Best Teacher Preparation Course? Dr. M Says Study Yourself

“The real preparation for education is a study of one’s self.
The training of the teacher who is to help life is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.”

Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

As I gently returned to social media after a self-imposed hiatus, this question from a homeschooling mom grabbed my attention:

“Every weekend I work on the presentations for my kids. But I realize I’m the one deciding what they should do each week in every subject. If I ask them what they want to learn, they don’t know…they just follow what I tell them to study.”

My initial thoughts were to respond with ideas about Cosmic Education and how it can be used to jump-start and motivate children of any age. But there were already a few well-written responses in that vein, and something in my own thoughts, those that aligned with previous responses, wasn’t sitting right with me. So, I paused.

Long story short, even my emotion-laden dreams had me working through my discomfort subconsciously. And, as is often the case, a bit of clarity came through in my morning meditation.

The challenge of consistent motivation may be a universal human problem. In recent months, with the pandemic and personal grief my family has faced, I’ve been struck with motivational challenges that, honestly, felt pretty foreign to me. For most of my life, I’ve awakened ready to go, with more things on my To Do list than is physically possible in my allotted 24 hours.

But 2020 and the turn of the new year have offered emotional challenges that set me on my heels. The gift of quiet that “stay at home” mandates initially offered, paled when staying home began to feel more like isolation. I questioned my life work, my time management, and, most importantly, my sense of self. So, for several weeks, I limited myself only to those tasks I felt simply must be accomplished, adding in as much down time as possible, and filling it with rest: resting my body, resting my mind, resting in nature and away from electronic influence as much as I felt I could afford. Waiting to find myself again.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. 

When the student is truly ready…the teacher will disappear."

 ~ Lao Tzu~ 

Today, I was that student, and after the weeks of rest, reflection, continued but minimized work, and even some therapy, my teacher appeared, the lesson was received, the turmoil lifted, and I knew I was “back.”

What was the clarity I re-discovered today? That yearning and motivation walk hand in hand toward the discovery and execution of our cosmic task. When we yearn, we are revealing our innermost selves. Yearning helps us discover, and accept, our passions and overcome our insecurities and doubts.

Passions lead to intentions. Intentions lead to development of one’s will. Will propels actions and actions lead us to fulfillment of our yearnings.[1] That fulfillment is our destiny; our cosmic task.

As I sat silently in meditation, among the thoughts that floated in and out, were the yearnings of that homeschooling mother of three. This caring mother already understood the problem: that she is directing the learning; her children are not.  Her desire is to know what to teach, but her pupils have not yet become students. How can she teach when the student has not arrived? Where should she turn for guidance in motivating?

Dr. Montessori’s words returned to my thoughts and the opening quote was easily found: The mother must turn to a study of herself. She must discover her desires and walk them through the ancient wisdom to her destiny. She must model this for her children and prepare a space where they can do the same for themselves.

Observe them. Listen to their unspoken words. Offer a wide range of experiences. Observe some more. Offer more. Imagine your offerings as the many tiny bits of tinder that wait for the spark that will grow into a roaring fire. As your children share in your passions, as they begin to catch your spark, they will show you what they want to know and what they need from you as their teacher. The problem will be transformed from how to motivate, to how to manage the depths of their interests.

New challenges will inspire new yearnings…and once again, that homeschooling mother, just like all of us “yearners,” will become the student and the teacher will appear.

[1] Taken from the Upanishads: “You are what your deep, driving desire is. As is your desire, so is your intention. As is your intention, so is your will. As is your will, so is your deed. As is your deed, so is your destiny.”