“The greatest sign of a teacher’s success is to be able to say – Now the children work as if I don’t exist. – Any unnecessary help is an obstacle to development”
We call our teachers “companions” because what we want to do is to observe and accompany the personal processes of each child. In order to be able to accompany in a constructive way, we need to create an individualised relationship of trust.
We want to be there for them with all our senses and give them our support in times of difficulty. When we care for them, we put ourselves at their level, listen to them carefully, and respond in a language they can understand. In times of difficulty, we accompany and support the child who is feeling bad, trying to empathise with their feelings and allowing them to express their emotions without denying them, justifying them, looking for solutions or distracting their attention. We want to allow them to connect with their emotions and show them that we accept them in all circumstances.
In conflict situations, we accompany in such a way that children are able to find their own solutions in an atmosphere of security and understanding, sometimes setting the necessary limits so that there is no aggression. The adult does not act as judge or referee, and does not blame. It is also the task of the companions to maintain a safe and relaxed atmosphere, sometimes setting the limits that are considered necessary in each situation. We try to ensure that the moment of setting a limit is also a moment in which the child feels loved and accepted, even if his or her action is not, allowing and supporting his or her expressions of frustration. In no case do we use recrimination, blackmail, threats or punishment.
For good coexistence we have rules, for example, related to the use of each corner or certain toys, picking up, the level of noise in each space…
For infants, the accompanying persons define and follow these rules. With the older children there are weekly assemblies, in which these rules are discussed and decided, and the children themselves are also aware of their use. The accompanist is part of the assembly and has to ensure the smooth running of the assembly, without being overbearing when it comes to making decisions.
In order to learn, references and models are needed. Accompanying persons also fulfil this function at different times and in different ways. Being a reference does not mean wanting to control what a child needs to learn, but to offer new possibilities for their development. We offer working groups in Primary School and workshops in Preschool, as well as individual support, e.g. introducing the use of specific materials or preparing teaching material on a topic of interest.
The structure of Montessori pedagogy serves as an invaluable aid in pedagogical practice and in reflecting on the role of the companion or guide. We don’t teach or explain things if there is no curiosity. Nor do we usually correct or evaluate results, because we consider that the learning path takes many turns and gathers many elements before reaching a goal.
We understand that everyone has a self-correction mechanism. If the companion wants to correct constantly, we will make the child lose confidence in his or her own judgement, and instead of becoming more autonomous, we will make him or her more dependent. For this reason, we do not believe in exams or tests that assess attitudes and knowledge.
There may be times when the accompanying person reflects with a child on the consequences of his or her actions and can make suggestions to the child. Not everything goes without saying, but neither do we force anyone against their will to do things that are not connected to their needs and interests.
Mutual respect is about taking each other into account.