Montess-stressors: Parts of being a 0-3 Montessori guide that no one talks about, part 1: your actual job(s).

Believe it or not, being a Montessori guide can be an extremely stressful job, unbeknownst to the newbie, even though it can come across as one of the most peaceful varieties of ECE jobs.  It’s just that no one tells you about all the other parts of this work that will be required of you,  in advance of signing your job offer.

Understanding and anticipating some of the unforeseen stressors that every soon-to-be Montessori guide and newer Montessori guide ought to know about allows you to operate from a place of realistic expectations.  This way, you can ward off toxic stress, plan your personal life accordingly, stay grounded in reality, manage your time and prioritize efficiently, and be in touch with how the stress impacts your wellbeing.

Another post of the rest of the ECE Montessori guide stressors, and some ways to combat ECE Montessori guide stress will soon follow.  So stay tuned for part 2.  Let’s begin.

Unforseen Montess-stressor #1.You thought you were just going to be a Montessori guide in a classroom.  If you’re anything like me, your passion was to help kids develop strong skill sets and strong characters, maybe throw in some parent ed presentations here and there, and to do everything that happens in training, but at a school while actually being paid.  Right?  Well that couldn’t be more wrong.

Being a classroom 0-3 guide is not like the work of say,  Simone Davies, MontiKids, or The Studio June.  Those guides are like the Beyonces and Gisele Bundchens of the Montessori field, OK?  The rest of us are in the regular trenches doing regular classroom Montessori in the regular world.  In the school setting.

This post is for you, the broke, struggling, stressed out classroom guide.  Read on for a list of your actual job(s).  <– not a typo.

In addition to being a trained Montessori guide, you are also a part-time:

mommy.  Yepp. You will pour out your emotions and hold a space for kids with volatile, labile emotions, who need a lot of love.  Who do you think is wiping those tears and hugging it out with the kids all day? Yoooouuuu. They even call us “mommy” by mistake sometimes because, well, the real mommy ain’t there.

school nurse.  You’ll be wiping urine, feces, mucous, and a host of other bodily fluids off of people’s bodies.  You’ll have to take temperatures, administer medications, put creams on rashes, take temperatures, do first aid, you need to know CPR, and other health basics.  You also have to deal with health extremes sometimes, like physiological anomalies and seizures, for example.  You just never know what’s coming your way, even though this isn’t officially a healthcare position.  It’s your job to take care of children’s bodies all day long.  Period.

MFT/ Parent Counselor/ HR.  Not only are you helping the babies work through their social challenges, but you are also hearing your assistant’s personal life issues, the parent’s personal life issues, and literally will have people crying on your shoulder.  You’re like “I thought this was preschool.  WTF”.  People will be going through divorces, cancer, severe sleep deprivation, illnesses– and it’s your job to be that listening ear they so desperately need in that moment.

Secretary.  Emails, emails, emails.  And when did you have time for answering emails, exactly? Oh, wait. there is no time for answering emails, really.  So you’ll be answering emails on your lunch break or in your personal time.  Not to mention that it’s 2019; so there’s round-the-clock text messages you have to also answer.  Once upon a time those used to be post-it notes someone stuck to the inside of your classroom door.  Well now it’s text messages that never stop coming to you.  From the moment you open your eyes at 5am, until well after you’ve left campus.

dish washer.  Not every school has a mechanical dish washer.  Some schools are still doing three-compartment sinks.  Being a dish washer is literally its own job in the food service industry, folks.

Janitor.   Like it or not, the toys aren’t going to sanitize themselves.  The floor won’t sweep and mop itself, the trash won’t take itself out when it is overflowing with paper towel.  Some schools don’t hire a janitorial team for the entire school.  I had multiple positions where I had to vacuum, sweep, mop, and take out the trash for the classroom, every single day.

cook/ food service worker.  There is no way around preparing snack for 12 to 26 hungry mouths.  In some schools, there is a family-style lunch that I’ve seen the classroom assistant cook. In some schools the kids bring their own lunches from home that you have to microwave and plate (which is a nightmare).  To make matters more complex, one in four children now have some kind of food allergy.  So you have to accommodate the gluten, dairy, nuts, and soy.  And then there are the parents with food preferences, like vegetarian/ vegan, etc.  Wait… was this a restaurant for toddlers? Oh, no. It’s just my classroom.

accountant.  You get a class budget, and it’s your job to mind the budget, keep a ledger, and submit itemized reimbursements for your classroom spending.  To make this even more delightful, some schools have a really bad habit of not giving company credit cards to staff; so you have to put hundreds of dollars worth of materials on your personal credit card, and then wait in some instances months before your job reimburses you.

Personal shopper.  If you thought your supervisor was going to buy everything you needed for your classroom, guess again.  There is no way around this, you will have to shop for your own class materials.  Which isn’t like, a time-free experience.  You’ll be doing it in your spare time.

Basically a Ted Talk Speaker/ presenter.  Parent information presentations aren’t on youtube– you’re going to deliver them.  Multiple times per year, after you’ve worked 8 hours a day.  And then you have to prepare these, which will take anywhere between one to three hours of your time.  That you already lack because you’re doing everything else from this list that we aren’t even done with yet (:

document and literature creator (is that what HR is?).  Parents don’t understand Montessori at all, OK?  Some of them have a very surface-level gist of why they’re choosing Montessori.  But most of them are clueless.  So it’s your job to educate them and give them instructions to follow.  Calendars, schedules, instructions for how to toilet learn, information for how to feed a child a balanced diet or support the weaning process– this stuff has to get out of your mind/ album into the parent’s hand.  And if you think you’re just going to xerox straight from your album, that’s not happening.  That album is for you to refer to, it’s not a book of parent information literature you can xerox from.   Sorry!

seamstress.  You don’t know how long it takes to embroider one placemat, or sew one cloth napkin, or a drying mitt, or stereognostic bag until you sit down and make one.  Now multiply that times like, 14+.  Because you have an entire classroom of people who need them.

photographer/ videographer. Again, it’s 2019 Montessori, not 1919 Montessori.  Parents want pictures and videos.  And it’s your job to capture them, upload and tag/ email all of them.  Probably using your personal cell phone b/c that’s just how it goes down at many Montessori schools.  Two schools I worked for were in the dark ages of technology, and used to require that we take photos which would then get printed at Walmart and then the staff was responsible for taping them all into notebooks and writing captions and summaries.  You guys don’t even know how much time that took up.  It was infuriatingly inefficient.  It is 2019, OK?  If your school isn’t using iPads and some kind of online documentation system, get with the program. Teacher time is already limited.

data entry.   I hope you know how to use web apps!  In fact, I hope that your school uses web apps for data keeping.  Because if they are in the olden times using papers that go home every day that you have to fill out by hand? Pssssshhhhh (eye roll). If that is your reality right now, it means your school admin is #OutOfTouchWithReality.

crafter (embroidery, origami, wood working, paper crafts, optional wool and knit/crochet).  The children aren’t the only ones who experience brain and my hand skills development as a result of Montessori education. You did too!

repair person.  It would behoove you to learn how to operate a power drill, to learn a thing or two about sand paper grits and quality wood glue, learn how to fix a toilet (a toilet plunger is not the same as a sink or bath plunger, just for the record), learn a thing or two about screws and drywall anchors, and maybe get acquainted with your local hardware store aisles.  I love home depot out of all the hardware stores.  My local home depot people are so gangsta they even showed me how to use power saws.  Home Depot also offers workshops anyone can take. If you are a Montessorian, you need to find those, and get in one.

trainer of assistants.  This is not a job exclusive to trainer of trainers, no matter what anyone says.  You can’t confer the assistants a training diploma; but you are most certainly responsible for training all 5+ of them who may cycle through your class in one year’s time.  If you keep one assistant all year long, consider yourself an anomaly.

unofficial assistant director.  Yepp. Some directors are so good at the art of indirectly roping you into doing their job and solving problems that ought to be solved at the administrative level through solid school policy.  Why? because the good ones are also stretched super thin wearing a lot of hats, and because most schools are simply too big.

I used to show an assistant director I once worked with how to do things s/he didn’t even know how to do.  And of course s/he was getting paid more than me.  Because their position is more valued  in the eyes of the director than the position of the lowly classroom guide.  The assistant director I speak of wasn’t even Montessori trained or even an ECE professional by trade.

event planner and coordinator/ hostess.  Any time the school has events, you are required to help prepare the food, beverages, chairs, and other accoutrements of event host-ery.  The director will absolutely seek teacher input for coordinating all events.  And sometimes you have to train the kids to perform at said school events and then chaperone a lot of them during the actual events, or be the main focus of the event as the keynote speaker.

student … because those continuing education units and refreshers don’t ever stop, baby.  Did you think the learning was over after you got your diploma or Master’s degree?  Nope.

Carpet Cleaner and professional stain remover extraordinaire.  If the environment is carpeted, you will be on your hands and knees blotting and scrubbing stains out of the carpet. (Just for the record no 0-3 environment should ever have wall-to-wall carpet; but many of them do anyway)


and then you still have to be a Montessori guide, on top of all of that 👆🏽. Which is its own specialized skill set no one else other than a trained Montessori practitioner knows how to do.  This one role alone is why you got hired in the first place, remember?

Do they know what a three period language lesson is? Do they know how to sew a sterognostic bag? Do they even know what a topponcino is???

Of course not.  You, the trained Montessori professional does.

The sooner you accept that that is just not true, the sooner you can make peace with the career path you busted your ass for (in training, and for some of us, grad school).  Yepp, juggling all these plates is why you went to grad school in the ‘hood, while living in lampless college dorm rooms with no wine bottle openers.

Don’t let the cute babies, how much fun training was, or the fireflies on the east coast fool you for one bit about what this career is really like on a day to day basis. It is very hard, very low pay, thankless work that can and sometimes will wear you the f*ck out.  All so that you can live paycheck to paycheck and feel sleep deprived M-F.

… but at least you have the peace of mind of knowing that you helped to make sure little Ava and Brexton won’t end up having to struggle with a low-class job like you are.  Oh no. The cycle stops with you.   Those kids are gonna be your surgeon one day, and the next Google founder.  They’re Montessori kids, because of you.

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