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Teaching in the Time of COVID-19: Dallas Montessori Teacher Education Program

Athirai Baskaran, program director of Dallas Montessori Teacher Education Program, shared how their program has adapted and is coping during the coronavirus crisis.

Tell us a little about your training program and its mission.
Dallas Montessori Teacher Education Program’s mission is to prepare caring, sensitive, knowledgeable adults who will offer children the means for optimum personal development.

With this mission in mind, Dallas Montessori’s programs are designed to prepare private and public-school educators in implementing and teaching the Montessori strategies and philosophy in guiding children. DMTEP had offered intensive hands on, in-person training for past 45 years enriching the diverse Montessori community.

When did you realize you were going to have to make changes for your program?
We were informed by the state and county officials of the lock down and mandatory ‘stay at home’ orders due to COVID-19 in beginning of March while some of our Adult learners were in the middle of their academic sessions and many in the Practicum phases. We had quickly evaluated the situation and options while keeping in mind the safety of our learners, faculty members and their families. We received timely guidance from our affiliating organization that was helpful in making changes that would have very minimum impact in the learning continuum of our learners. The biggest responsibility we had was to help our learners complete the training on time as that is their passion, dream and carrier. We prepared ourselves to face these challenges so we can fulfill our responsibility to the learners.

What types of changes have you had to make to your program due to COVID-19? What were the considerations you had to make when deciding on these changes?
The first change we made was to shift all the in-person sessions of the academic component to online synchronous sessions. For this, our faculty and learners had to quickly learn to use the Zoom platform. Then we discussed the schedule for the Zoom sessions knowing that it could minimize the fun part our learners are used to interacting with each other during in-person classes. So we had to think of ways to inspire and facilitate collaboration and participation of the learners in the online sessions. We facilitated forum discussions and presentations by learners to increase their participation. Another challenge we faced was availability of quality videos of lesson demonstrations to use in online classes as there are none available readily. Countless hours were spent in creating short videos of lesson demonstrations. We also realized that this is a blessing for our learners as they can watch them over and over again to practice. We are hoping to have in person practice sessions opportunity so the true essence of Montessori curriculum is enjoyed by the learners who can then pass that joy on to the children.

How have things been going with your new changes so far (unexpected challenges/consequences, surprising benefits, etc.)? What type of feedback have you received from your faculty and adult learners?
The COVID-19 situation forced us to face several unprecedented challenges. But this also allowed us to witness the biggest strength of our program in action- our instructors. The learners enjoyed the flexibility of attending the classes from the safety of their homes and the flexibility of the time schedules the online synchronized learning offered. As said before, the learners enjoyed the option of playing the videos over and over to practice and prepare their albums. The faculty and learners received these positive benefits with gratitude and new appreciation for the technology.

Have there been helpful resources for you during this time?
The COVID-19 brought the kindness in everyone’s heart to open with helping hands and support. It brought the world of Montessori even closer. We received several helps and support from various organizations such as MACTE, AMS, AMI and many more. There were suddenly tons of resources available for free and the art of collaboration between Montessorians around the world was heartwarming.

Any other words of advice or encouragement you would like to share?
DMTEP community prays for peace and well being of all the families who are affected by COVID-19 in any ways and we want to offer as much support as possible. Please contact us if any support is needed. We wish the Montessori worldwide community safe journey in to guiding our future generation in the Dr. Montessori’s cosmic vision.