Images from Montessori Compass
The teacher in a Montessori classroom spends a significant amount of time observing the way the children interact with each other and the room including all its materials. A scientist conducting experimental trials is a good analogy for the sort of observation expected of the teacher. She sits in one spot for much of a given session taking occasional notes trying to go unnoticed by the children lest (as often happens) the child now aware of the teacher’s special notice will abandon the activity or change how they are working with the materials in a drastic way. From what she observes she will make changes to the arrangement of the room, plan to give a private lesson on an area of needed clarification to some children, or determine if additional materials and lessons should be introduced to the room.
When I led Spirit Play classes, I loved this reflective practice and am sad that I did not prioritize it more or think about the ways I might use those observations not only in modifying or tweaking Spirit Play as a whole program but in thinking creatively about the spiritual work of that particular set of young people. I think many times our storytellers in their understandable focus on perfecting their presentations of lessons sadly overlook what is a vital aspect of their role, namely the purposeful observation as already described.
Certainly there is a limited time and frequency in which Spirit Play takes place and the rotation of multiple lead teachers throughout the year all make this discipline a bit more challenging not so much in actually making the observations but in reflecting in a diagnostic and informed way to individualize and customize the space and planned lessons to introduce to particular individuals in the class.
However these obstacles can be overcome to some degree by recording teacher observations throughout the year with entrys by various teachers. If done using a record keeping tool with a range of functionality and ease of access to the particular information sought in a given instance then a proper disciplined observational practice would both enrich the experience and reward of those serving as storytellers and the ongoing ministry of education with that particular group of young people and through possible insights about programmatic improvements that are called for in how all of us work with Spirit Play.
I have been reviewing the various record keeping tools for teachers available and in particular those designed expressly for use by Montessori teachers. Of the three leading web-based digital services on the market I have am inclined toward Montessori Compass. This web-based software has the most user-friendly interface which incorporates rich visual features to support swift input of information as it is observed. All of the services include many more features than would be needed for a Spirit Play program but I found the customisability features in Montessori Compass to be simple to learn and well suited to the sort of tweaking that would be most helpful if preparing to use the software to record observations and lessen sequencing etc. throughout a year of Spirit Play. It is worth looking over and since they offer a free three-week trial you can really get a good sense for how well the software would fit your specific needs and goals. After the initial three weeks the cost is really not very steep especially given the value to be had through data that can better guide our future work in religious education and lifespan faith development than the anecdotally based hunches upon which we so often rely in this important work.