work) in the same way as they would have done prior to Covid-19. Preschool is a safe and predictable place. The routines and rituals can be adjusted to accommodate changes. Hands need to be washed more regularly. We need to be more careful around food preparation and delivery. Washing tables now has an added purpose for the tamaiti. The hardest thing tamariki have had to adjust to is the loss of independence around serving themselves kai for morning tea and lunch.

Thinking ahead to the time when whānau can come back into the preschool playground, how can the independence that we have seen from tamariki be supported now that they have shown us how capable they are?