Everyone has a story about how they evolved in their career path and purpose in life. Over the next month, I will share some of Twin Parks Montessori School's teachers' stories about their journey to becoming a Montessori teacher. For the first in the series, I invited Jeff Frank, who has been working with us for 9 years to present his perspective of men in Montessori. Enjoy!
What influenced you to become a Montessori teacher?
For years I had volunteered my time supporting single parent friends, through a non-parent coop. I also volunteered my time as an anatomy teacher in a loosely run “free school.” I have always enjoyed working with kids. During the same time I was teaching adult anatomy classes as well as teaching in a massage school. I had a growing desire to change my career. Once my first son, Milo, was born this desire grew stronger. When he was two years old, I began researching Waldorf school and spending time getting to know different pedagogies. I began studying Waldorf education with a series of lectures. Despite my appreciation for their approach to early childhood education, I realized it was not a good fit for me as a teacher. I began reading The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori which spoke about children in a way that I had never considered. The degree of respect and potential she saw in children was starkly contrasted by the conditions in which children were being exposed to. She referred to children in desks, as butterflies pinned behind glass. As a community activist and a firm believer in progressive education I began to see working with children as more than a career. I relate my work in the classroom to the work I did as an activist defending old growth forests.
Who were your childhood heroes?
I am not sure I ever had heroes. I found inspiration in music, particularly punk rock music from a very early age. Ironically, the bands I loved would scoff at the idea of being anyone’s hero. However, I learned that change is possible and it is up to me to do my part. I discovered community, do it yourself politics, and a role model for being a male that is different than the dominant gender role men are often expected to follow.
Who do you consider your role models?
I can identify three major role models and key women who have impacted my life beyond my mother and my wife. As a teenager, Emma Goldman, embodied the revolutionary spirit that helped give meaning and purpose to me, when my high school failed to inspire me. I found hope in fighting for change, in believing in people and community. In my twenties I discovered Ida Rolf, a pioneer in the understanding of how our bodies are organized in relationship to gravity. More so, how our emotions and belief systems shape the way we present ourselves to the world. She too, believed in change. However, she explored change from within the body both physical and emotional. She believed awareness proceeds transformation. Lastly, in my thirties, I discovered Maria Montessori, who has taught me how to put all of my hope, anger, frustration, and love into my work. She taught me that work is something we do for ourselves, not for others. She also provided a medium to express all of that and support children in their process of exploring and making sense out of the world.
Do you find working in Early Childhood education rewarding? Why?
I find working with children incredibly rewarding. As a parent I see how important teachers are to my children. I see the power teachers have to cultivate wonder, confidence, compassion, empathy, inquiry, love and so much more. I believe our community both local and global, needs all of these things and so much more. I aspire to offer children all of these things in a fun way that is mutually beneficial to me as well as the children.
What do you hope to share with your students?
A playful approach to learning. I hope to model a way of living that demonstrates the joy of learning and being part of a community. I hope to inspire questions, ideas, and a belief that our potential is limitless.
Anything else you would like to share?
I know many of my students will never remember me, but I hope the effect I have on their lives as well as their families is creating more peace and creativity in the world. I also hope it’s upping the ante on the way men interact with children.