Why observation is key

Two months ago I was lucky enough to go to the American Montessori Conference which was held in Chicago. I went in with a very open mind, but to be honest, had no idea what to expect. I mean, I love what I do, and I love Montessori.  But what was going to this conference going to actually do for me?

Let me tell you, it did a lot. It reminded me why I love Montessori.  It helped me see ways that I can change my classroom for the better.  It made me beyond excited to go back to work that week and share what I had learned. One of the things that I realized while sitting in a break out session was how important it is to take time to observe your students everyday. Although I take time to watch my classroom, it has been while finishing up lessons or while outside. I had a hard time taking a chunk out of my day to actually sit and watch.

I spoke to my assistant, and she and I came up with a plan that allowed me to have a portion of time everyday to sit and observe. At first it was really hard to just watch as my students were talking more than they were working with the materials, serving themselves two snacks, or using the addition board in a totally different way. But as I sat and watched something amazing happened.

Those students who were talking ended up discussing how frogs grow from an egg to a frog and helped each other to understand that process by using a work on the shelf.  The child who took more snack then he was supposed to realized what he had done (after recounting his crackers) and came to me worried that his friends would not have enough snack because of his error. The student who was using the addition board in a way I had never seen before ended up doing so because he wanted to allow room for another student to sit at the same table as opposed to taking it up completely with his work.

For many of us we simply want to correct the child when we see them doing something we might consider “wrong”. But by really watching the child and seeing how they problem solve, we are not only giving them the autonomy to learn for themselves, but also reminding us that we have given them the tools to succeed.

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