What does it take to be an amazing chef? First off, it requires years and years of patience and trial and error. I once heard that to be a good cook, you must make every mistake, but only make it once. That famous saying also implies that a good chef is an enthusiastic learner who is willing to be critical of themselves and change what needs to be changed. Most chefs also have some type of formal training, whether it be in an educational environment or some type of apprenticeship. But we know it’s not even enough to be good at cooking to be a successful chef. One also needs to be a good delegator of tasks, and understand order of operations so that everything comes out at the right time tasting correct. Now imagine if we asked that amazing chef, “Do you farm?”
I stole that punch line from a standup comedian named Mitch Hedburg. He was explaining what it felt like for him (a stand up comedian) to be asked to do acting. While there may be lots of similarities between the two of them, there are also lots of differences that are significant. Both the farmer and the chef work with food, but that might be where there similarities end. My point is that Montessori teachers are often asked to be both the chef and the farmer, when the teacher was only trained to be the chef.
We know that our Montessori classroom teachers are comfortable teaching Montessori lessons in the classroom from the materials and from their training albums. However, they are often asked to teach the subject of PE, and they have had no formal training in that whatsoever. While not only being unfair, this is also not sustainable. One of the criticisms of Montessori schools is that they typically lack in physical education, and it is not hard to see why. How are Montessori classroom teachers teaching a subject that they have not been taught themselves?
How many lessons or materials do you have in cabinets that have never been used? Is there a reason you have not used that material or lesson? Can I guess that one of the reasons is that you don’t fully understand how to teach the lesson or use the material? Please understand that this is not a criticism of you either; everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. What I’m trying to say is that subjects we don’t understand that well usually are skipped. My fear is that this is what happens all too often when we ask Montessori classroom teachers to teach PE; it gets skipped. But it wasn’t a fair fight, as a Montessori teacher you didn’t get any lessons or training on PE, so how could you be expected to teach that subject? It’s as if you are a chef who is also being asked to farm.
We could also look at this analogy another way. If our PE teacher is a farmer, they have been successfully farming for hundreds of years, and for the most part people have been happy with the way it’s been going. The conventional way of farming has produced results. Recently, more and more people have been asking for produce and food that is organic. Many people would agree that this organic style of farming creates produce that is healthier (even if it’s only due to the lack of potentially harmful use of chemicals). So in this analogy, what does the word “organic” represent? Let’s replace the word organic with integrated, and replace farming with physical education. If we use things that work from conventional physical education, but integrate it with concepts from the classroom, we have created a more holistic approach to physical education. If that PE / classroom integration happens to be with a Montessori classroom, now we have a Montessori Physical Education program.
For the classroom teacher, this may be the best way to connect physical education into your already busy day. You do not have the time to research “best practices” for physical education, that’s what PE teachers spend years learning about. What you can do is take something you know very well, the Montessori curriculum, and get your students moving to lessons and concepts you feel comfortable with. If you as the classroom teacher feel comfortable (and even enjoy) teaching a subject area, there is a significantly better chance that you will teach that subject. If you feel comfortable teaching a PE lesson that is an easy to understand game that connects to concepts that you have introduced in the classroom, then your students will get a consistent, enjoyable, and educational physical education experience.
That is the goal of Montessori Physical Education.
Click HERE for the Montessori Physical Education Program: Volume One ©.