The Complex Preparation of the Montessori Adult

By Carrie Goodman, Human Resources Director

The classrooms and learning spaces at NNM are created and maintained for the children; we know and feel that any time we enter one of these spaces — as a parent, I feel that, and as a staff member, I am fortunate to see it every day. They are beautiful learning environments with every corner considered and ready for exploration and discovery. 

When you look at classrooms now compared to pre-pandemic years or even 10 years ago, some new elements may be added: shelves were likely moved around, perhaps materials were refreshed, or a new art piece was hung on the wall.

But despite a few new additions, classes largely feel and look the same. Why? Because the space is created for the developmental needs of the child. Our teachers are deeply committed to that preparation of space centered around the children. 

I have seen and directly experienced how preparing that space and preparing ourselves for that space has changed over my 12 years of working at NNM. So much of the preparation of a space and the teachers within it is visible (or I can easily guess at what it looks like).

More and More Invisible Preparation 
It’s the invisible preparation that has always required more time and energy, and the need continues to grow.

The mental and emotional work that goes into teaching and the weight that is often carried with it is enormous. We give more time and space to preparing ourselves and our spaces for social-emotional learning and development. We talk about what mental health and boundaries look like now and how they may need to shift. We center equity and work to elevate voices that have been silenced or ignored. Preparation of the adults within schools has become bigger, more complex, and (to me) it seems harder. The same can be said for parenting too!

Maria Montessori was deeply invested in the preparation of the adults who guide children within their environment. NNM takes that to heart with its 130+ employees, the majority of whom are in student-facing roles.

Resilient Relationships: The Prepared Adult in Burn Out
As we continue to develop and expand our definition of prepared adults and the process of preparation, we must also acknowledge the increased burnout of educators and parents within our community and across the country.

It is not a simple solution or program that will meet these needs or limit the growing demands on us — or our children. It is, I think, a greater focus on well-being and relationships.

The research done in recent years shows us that resilience rests in relationships. We are more resilient, children and adults alike, when we have strong, trusting relationships. And isn’t that what preparation is all about, as Maria Montessori so astutely identified? We prepare ourselves, as a part of a greater environment, to meet the needs of the child who is learning and growing, or in other cases, to meet the needs of a friend, coworker, or parent. 

It’s the same spirit as “follow the child” — we can follow and listen to what’s happening with the adults around us, ourselves included, and work to build trust where it needs strengthening, so we can all benefit from the resilience that comes from a prepared community.