I have recently been reflecting on the work of teachers, particularly teachers in independent schools and most particularly teachers in Montessori schools.
For those of us who work in offices, if we are having a bad day we can close our door or choose to do less arduous tasks, or focus on work, but allow ourselves our mood. Teachers are ‘on’ ALL DAY. From 8.30am to 3.30pm they perform, 5 days a week. Usually they have a class of 20-30 students, all of whom they support throughout the day. They give lessons to individuals and small groups, while simultaneously managing the whole class, who should be working on their own follow-up work from other lessons. A common question from parents is, “How do they see everything? Do they have eyes in the back of their heads?” Our classrooms are calm, yet orderly. When you sit to observe, you will see teachers sitting with their small groups, and the rest of the class quietly getting on with their work. This is mind-boggling to most observers. Our teachers have special qualifications and experience during which they learn precisely how to do this.
During a teacher’s day, there is no time to do all of the planning and preparation work that goes on behind the scenes in order to have a successful Montessori learning environment. In a Montessori class, each child is planned for individually, in each subject. A teacher can plan for a term, however, because we follow a child, their interests and individual progression each week, they often need to replan each week and each day, depending on how that child took to the information and whatever new passion has arisen in that child. When I was teaching in Stage 2, children used to come to me for lessons. I fondly remember one boy who used to write me little notes and tuck them under my computer for me to find. I remember one note in particular, “Dear Raquel, can you please give me a lesson on the crusades?” (not signed – luckily I knew his handwriting!) In a Montessori environment we do not want to lose that spark of learning. We need to grab onto it as it arises. So off I went, after my marking, planning and programming and researched the crusades, in order to give him a lesson the following day. Of course my plan for that day then changed, with all my lessons rearranged to fit that particular one in.
So teachers are ‘on’ from 8.30am – 3.30 pm followed by staff and/or parent meetings till 4.30-5.00pm. Then they either stay at work or go home to plan, research, prepare, mark, program. Often when I am here late for functions or meetings, I go around at 7.00 or 8.00pm and always find teachers still here working. I know they work throughout the weekends too and during school holidays. Teachers, and particularly Montessori teachers, commit their entire lives to your children. They are dedicated and incredibly hard working. They lovingly prepare materials for lessons, they follow up, they contemplate and they spend a lot of time thinking about how to get children to reach the very highest possible standard that they are capable of.
Do you know that an average school report takes 1½-2 hours to write? So during terms 2 and 4 our teachers sleep is radically reduced as they work around the clock creating these carefully written reports for your children.
On top of all of this, the compliance paperwork that independent school teachers are responsible for is enormous. They have to write incident reports, risk assessments, medical plans, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and fill out multiple administration forms, all in their own time.
Teachers receive and respond to emails from parents. Outside of work hours, teachers come to evening events and weekend open days.
When you have your own children for a full day, sometimes you feel completely and utterly exhausted. Teachers do this 5 days each week with 20-30 children. Teachers cannot have bad days, because children can feel it. Every day they must be kind, gracious and open hearted no matter how they feel.
Some of our staff members love our school so much that they spend many hours travelling to and from work. We have staff members who live in the Blue Mountains, Hornsby, South Coast and Cobbity, and they travel here each day because they love our school and they are dedicated to your children.
I am in awe of our teachers and I hope that you are too. Please take the time to stop and thank them for the work that they do.
Have a wonderful week ahead.