800-214-8959   Log In


These articles for teachers and schools will inspire and support you in your work with children. Additionally, there are articles written for parents and families which you may distribute - print, email, or add to a newsletter (please retain the credits at the bottom of the email). Most articles are written by Montessori teachers on our staff.

"The real preparation for education is a study of one's self. The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character, it is a preparation of the spirit."
—Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Sunlight through the treesThe spiritual preparation of the teacher can include whatever is found to be deeply meaningful. When we connect with our hearts, we create more peace in our classrooms and nurture the inner lives of the children as well. One of the ways I prepared myself mentally and spiritually for working with children was to calm and center myself. Some days it involved simply taking a few deep breaths as children began to arrive at school.

Study Oneself

It took years before I internalized the profound differences between Montessori's approach and other educational methods. For many of us, learning how to deeply respect children requires a transformation of the societal conditioning that adults are in charge, know best, and are to be obeyed. Montessori described how teachers must systematically study themselves in order to "tear out [their] most deeply rooted defects, those in fact which impede [their] relations with children." (The Secret of Childhood) Teachers perform the thoughtful internal work of rooting out unhelpful habits and attitudes (what Montessori called "defects") in order to be able to fully support children as they construct their intellect and personality. It's important to study our values, beliefs, habits, strengths, and weaknesses as part of this spiritual preparation.

It's often inspiring to read or reread books by Maria Montessori and contemporary Montessorians such as Aline Wolf (Nurturing the Spirit in Nonsectarian Classrooms) and Paula Polk Lillard. In her book, Montessori in the Classroom, Lillard chronicles her first year of teaching. She candidly explores her doubts, questions, failures, and triumphs. It's a model for learning, without judgment, both from one's mistakes and successes.

It can be surprising, even disturbing, to honestly confront the ways we inadvertently disregard the dignity of children. Once, when I met privately with a new teacher after observing her in the classroom, I reached over and grabbed the pen out of her hand. Then I asked, "How did that feel?"

"Not good, " was her response.

After apologizing for startling her, I explained, "It probably doesn't feel good to children either. I noticed today that sometimes you grab materials out of children's hands as they're working. It's a habit many of us adults have." We discussed alternative responses when the urge to "help" children by taking things out of their hands or doing something for them arises.

Early on in my career I met a Montessori teacher who described opening the door of her classroom every morning and being filled with wonder as the three-, four-, and five-year-olds entered. She motioned with her hand as if gently welcoming and ushering a child across the threshold. It was a gesture so filled with reverence that I was dumbstruck. She said, "I have the privilege to observe, guide, and be inspired by these amazing beings. How lucky I am." I was personally moved to cultivate deeper respect for children.

Daily Practice

Woman drinking coffee at sunriseFor years I wasn't able to find time in my busy teacher's schedule for the daily meditation I longed for and believed would help me become a better teacher. I asked my meditation teacher for advice. He suggested, "Just sit in your backyard and spend a few minutes sipping your morning coffee, noticing what you see and hear."

How could I argue that I couldn't spare a few minutes? So I tried it. I was amazed by the beauty of my urban backyard. I noticed spring blossoms and bird song. I felt the wind in my hair and the sun on my cheeks. I was refreshed and had more to give children from a place of ease and harmony. Of course, many times I forgot or felt too rushed, so sometimes I savored those minutes at the end of the day, with a cup of tea. Often five minutes became ten or twenty as I enjoyed the gift of quiet contemplation.

Perhaps the only time many of us have to take a few deep breaths are the moments at a red light or while using the rest room. Don't discount how useful this can be. Scientific studies show that just two minutes of slow, deep breathing reduces anxiety and helps people become significantly calmer. Deep breaths can also be a way to steady our minds and hearts, helping make the transition to the next activity. After giving lessons, you might stand, stretch, and take some slow, deep breaths before overviewing the class. (Breathe in for four counts, out for eight.) Notice if this makes a difference in how you observe the children or respond to their actions.

Cultivating Peace

Establishing daily habits that promote self-awareness and inner harmony gives us greater capacity to nurture peace in our classrooms. Many people spend a few minutes before meals or sleep remembering what they are grateful for. Other possible practices include:

  • Spending time in nature (even just walking around your neighborhood, noticing the trees and flowers)
  • Journaling
  • Yoga, tai chi, chi gung, dance
  • Meditation, prayer
  • Silently repeating a simple word ("Peace, Peace") or phrase ("May all beings be happy.")
  • Walking a labyrinth
  • Reading poetry
  • Painting or other creative expressions

Cultivating a peaceful inner life is the foundation for observing and interacting with children with calmness and respect. There are mindfulness and awareness exercises, as well as excellent books that can help us learn to respond from our hearts. As teachers, we have so much on our plates. Start with something small and doable, like taking slow, deep breaths for a minute or two. Then appreciate yourself for remembering to nurture your inner spirit. This practice, however brief, can help you to connect with and nurture the light and inner lives of the children.

"We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are a part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity."
—Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential

—by Irene Baker, MEd, Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She holds both primary (ages 3-6) and elementary (ages 6-12) Montessori certifications and has taught at all three levels. For over 20 years, she has served as a Montessori consultant and teacher-trainer for primary and elementary levels, and has presented workshops for teachers at schools and AMS conferences. Her work with students and teachers is infused with her passions: storytelling, history, social justice, non-violent (compassionate) communication, poetry, meditation, music, and the natural world.

—Originally Published 2019