Ms. Dare is a new assistant guide in the Children’s House classroom at Brushy Creek in Texas. Next month, she will begin her Montessori training and intends to document her learning journey with us. Here, meet Ms. Dare.
On my first day observing a Montessori classroom, I sat on a white chair in a corner of the room. This was the only chair that came above my waist in the entire classroom; the chair’s seat alone was the same height as all the tables.
I sat quietly, trying to become background in the environment, but quickly learned this was near impossible for the observant eyes of the children. Immediately, I had a child come up to me, point, and ask “What’s your name?” “Ms. Dare,” I responded quickly so as not ignore the child but to keep him from being distracted by me.
Soon, the disruption of my presence subsided, and I fully began absorbing the environment. The quiet was eerie. My previous classroom experience was in the woods, where between the rare moments of silence with children there would be persistent yelling, stomping, and other exclamations.
As I observed the Guides moving around the classroom, I saw a reflection of what my training binder had previously instructed me — to use positive words. This, too, was a whole new classroom concept to me. Not that I never used positive words as an outdoor educator, but, “Don’t touch that snake,” and, “Don’t point a loaded bow at your classmate,” were the more important, “positive” sentences I used most often.
The contrast here was striking, enthralling, and entirely welcoming. Seeing it used successfully, I could not wait to develop a new teaching practice. A friend once told me, “Volume is not power,” and I observed this truth in the Montessori Method. Even in the flurry of a transition, the Lead Guide used a whispering voice and the children lowered their own — my first “Montessori Magic.”
Upbringing and background
I grew up in coastal Maine, near the city of Portland, with my parents and my two younger siblings. My parents both work for educators — my father for MIT at a computer research group and my mother as an English teacher at my former high school. They both motivated me and supported me to become the best student I could. I graduated high school with an International Baccalaureate Diploma, and I went on to study at St. Lawrence University.
St. Lawrence is nestled right above the Adirondacks in upstate New York, where I took full advantage of hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, and camping. In my junior year, I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Cairns, Australia. I graduated with an English major and a double minor in biology and art and art history.
After graduating, I moved to Navasota, Texas, where I worked as an Outdoor Educator for the Discovery Program at Camp Allen. Our team took students aged kindergarten through college into nature to learn subjects like conservation, herpetology, and botany.
When I started to look for jobs in the Austin area, I stumbled upon Guidepost Montessori at Brushy Creek, and I was awestruck. I had two interviews with Ms. Suzanne Moore, who was warm, kind, and intent on knowing who I was as a person. When I was offered a position as an assistant guide at Brushy Creek, I knew Guidepost Montessori was the place for me.
Arrival at Guidepost
Two weeks later, I arrived with smiles all around. “You must be Dare! We have been so looking forward to having you!” I was given a tour of the school and then brought to the teacher break room with a three-inch binder full cover-to-cover.
As other guides started coming through the break room for lunch, they introduced themselves and we walked about how much I enjoyed seeing all the Montessori materials and use of cursive.
“I’ve been seeing schools back home already taking cursive out of their curriculum,” I said to one guide. “That makes me so sad to hear,” he responded. “As soon as we take away a person’s ability to read cursive, we are taking away their ability to read our country’s founding documents and their own rights.” This was an aha moment for me. Cursive is so important! Training in that break room, I started learning from both the binder and my coworkers.
My inspiration to become a teacher came from both my parents. My father took to teaching us about the world, trying to find both the fun and funny in our first exposures and our first understandings. The moment that stands out the most to me was when I asked my father if magic was real.
This conversation occurred in early elementary, when I was first reading Harry Potter. He told me, “Of course, but in the real world, we call it Quantum Physics.” He then proceeded to tell me about cloud bursting and moving objects with our minds. He pointed to a plastic cup at the edge of our porch. “For example,” he explained, “if I focused really hard on that cup, I might be able to move it without touching it.” At that moment, a burst of wind came, and the plastic cup fell off the porch.
I use this moment of what my father later called “The Perfect Parenting Moment” as inspiration when it comes to teaching children about the world around us. At Guidepost, I already have got to have one of these magical moments. It was a rare cold day in Texas, but the kids were static with energy. We got them in their coats and started to walk to the playground when it started to drizzle.
About to turn around, I conceded that short outdoor time would do the children some good. So, we got out there and most of the children started to run around but a few stayed huddled close to me looking distraught. “Ms. Dare, I don’t like the rain,” one child said. I then asked the children, “Do you drink water?” They nodded. “Well then we need the rain! Water is important. Do you know what else needs water? Plants! Do we eat plants?” They nodded. “Do you like eating?” They nodded again. “Then the rain is just as important for our drinking as it is for our eating … we should celebrate the rain!”
I then started a rain dance, and the children now feeling a little more upbeat about the sprinkle started to join in. It wasn’t long before they left the comfort of the Guide’s side and enjoyed the rain to its full extent, including exploring bubbles from the drain and the splattering of wet and dry on the wooden fence.
My father once told me that you get to be a child twice — once when you are a child and a second time when you are teaching children, and I’ve started to experience this as a teacher at Guidepost Montessori.
Next week, learn more about Dare's role as an Assistant Guide in the classroom.