About looking for a Montessori teaching job

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... That part about the universe?  The world of Montessori education is basically its own special universe.  And every Montessori A to I or preschool educator needs to completely understand how reality works when she decides to get trained to become a Montessori preschool teacher.  A reality I did not fully understand until now.  Am I sure I have still really mastered the art of finding a good Montessori job? We won’t know until I jump into next year’s new job.

IF YOU ARE ASKING YOURSELF, “SHOULD I BECOME AN A TO I  OR PRESCHOOL TRAINED AMI MONTESSORI EDUCATOR?”, read this.

There are certain things having nothing to do with how much you love the children or the functional work itself, that I wish every AMI trained Montessori early childhood educator knew about choosing to embark upon this career.  Here they are…

~ If you choose to become a Montessori A to I guide, it is SO difficult, if not d*mn near impossible, to find an awesome job that you want to stay with long-term.  I cannot express how few opportunities there are in my area (and I live in California), and it would amaze you how many of the options are basically terrible.  Within 100 miles of my general region of California, there are probably less than 10 AMI trained Montessori educators; and I would guess even fewer A to I educators and programs.

~ You:But I have an internationally-recognized training. That means I can work all over the world!”.  Me:  Mmmmm…. not quite.  Just because you have a Montessori training that is recognized worldwide, and just because there are jobs posted on AMI global  doesn’t mean you will be qualified to work anywhere on earth.  Especially if you are an American.  Most jobs in Europe require an EU working permit, and any jobs in Australia are fully out b/c Australia has its own teacher credentialing system that us yanks don’t qualify for.

~ There are other factors to consider besides being formally eligible on paper to be in the global job market.  If you can’t speak a foreign language, multi-lingual jobs are out.  If a particular region of the world doesn’t appeal to you for whatever reason, naturally jobs in that region will be out of consideration for you.   Just because you could theoretically work everywhere on earth doesn’t mean you want to live everywhere on earth, or that AMI global is hiring in every country on earth.  And guess what? The entire rest of the world of AMI trained Montessori educators will be competing for all the global Montessori jobs.  AMS is also worldwide.  So having a global training just means you’re a competitor in the global job market.  However, I will say that AMI trained friends of mine from all over the world all appear to have no trouble getting job offers in other countries if you job hunt at the right time of the year.

~ In America, a preschool job is still a preschool job at the end of the day.  And it doesn’t matter what “kind” of preschool job it is.  If you choose to become an A to I guide, or even a preschool guide in America, preschool just isn’t really valued here.  And there isn’t much money in making a career out of being a preschool teacher in these amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty.  Just want to make that little truth available to people who think they can move to America and start pulling in the big bucks preschool teaching here.

I just received my W-2 from last year and even though I spent  my time and money on training and even a master’s degree– I still have yet to make more than $40K a year  while living in places where the rent costs $800-$1000 minimum to rent a room in shared housing.  I receive zero benefits from my employer because I work for a small private school.  And all of this for working full-time and often overtime.  Am I wise enough to know we should all take jobs with benefits? Of course.   But at the time  I was last applying for jobs (the wrong time of the year) few schools in the places I wanted to live were hiring.  And it’s sad to me that my employer doesn’t realize that adults all need health benefits; because my job has a high turnover rate.

~ If you are S-I-N-G-L-E, going for an A to I diploma might not be a wise career path for you.  This is a bona fide warning to any single female women who are considering getting A to I Montessori trained.  If you don’t have a life partner to provide or bolster the family income, at minimum, you need to start with primary training.  Then you can go back for A to I should time and money permit in the future.

~The older the children are who you teach, the more money you will make.  What I would give to have a do-over!  You guys don’t even know!  I would get primary or elementary trained.  But the money just isn’t there for me.   If you start off by getting at least primary trained, you can run your own little school and pull in a ton of money.  I know two women who run their own schools and one of them said she made $3 million dollars USD in a few years.  Also, take a peek on the AMI job sites for yourself– the majority of the positions hiring are for primary and elementary.  I know every Montessorian says this same sentiment about their own training levels (the grass always seems greener). But if you literally count the opportunities, you can’t deny the concrete math.

~ Just because you have an AMI diploma doesn’t mean you also magically have a teaching credential.   And in America, that matters.  Anyone wise will get elementary trained, and get a teaching credential if you want to jumpstart a legitimate teaching career in this country.  Then you can work your way back down the age ladder if working in preschool or A to I is where your heart really is.    If you are an educator in America and you have a teaching credential, you have basically locked in a guaranteed career for life.   Even if teaching in the public sector has its own problems, at least you will be guaranteed benefits and jobs.

~  That AMI diploma doesn’t actually mean jack-snackity to the rest of the world.  It only matters in our little Montessori world… sometimes.  AMS people don’t always value your AMI diploma, sad but necessary truth to swallow. Some AMS schools will expect you to drop your AMI training and adopt their way.  

Those letters on your diploma mean a lot in our little world of AMI Montessori  fantasy land.  So too might the letters “M.Ed”.  But the fact is, the rest of the world doesn’t actually give a beep what training a preschool teacher has, if any at all.  You can still live paycheck to paycheck with a master’s degree and an AMI diploma.  I am living proof of that.

~The dark secret of Montessori : any dumb-dumb on earth with enough seed money can open and own a Montessori school.  Literally anyone can try to  lead a “Montess-sorta” classroom with zero training.  Even more sadly, people with seemingly zero love of children and zero experience running  a classroom ever in their lifetime can run Montessori schools.

~At the end of the day, a lot of people don’t care about hiring qualified Montessori educators for preschool.  Because it’s just preschool.  Us AMI trained guides (especially if we have master’s degrees) sometimes need to live off of our salary, and that’s kind of a mismatch with the word “preschool”.  This is a sad but necessary reality everyone considering an A to I diploma must fundamentally understand.  No matter how wise and experienced you are, people will think all you do is wipe butts and feed kids mac & cheese all day while they scribble.   So they won’t want to pay you well if they can get away with not paying you well.  That said, if you have the AMI diploma, and a master’s degree, you need to know your worth, demand a livable salary, and do not back down from what you know you need.  AMI trained guides are what makes programs exceptional.

~ Schools have politics behind the scenes. Expect it and get used to being treated unfairly and get used to corruption.  It doesn’t matter if the goal of Montessori education is world peace.  The schools are hardly peaceful behind the scenes, sadly.  We all know it’s true. But that doesn’t change the fact that schools have politics and play favorites.  For example, my job apparently will let someone with no AMI training who got trained on the internet become the head of school because this person’s mom ran a school in another state.  My job will also let each different guide dictate their own hours daily (so if some guides need to leave at 3pm every day, they can, while the others will be required to stay until 4pm daily.  They let assistants not show up to work whenever they feel like it, but have a problem if the only trained AMI guide at the 0-3 level they have hired ever shows up late even though she always puts in overtime just to meet the needs of the classroom.

I’ve worked at schools that fire people on whims based on pure rumor, schools that leak out confidential information from the office and where gossip is insane, schools that have been fined by licensing for violations but only tell the parents from the primary classrooms because the license for primary isn’t the same license as the one from toddler or nido– never mind that we all coexist under the same roof or that the assistants who work in primary float in toddler every single day.  I’ve worked for a school that bounced employee paychecks as a regular practice, that allowed children to utilize spaces on the campus that were not regulated by licensing until we were half way into the school year, and that would allow licensing visits while the lead teacher wasn’t even present, and get a floater assistant to pretend to be the lead.  All kinds of messed up things go on at Montessori schools.

~ The Montessori part of your job is possibly the only part of your job that may be within your control.  Just because you choose to get your AMI diploma, and you love children, it doesn’t mean you can control what what the parents are going to be like, what your boss is going to be like, how much your boss is going to restrict your vision, or what the school’s vision is in comparison to the exquisitely perfect shangri-la that is an AMI Montessori training center.

If any of these additional, uncontrollable factors about you workplace aren’t good, frankly, be forewarned that your whole job can be not good.  It won’t matter how amazing of a guide you are– you can’t make a blind man see a rainbow, even if you have literally poured your blood, sweat, and tears into bringing the rainbow into your classroom.

~ Just because you have an AMI diploma doesn’t make you an immortal.  Many of us get fired and laid off.  I have many friends who, like me, have been laid off or fired at least once in their Montessori careers.  Or the entire school shut down. Every AMI trained Montessori educator must accept that you are fully disposable and any job can replace you in a heartbeat.  Ask me how I know, LOL.

~ The secret of Montessorihood: A lot of us dislike our jobs, we’re just not openly talking about the toil.  Even if we once knew that we were fully in love with this career, the wrong set of circumstances can cause you to start hating going to work.  Even if we somehow love the Montessori method, we can somehow hate our actual job because the circumstances are horrible.  And that is a really hard, juxtaposed pill to swallow.  But anyone who has burnt out knows exactly what I’m talking about.  I realized that who I’m doing the work for and with really impacts how much I love the work. Work for a terrible boss and work with ridiculous assistants, and it will suck.

It’s the reality where you fall in love any time you read a book written by Dr. Montessori or any other brilliant, AMI trained Montessorian.  You fall in love any time you see an adorable child being a child.  You fall in love any time you look at Simone Davies’ website or any other beautiful, authentic Montessori environments or materials.  You can build a pinterest board for days filled with things you would love to have in a classroom.

And yet, you can almost viscerally recoil at the thought of dragging yourself out of bed, out into the cold darkness of dawn, to go to work every day.   There’s “what you were hoping for in a Montessori job”, and then there’s “the reality of your Montessori job”.  Maybe the head of school sucks, or the parents are jerks, or the school’s vision is horrible, or your assistants are impossible to train and they don’t do good work, and you can’t stop pretending that what you were looking for in a job is not at your job.  The children aren’t the only ones with deviations.  Sometimes your in your own deviation of being trapped in a fantasy in your mind about what the job should be, versus the realities of what your workplace actually is.

~ Time is a factor every Montessori preschool educator can’t neglect.   The time to start applying for next years’ job was the day after you signed this years’ contract, LOL.   Always be looking for your dream job until “mastery” of “finding the dream job” is achieved.  Just like with the kids– you know how you don’t assume they have achieved mastery until you fully see and know it’s there? Don’t assume you have found a dream job until you are 110% certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you’re in one.   Many employers hand out “next year’s job contract” in January, and expect it back by March at the absolute latest.   My boss gave me about 20 days to return next year’s job offer.  Some bosses are so shady that they make promises about future plans for the school while handing out zero contracts, and have no problems keeping people in limbo about the state of their future employment.  In general, March is the best time to start shooting out resumes.  Then you will school tour and interview during spring break, and accept offers soon thereafter.  Mid-school year (December-January) is the WORST time to get laid off or fired, because I promise you nowhere will be hiring.

~ Sometimes, just keeping your sights on finding as positive of  a work environment as possible should be your goal.  Don’t get hung up on whether it’s AMI-based, or AMS.  Because two of the schools with the worst behind the scenes politics I have ever experienced were coincidentally AMI-based schools that hired mostly AMI trained teachers. There was so much negativity at these schools.  For my next job, I just hope it has a positive work environment.  And then I know I will bring in the positivity that comes from my AMI training.

I hope these important factors help other teachers out there!  Now you know, and can decide accordingly what will work best for you in finding a tolerable Montessori job.  Good Luck!

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