Every day brings many challenges; crouching toilets, spicy foods that I do not care for, the noisy, noisy Chinese (honking cars, constant construction) culture that often disturbs my ability to concentrate, and, of course, the major problem of making myself understood, both in the classroom and in all of my daily activities. In spite of these difficulties, I am discovering that this opportunity for personal growth and learning will probably outweigh all of the hardships. I have started to realize that I have been given the chance to witness a little of what Dr. Montessori herself must have experienced when she “followed the child” in various parts of the world during the first half of the 20th century.
I have only had 9 days with my little group of 2 ½ -3 ½ year olds. I have the assistance of 2 young Chinese women who translate to the best of their ability. Working through translators, however, slows everything down and that makes it difficult to hold the attention of my young students. The classroom environment is only partially prepared because many of the Montessori materials either haven’t been ordered or have not yet arrived. (Fortunately, I was able to put together a fairly complete practical life area because I had brought 2 suitcases full of materials with me.) The sensorial materials are fairly complete but there are no language materials, only a few math materials and culture consists of the map of the world and the 6 continent maps. I only had one day in which to put my classroom together and the school administrators do not speak English and do not know very much about Montessori education yet. I quickly realized what I was up against. Nevertheless, it is up to me to provide my students with the best possible Montessori experience during the short time I have with them. I am returning to Canada just before Christmas.
I have already seen just how quickly young children adapt and learn. The difference between day one and day nine almost took my breath away. Although there is still a lot that needs to be done, the children have proven their superior intelligence and amazing capacity for adaptation in the short time I have had with them. My limitations do not prevent them from absorbing my movements, my tone of voice, and my example with the Montessori materials. The first two weeks of this brand new classroom have been a revelation to me; unlike the beginning of any other new class I have ever directed in the past!
I hope you will continue to share my journey as I experience and learn about the fundamental characteristics of early childhood, regardless of the setting!