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Our thoughts on Montessori and education

Montessori Community Comes Together to Support Schools, Teachers and Families During the COVID- 19 Crisis

The last couple of weeks have certainly felt like March Madness as schools nationwide were closed with very little notice. Immediately a group of Montessori leaders and educators from across the US and internationally began to meet and work together to find resources to help schools, teachers, and families. This sparked the creation of The Montessori Collaborative Response Planning Team with members from the major Montessori organizations, leaders from teacher education programs, school administrators, and teachers. The group began to hold over flowing Zoom Town Hall Meetings to address questions and concerns. Task groups were started to gather and provide resources in several areas of need including, school business and financial concerns, teacher resources for teaching remotely, communication, parent support and self- care. Several ” How to Zoom” training sessions were held for teachers across the different Montessori levels. Facebook groups were started for teachers to share ideas. Video conference meetings have been held to address important issues of concern for schools. Short videos have and are being created to discuss specific topics of need and provide suggestions for calming, centering and staying positive during these stressful times. It is truly amazing to see what can be accomplished when a community comes together!

Here’s where you can go to tap into the resources:

The following are the links for the Teacher Resource Facebook Pages:


Help! How do I know how to recognize true Montessori?

“I’m a new parent and have been hearing so much about the Montessori method from friends and online.  All of the information is somewhat conflicting, though, and I want to introduce the true principles in my home.  What would you say are the cornerstones of Montessori, especially for parents wishing to integrate it in the home?”


Dear Interested in Montessori Parent,

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step on a lifelong journey to uncover how to support your child in being the best they can be! 

We’re not surprised that you’ve heard the buzz about Montessori and are wondering what it’s all about!  Italian-born doctor, Maria Montessori (1870-1952), was a scientist who observed how children learn best. She developed a pedagogy, a method of education, that spread and is applied in educational settings and homes around the world. And yet, there continue to be misconceptions of what it’s all about, how to apply the principles, and how to decipher what is aligned with Montessori methodology and what is not.  

Trained practitioners of the Montessori Method, teachers that are often called “guides”, undergo a rigorous training equivalent to a Master’s degree in education.  This training is unique in that it entails a focus on the underlying principles of optimal learning as well as a vast curriculum developed by both Dr. Montessori as well as her followers. It also involves the holistic transformation of the adult learner to work on their own personal flaws and spark their commitment to lifelong learning. If you’re looking for an authentic Montessori school environment for your child, then we’d highly recommend locating a classroom led by a teacher with a credential from  a MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) accredited teacher education program. Additionally, when you’re looking for authentic information, look to experts in Montessori with vast practical experience as well as the credentials that indicate a lineage of authenticity. 

Montessori principles and practices are also adopted by families in their homes for many reasons including supporting their child’s independence, their curiosity in learning, and holistic growth.  Montessori home environments cannot duplicate a school setting in that they are not guided by a trained practitioner nor do they have the pool of students in a specific range of ages that the methodology leans on to support the young learner.  What home environments DO have though, is the ability to amplify each child’s potential by leveraging the unprecedented relationships embedded in the family structure. The home environment is also uniquely poised to prepare an authentic environment to support the child’s independence in all arenas.  

Dr. Montessori saw every child holistically. In following her approach, we attend to the child’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual well-being within an environment fully prepared for the child to flourish.  She saw our role as being far more a “guide on the side” rather than “sage on the stage” teacher. She identified commonalities in how we develop and learn, regardless of culture, and she even noted sensitivities to learning certain kinds of things at specific times in our development. 

A cornerstone of Montessori philosophy is to “follow the child” which seems simple, yet the practice relies on a deep understanding of child development to determine what is an appropriate expectation and how to “hook” the child’s interest based on sensitive periods of development, the ability to prepare an environment based on observations of the child with choices ready for this specific time in the child’s life.  

Another cornerstone of Montessori philosophy is the deep respect and trust shown to the child.  This is seen in every interaction the adult has with the child, the preparation of a beautiful environment with real things, and how adults envision and trust the child that has not yet emerged.  

Some practical ideas for families looking to incorporate Montessori into their homes include slowing down your pace of life and allowing your child time to process information, respecting your child by speaking and listening to them as you would an adult, noticing your tone and word choices. Montessori environments also provide hands-on learning for children; families can amplify this by providing concrete experiences for children by allowing them to make discoveries by themselves, including making the mistakes that inevitably provide learning opportunities. 

One of the most important principles that families can amplify at home is to include their child.  Young children like to be involved in everything including food preparation, cleaning, shopping, and more.  Children take their cues for emotional regulation from the adults in their lives who serve them best by validating charged emotions, empathize, and enforce the limits.  

In preparing your home, to promote independence, provide child-sized furniture and tools such as table and chairs, small broom, watering can, etc. Ensure easy accessibility such as low hooks for coat and bag, steps to sink faucets, and low hangers for clothing.  For toy control, think minimalism as it increases the child’s interest and is far more manageable. Reduce the offerings, organize them in baskets or trays arranged on low shelving, and rotate every now and then the toys that are underused. 

Finally, maybe the most important aspect of bringing Montessori methodology into your home, is to work on being your best self.  Children absorb everything around them effortlessly, including who we are as adults. And we teach who we are every moment we’re with children.  

For a great resource on raising children, check out Tim Seldin’s Raising an Amazing Child the Montessori Way

Tammy Oesting spent the last 26 years delivering professional development workshops, consulting schools, and educating new Montessori teachers and has 17 years in Montessori classrooms.Her passions include issues of social justice, educating support staff, life sciences, neuroscience, and exploring the magnificence of the world.  She serves Montessori globally through her company ClassrooMechanics. (AMS 3-12) 

Ask a Montessorian Leadership Series

“I’ll be joining my school’s board of directors for the first time, and have never served on a nonprofit team before.  What are some things I should keep in mind since I’m coming from a for-profit school?”

This is a great question and critical to understand in order to help the board and school function in the best ways possible. It is important to ask when you say “joining my school’s board,” what is your relationship to the school? If you are a current teacher at the school, this represents an inherent conflict of interest and should not happen. If you are a current, or an alumni/ae parent, or an alumni/ae teacher, or an alumnus/a, this should not be a problem. In fact, it is interesting to point out that if you are a current parent, a National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) “Independent School Leadership: Heads, Boards and Strategic Thinking” study found “Five elements were consistently present and paramount to strategic effectiveness of boards and to a set of institutional outcomes for independent schools in our study” and one of the findings stated “The percentage of trustees who are current parents has minimal direct influence on strategic effectiveness within boards of trustees.” As a side note, today more than ever, boards are working hard to make/keep their boards diverse.

So, let me answer your question beginning with, there are three basic legal responsibilities that you want to understand about serving on a nonprofit board. 

1) Give Care by devoting time and effort. Whether serving on a committee, supporting a fundraising activity, or volunteering to help ongoing activities, e.g. setting up for a school event, overseeing an important school activity, assisting the head of school; your time and commitment are important. Also, you have to give care to make sure that the school meets financial obligations and is compliant with bylaws, policies, procedures, and state and federal regulations. 

2) You have an Obedience to serve the school, and that means to uphold the policies and procedures of the school. Make sure that whether you agree or disagree with a board decision, you are obedient to what the board ultimately decides. 

3) Have Loyalty to the school in a way that your school comes first when making a choice between the school and an interest that you may have in another organization you may be affiliated with in one way or another. This becomes critical if you have a child or relative enrolled in the school, or are friends with an employee of the school. Be sure to review and understand the school’s conflict of interest policy that should be signed by all directors annually.

Hopefully, the school board of directors used a good recruitment and screening process when you were invited to join, AND that it employed a strong on-boarding/orientation process that introduced you to board and school responsibilities and expectations. This is critical to getting all new directors off to a strong beginning.

Become familiar with the Board mission, vision, values, bylaws, and policies. Also important is the school’s communication to the school community and beyond, including website, social media, bulletins, etc. You do not have to be an expert in any one area, but you do want to be familiar with all aspects of how the organization communicates in order to keep the school thriving, particularly when there are times of leadership transition—a time when a school is most vulnerable. 

Beyond the organization’s principles and practices, you want to take advantage of governance resources. A chief responsibility of any board is providing professional development for itself. For example, here are some top nonprofit organizations: BoardSource, Independent School Management (ISM), NAIS, American Montessori Society (AMS), The Montessori Foundation, and The Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS). Beyond these organizations, there are many excellent books—just to name a few top authors—Patrick Lencioni, Shawn Achor, John Maxwell, Edgar Stoesz, and Ray Dalio. These authors, many books, and TED Talks that cover good governance and leadership can be found on my blog.

To help get you get started, here are some articles I have written about nonprofit governance and leadership:

“Shaping Trust in Your School”

“The Case for a Good Governance Committee”

“Bylaws, Policies, and Procedures

“Caring for Your Head”

“Golden Governance”


My answer to the question and these resources should get you started on how to be the best director on your school’s board.

Finally, when considering board responsibilities, the most important board value is trust—a value that is inherent in the word trustee, which is comparable to a director. Building trust is incumbent upon every member of the board, whether in conversations, upholding confidentiality, leadership qualities, emotional intelligence, and best practices. And, do not be surprised that once you are on the board, there may be deficiencies in how the board operates. It is up to you to jump in and help wherever you can.

Dane L. Peters currently serves as a consultant to schools and nonprofit boards of trustees/directors. He retired as head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori School (BHMS), a Toddler through 8th grade school in Brooklyn, New York.  Prior to heading BHMS for eleven years, he served as head of Mooreland Hill School in Connecticut for eleven years. He recently completed his service as the Administrator for the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Experienced Leaders Advising Schools (ELAS) program and now serves as an ed-visor and mentor for the program. He has been a faculty member at the Center for Montessori Education | NY and Seton Montessori Institute, teaching the Credential Course for Montessori Leadership and Administration.

IMC Board approves new affiliate program

The International Montessori Council is pleased to announce the IMC Board’s approval of their newest affiliate teacher education program, The Vietnam Montessori Advisory and Training Center (VMAT).

Long time IMC member Jana Morgan Herman is the director of VMAT and works closely with VMAT founder and Executive Director, Pham Hoai Thu. VMAT is a MACTE accredited teacher education program committed to supporting the development of Montessori in Vietnam. Approximately 25 – 60 adult learners participate annually in their Montessori Early Childhood Certification Program. Their training facility is bright, attractive, well organized and fully equipped with Montessori materials. 

The IMC Teacher Education Committee review team noted VMAT’s commitment to providing adult learners a positive learning experience that will prepare them to lead Montessori Early Childhood classrooms. The program beautifully weaves Montessori philosophy and cultural curiosity throughout the course. We congratulate VMAT along with their dedicated leadership and faculty and welcome them to the IMC community!

Photo of first official IMC affiliated VMAT cohort of adult learners.