Jennifer Smyth shares why she travelled to China to do her Montessori qualification

6 April 2017 • Teacher education

I had found my experiences in state early childhood and primary frustrating as it always seemed to be ‘busy work’ or playing.

Montessori career jennifer mythOn my teaching practices with the primary age group I felt like I didn’t teach anything and that the children didn’t learn anything.  All I was doing was classroom management; ‘Sit down, stop hitting, stop talking, look at me…’.  But who can expect a five year old or even a 22 year old to sit down, listen, constantly be told what to do and enjoy being forced to do something they were not interested in?

I am attracted to the Montessori philosophy, the mixed age groups and focus on purposeful activities. I love how independent and free children are and how the  environment lets the child follow their interests, be that showing respect for a friend or passion for times tables.  The philosophy just makes sense!!!

I completed training for my Association Montessori International 3-6 diploma in 2010 and studied for it in Hangzhou, China. This was a real eye opener for me professionally and personally discovering Montessori education in a new culture which has such extremes in lifestyle and values. The students in my class are mainly older, many with a child of their own. They are studying Montessori not for a career but to raise their child in the best way possible. In China one child will grow to be responsible for six adults; two parents and four grandparents.

There were 22 students in my class from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They all spoke Chinese Mandarin. The two only English speakers were a man from Poland who had been living in Beijing and me. It was very scary at first to stand out so much in the class and community, but it has been a great experience. I found people were happy to help me in so many ways.

My goals in my career are ever changing with so many possibilities. I am currently a teacher in Riverhead Montessori Preschool in Auckland, New Zealand, having taught for a number of years at Wa Ora Montessori School and spent a few years travelling in different parts of the world.

I also want to use my Montessori understanding in my own life, when I have a family of my own.

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