Saturday, April 10, 2010

There are no "bad" children

     A Montessori teacher must believe that there are no "bad" children: there are only those who need to be directed toward work that will occupy them.  In writing that, I am reminded of Michael, a boy in one of my first classrooms.  At the beginning of the school year he wanted only to talk and tease the other children.  He constantly disturbed the others and had to be guided away.  Initially, my co-teacher and I wondered if he would ever settle down but decided to have faith in the method and to observe carefully.  When Michael interrupted others, we would distract him in order to stop the disturbing behaviour.  Often we would quietly remind him of the classroom rules or, at other times, we would simply guide him back to the Practical Life shelves. 

     After a few months, Michael was working more and disturbing others less.  By the end of his first year, Michael had become a willing worker and a helpful member of the classroom society.  This was achieved by our observing his behaviour, assessing his needs, then guiding him to find the answer to those needs within the prepared environment of the classroom.
This was also achieved through the development of a good relationship with Michael's mother.  
  A Montessori school or classroom should be an augmentation of the child's  family.  In essence, the classroom must provide a relational not an institutional culture.  Teachers do not know everything there is to know about the children in their care, nor should they be expected to.  Parents are the child's first teachers and can give us invaluable insight to their children if they are allowed.    It is the responsibility of every Montessori school to provide opportunities for families and teachers to form strong relationships with one another.

       Family picnic

Night walk before sleepover


Alycia in Va. said...

I'd be interested in hearing more about how the sleepover works?

Cynthia Dyer said...

Hi Alycia:

The elementary sleepover is something that is done every year - almost as a rite of passage. On a Friday in October, all the elementary children bring their sleeping bags to school. The school day unfolds like all the others but at 3 o'clock, instead of going home, the children stay at school. Parents volunteer to run the various activites such as going swimming, making crafts, dishing out dinner, and going on the night walk. By around 8 o'clock, the children are ready for bed so the parents say goodnight and go home. The children stay at school and spend the night sleeping in the classrooms(along with a number of teachers).
It is a tremendous bonding experience for everyone involved.

montessorimatters said...

I'm so glad you mentioned "re-directing to Practical Life". About halfway through this year, I realized that my go-to area for re-directing aimless children was Sensorial. I was made aware of that indirectly by a veteran trainer, who mentioned that Sensorial was the "lazy alternative" because the materials were always "there" and required little preparation by the guide. After she said that, it hit me that I had to start re-directing to Practical Life, which was the only area of the classroom that encouraged repetition, which brought about concentration, which was the key to normalization. The CHANGE in my students' demeanor after only a few days of changing MY approach was AMAZING!

Thank you for letting me know that I am on the right track, and for reminding me once again that children are not naughty, but just seeking purposeful work. I have to remind myself of that over and over, especially as I struggle with a couple of energetic and misguided little ones right now.

Tracy said...

This post reminds me of a child who I suspect may be ADHD- a diagnosis that I loathe in a preschool child. I have had great difficulty redirecting him to anything in practical life because he moves to much.

He has shown some interest in sensorial activities, but he truly wants to only choose a job with a friend. He becomes "angry" (and charmingly articulate) when they are working on something else.

I have taught him anger management techniques!