The ages in an authentic Montessori classroom typically span three years. The older children serve as role models and helpers, and each student feels supported as part of a close, caring community.
From an early age, students are encouraged to be independent and self-directed. They should be free to move about the room, to speak with one another, and to responsibly choose an activity and a place to work on it. Listen for a busy hum of activity as children engage in individual or small-group lessons, ask questions or offer assistance, or go intently about their work.
Montessori teaches respect for oneself, for others, and for the environment, and this should be evident throughout the classroom. Look for students to handle materials respectfully and carefully and replace them after use. Watch for examples of courtesy and camaraderie, for unsolicited kindnesses, and for disagreements handled with civility and respect.
Teachers educated in the Montessori Method bring distinctive skills to the classroom. A Montessori teacher must be a keen observer and a thoughtful guide. By knowing each student's interests, academic level, and learning style, (s)he chooses materials and activities that will entice each one to learn. (S)he serves as a resource as students go about their work, and helps them move through the curriculum as they master new concepts and skills. Don't expect to see the teacher as the center of attention. (S)he will be circulating throughout the classroom - and sometimes sitting on the floor - as (s)he demonstrates a material, gives a small group lesson, and quietly notes how each student is progressing. Teachers are also expected to model important Montessori values such as empathy, kindness, and individual responsibility. Observe how teachers treat children respectfully by speaking gently and at eye level, and how they redirect inappropriate behavior in a positive and loving way.