Transformation of the Teacher: If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.

Transformation of the Teacher: If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.

We in Montessori circles talk a lot about transformation. It’s in our curriculum for teacher training programs. It’s one of the tenets we commit to in our membership to AMS. Like any word that gets used often, it can start to lose its meaning.

The thing is, transformation, by its very nature, is uncomfortable. It involves significant change to transform from one form to another. 

Caterpillars, in the pupal stage, completely liquify in order to begin the rebuilding process that transforms them into butterflies. Remember how angry the hulk had to get in order to transform? Leaves have to lose their lives and die to change color, and by dying, accidentally perform the spectacular color show that is autumn. Pottery needs to be engulfed in flames to toughen into the form that will withstand a heavy rain or gust of wind.

Change is something that most adults stubbornly, defensively resist with all their might. Human beings often grow extremely attached, even dependent on their habits and expectations. Teacher training means you are willingly placing yourself in the fire to be strengthened. 

Which is why I think that Montessori teacher training, in and of itself, is an act of courage. It is the physical act of saying “I know there are infinite things I don’t know, and yet I believe I have something to offer the future of civilization. A future I won’t even live to see, yet I still want to contribute to this distant, hopeful possibility.” 

The process of transformation is not for the faint of heart. Or perhaps more apt phrasing is, transformation is not for the fragile. Fragile things break easily. The qualities needed to endure the process of transformation look nothing like brittle fragility. They require a certain fatness of spirit. A certain plumpness of being. This means that we have reserves and stores that allow us to withstand the transformation. What are these reserves and stores? You might call it self esteem, or self worth. You might call it a commitment to aliveness or a commitment to doing better for the greater good.

Part of growth and transformation requires active, consistent feedback from our communities. 

Because just as we are constantly changing, so is everybody else. There is a particular, rapid, pace of aliveness we have to get comfortable with in order to stay in the arena. Observe the natural world for insight. Life. Does. Not. Stop.

Life is happening every second of every moment in microscopic ways, regardless of anyone's eyes on the process. YES, if a tree falls and a human being is not there to witness it, it makes a sound. This question is a hilarious example of human ego in full inflation.

Those of us in the teacher training puzzle piece of this profession are tasked with transforming people into Montessori teachers. I can offer myself as a living example of a lifelong learner, a person who asks for and considers feedback, a person who takes responsibility for her impact, intentional or not. I can also offer perspectives, reframes, lenses that provoke or challenge an adult learner. But the work of transformation is internal to the learner. 

I can patiently wait outside the chrysalis, but I can’t go in there with you.

I visited a beautiful Yayoi Kusama installation in NY when I was a grad student at Bank Street College. It was a tiny, windowless room with a single door. There was a long line of museum goers waiting to go inside for exactly one minute. When it’s your turn, the guard opens the door, lets you step in, and quickly shuts the door behind you. You can take a few steps onto the edge of a kind of dock, and the floor, walls, and ceiling are made of mirrors. There are tiny, twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling, making what feels like an infinite space of tiny pinpoints of light.

That minute inside the infinity room is a kind of transformation. It is you alone with your heart and mind, being fully immersed and confronted with infinite perspectives. You alone can step through the door, you alone can keep your eyes wide open, you alone can take it in and give it access to your insides, changing them. 

My point is, if you want to transform, don’t expect it to be easy or comfortable. Expect it to challenge you, push you out of your comfort zone, and stretch your heart and mind to hold more perspectives. 

As a trainer, my job is to walk beside you, maybe offer you a glass of water, a chair and a warm place to rest. A loving mirror. But I can’t go in with you. Just know that I will be sitting beside you while you change, rooting for you.  And I will be the one triumphantly, tearfully waving at you as you fly away with your new wings when you emerge.

 Yes, I earned one set of wings in my own training. And I continue to willingly return to the fire to be remade and strengthened, every year of my life as a Montessorian. 

With flaming imagination,



Back to blog


Hello fellow Montessorian,

Your writing on transformation is poetic and engaging. Thank you for having the courage to share your insight.

Ajanta Vora

Nice article

David Shelton-Dodge

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.