Men Teaching in Montessori Programs

by Martin Sorom

A little background: I live in a small city (35,000) in North Central Washington called Wenatchee. At present, Wenatchee has two Montessori programs, each program offers a 3-6 yrs. of age program of up to 30 students. One program doesn't accept interns, while the other program does. I interned at the later program, but it wasn't a strong program.

Although my community is nearly 50% Hispanic, neither program has any children from this demographic enrolled. I spent 12 years teaching as a bilingual teacher (Spanish/English) at a local public school in grades 1-3, and most of my students were Hispanic. I left public teaching last year to pursue a Montessori certificate and open a bilingual Montessori program. This decision was made for two reasons: first, I was increasingly disillusioned with the test giving mentality of public schools and didn't agree with how students were being treated in this increasingly forced environment of test frenzy; second, my daughter's experience in the Montessori school was positive, which led me to read and learn about the kid-friendly motives of Montessori education, something I could identify with and admire.

At present, I'm waiting to hear from the IRS about non-profit status for the school I'm starting. A local church has offered classroom space to begin my program for 3-6 year olds, but it is contingent upon receiving non-profit status from the IRS. I should be hearing from the IRS soon.
Starting a Montessori program is a complicated and time-consuming endeavor. I have, however, met with a teacher that is certified in Montessori and has an early childhood certificate that is interested in helping me launch the school. Working together I believe we can offer a unique (bilingual) program that will meet the needs of families interested in planting the seeds of bilingual learning within the framework of a Montessori program.

Last summer, I was fortunate to attend the 3 week residential Montessori training through CGMS in Sarasota, Florida. Clarisse and myself, with 12 other program participants worked with Kitty Bravo and several other experienced Montessori teachers in the study of Montessori methods and materials. This classroom experience was valuable and also interesting in that I was the only male in attendance. Being the only male in this early education program wasn't a problem, it was actually fine because all those in attendance were supportive of my goals. When I was working in the public elementary school, which was k-5, I was one of only 3 teachers from a staff of over 30 that was male, so I wasn't surprised to be the only male in this program. During my time teaching public school, I was able to provide students without a positive male role-model a picture of what that looks like.
Many of you have worked as a primary (3-6 year old) teacher for a time and I'm wondering what that experience was like for you? I realize that many misconceptions and stereotypes exist for males working with young children, which, I believe, is unfortunate. It is my belief that children can benefit from a male teacher at this age and more males should look into working with children. As a society, this is a paradigm shift, something that will happen slowly. I live in a fairly conservative town, and I don't think there exist any early education programs in the area with a male teacher and I'm trying to figure out a way to use this uniqueness to my advantage in opening a new classroom. Do you have any idea how I might advertise, promote, and encourage parents to enroll children in a school with two teachers, one male and one female?

How did you feel interacting with parents as a male teacher of young children? Can you think of some ways in which I can make the idea of a male teacher something which will be viewed as a positive element? It is a bit lonely being the only male in the CGMS program and also the only male teacher in town at this age group, but, once again, I feel a calling to work with students of this age. Presently, I have a step-daughter (9), and a daughter (6) and son (2). My hope is that my son will be in my Montessori classroom in the fall and take advantage of an early bilingual, Montessori, learning experience.

In sum, I feel as if I'm at the forefront of a new age of changing views on gender representation in early childhood education, and for this reason I'm reaching out to other males that have led the way before to learn how to best present this reality to parents.

All my best,

Martin Sorom
New Friends School
Bilingual Program