Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great Assistantship.

After a wonderfully normalized-like day in our environment I had the nicest surprise when my very talented assistant shared with me her observations of the day with a prelude that went something like this:

"Today I wanted to see what they were actually doing, not just like -"working with the clay", but notice exactly what was happening with the children and the materials. When Z was washing the sink, for example, I was thinking of how much sensorial information was going to his brain. He was counting brushstrokes as he washed, he counted to seventeen. (Mathematics while washing the sink!) The movement of his hands and his whole body while he was scrubbing and getting water. He repeated parts of the work several times- why those parts?, I wondered."

And then she proceeded to give me forty minutes worth of fine in-depth observations of what she saw, including at the end, a summary of each child and the areas they worked in. I am inspired!

Sayenne and I meet every day after school to go over observations. Not every day for 40 minutes, usually 20-30. This happens after we clean up the kitchen and the environment. I am lucky enough to have an assistant that is not only glad to, but prefers to meet at the end of each day and share with me in detail what she wrote in her observations notebook. I am also lucky enough to have an assistant who shares a similar sense of humor to my own and can notice things that cause peals of laughter to erupt from the office after school. Talking about the day, hearing her observations, how she felt about the day, giving some feedback from my own training and other experience and recording the most relevant aspects of the observations has become an invaluable part of my day.

Talking about the frustrating parts as well as celebrating the breakthroughs has allowed me to disconnect a lot better from school when I go home. It removes the urge to talk about school outside of school, better yet, removes the urge to give summaries of my day to any available soul after school.

We have tried several methods of communication through the years. One year she would hand me her observations notebook and I would read it after school and write feedback, comments and if possible I would add an article or even bring in a book to tie in what I was noticing from her. This worked pretty well, but I think it perhaps obligated Sayenne to have to keep notes that were coherent for me to read, and it is so hard to capture some moments in a couple of sentences.

In those days we had weekly meetings, which I would prepare for and try to have enlightening literature, observation tasks, and other things to aid Sayenne's development in the classroom. (Writing this reminds me that it is important for me to continue to supplement our meetings with things for her to take home and read and think about. )

My trainer emphasized the importance of keeping clear delineations of what the assistant's role and what the directress' role are. I have found that both roles are incredibly complex, and the exact delimitation of both roles migrates! I am very fond of the idea of taking into consideration each other's aptitudes and talents. I have also found that even when a directress may know well what her role is, it is also her responsibility to make sure that the assistant knows hers. There are some wonderful articles written about this, and if anyone out there is interested I can point you to them.

In order better understand myself what the assistants role is, during my training, one of my classmates and I put together an Assistant's album. Into it we put articles about the assistant's responsibilities, presentations that the assistant may eventually be giving, lists of possible short transition games that the assistant may play, as well as the relevant information about the classroom (the schedule, class list, clean up tasks list, etc.) Ours is well worn and has expanded over the years.

I am feeling very grateful today to be able to share this journey with my assistant, and feel quite proud of how much we've trekked together!


P.S. Montessori said...

I would love those articles! I have had 3 assistants in 3 years and I really struggle with that relationship. Shoot me an email :)

thesecretofchildhood said...

I would be very interested in any information you have regarding the role of the assistant. We are fortunate to have a wonderful lady who assists in our sessions - but I often feel as though we could be providing her with more concrete information. Montessori practice is so hard to put into much of what we do is indirect and subtle, that it is hard to explain and quantify in "real" terms.

J. MacIsaac Studios said...

I would also be very interested in hearing your thoughts on assistants and their responsibilities/duties.

Anonymous said...

I think it's soooo important for the Directress and assistants to be on the same page. I'm soooooooo lucky that I have amazing co-workers. We work so well together, and I am blessed. I've heard horror stories from my fellow interns who had to work with directress that they didn't get along with.

Patty said...

I would love to have the articles about the assistants and teacher roles in the Montessori classroom. I have tried to find them online, but no luck. Thank you so much.