Dear Miss Tammy (for that is the name that generations of your students will remember you by),
I know you’re on fire with the fresh burning flame of Montessori that has opened your eyes to a whole new way of seeing your life, and I want to congratulate you on following your instincts and your heart and mind to continue this path.
Your decision to jump into this profession, one previously unknown to you before that day you picked up your wee charge as his nanny, will continue to open doors to yourself and the world that you don’t even know exist! Don’t worry so much about turning away from your earlier dream of becoming an artist; you really haven’t wasted those four years you worked so hard at to achieve your higher education, for you will use these skills and your knowledge for the rest of your life in Montessori. I should know. It’s been 25 years now, since that first day you shifted gears, and for that, I am so grateful for your courage and determination to work in a purposeful field.
The next couple of years will be a challenge, one you cannot imagine right now as you have acquired a clarity about Montessori and it seems as if the path is cleared for you to apply what you’ve learned with ease. Yet there are some factors that will get in your way and muddle this clarity until you question yourself and Montessori. You’ll stay the course, of course, and acquire more and more tools along the way that equip you to address your challenges with more confidence.
My gift to you is the understanding that you will get through to the other side of these challenges and your work will elevate how you see yourself.
You already have within you several characteristics that will carry you far in your profession: you have tenacity, compassion, and a deep curiosity about the world around you. You’re not afraid of hard work and your creative mindset assists you in making the world more beautiful. You also have a really positive and playful side of you that shines through the clouds of sometimes somber moments.
My advice to you is to slow down long enough to reflect on these qualities so that you can more fully embrace who you are and what you bring to your Montessori community.
You also have several qualities to your character that you are not so aware of yet and I point them out here to reveal to you that you’re not finished developing. In fact, you’ll never be finished! The first is one that Dr. Montessori alludes to time and again: your ego. You won’t always have the answers or be right in your interpretations of situations or of Montessori practices. I’ll give you an example of two mistakes I see you making: #1 Stop digging your heels into the idea that children should learn print first then cursive. Embrace cursive now. #2 Preliminary exercises in Practical Life are truly just that, preliminary and practical!
When you humble yourself to your greater curious nature, learning abounds! Opening yourself up to mistakes now will nurture your ability to acquire new-found understanding rather than unnecessarily uplift your ego.
Another arena you might want to consider looking at is your tendency to want to please others. You will be taken advantage of and you will be hurt. There are adults, even your colleagues, that struggle with doing their fair share of the work and emotional labor and you do not, I repeat, do not have to shore up everything and everyone around you.
You’ll learn you can only control your own responses to situations, and that sometimes you need to stand up for what you believe and say so. My advice is to pick up the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High now so as to relieve some of the situations I know are in your near future.
Right now your focus has been on the preparation of your environment and the curriculum. You’re spot on in that the environment is a game-changer for your students, and yet, I’d advise that you rethink the Montessori Triad and refocus your attentions to improving yourself. It’s too easy to lose sight of how the transformation of humankind through children must start with us, the guides in the environment. Refresh yourself with the writings of Dr. Montessori and build your collegial network as this will carry you forward when you lose sight of what is important.
Keep living frugally and saving your vacation time as your wanderlust will take you far both in your spiritual awakening, in your relationships, and in your career. You will continue to battle the mis-impressions your extended family has of you and what you do. Your best antidote is to continue to seek inspiration and you shall be inspiring. They’ll come around.
Finally, fully embrace improving your practice with your students. Work on honing your practice of observation. Every one of your students has a gift you are assisting in unfolding, and your love of learning can be harnessed to supporting them in being their best.
Know that I love you and believe in you.
Tammy (the older, more experienced version)
P.S. Buy stock in Apple. No, really.