Starting the year

Discussion in 'Montessori' started by mtiroly, May 15, 2013.

  1. mtiroly

    mtiroly Rookie

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    May 15, 2013

    I know many of us are ending the school year, but this is bringing up many thoughts of next year. (Next year I will... Next year I want to do...)
    This school year was my first year taking over a 3-6 classroom on a public Montessori school. The way the year unfolded, I felt like I must have missed something at the beginning of the year. (The Montessori Consultant for our school said after her observation that there seemed to be a culture of social-ness rather than a culture of work. I agreed.) I felt like for many children they did not understand that when they took work from the shelf, the expectation was that they do the work as they were shown. Across the board there was much inappropriate use of materials and much chatting.

    I thought we spent a lot of time practicing how to do certain things (for example change our shoes, stand in line, take a work from the shelf, etc.), talking about expectations, having those who knew how to do things show what it looks like, giving classical and complete lessons, yet I still have am ending the year feeling like I missed something. (I feel I had a large number of children this year who had severe issues with being distracted and impulse control, 7/19 (still I feel I should have been able to influence things better than I did.)

    I would love of to hear some ideas from those of you well-seasoned about particular language you use to explain expectations, especially at the beginning of the year, Grace and Courtesy lessons you give and practice in order to nurture the normalized classroom. Also, if you know of particular literature or other resources that are good to use when starting the year, I'd appreciate that too.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    May 16, 2013

    Lots to think about.

    As far as being engaged in work instead of socializing, children have to be given the opportunity to make choices and we as adults need to accept those choices initially. Once they get used to making choices, they will then start to make more choices, and more challenging choices.

    As far as "doing the work as presented" it never happens. Every child internalizes different parts of the lesson when it's presented, and that's what they bring to their work. I find that I spend a lot of time helping children get interested in work and then once they're interested in work, I step out and check back in again to see how they're doing. It helps that there are two of us in the space who can check back in with the children and watch what they're doing, and we are a cohesive unit when it comes to working with the children.

    How often do you change the materials? How often do you change practical life works? I find that if children are not grounded in work, it will be hard to get them into more challenging things. Practical life is a great for doing that, especially some of the more lengthy process oriented works like sewing and polishing and scrubbing.

    At the beginning of the year, I spend a lot of time reinforcing the groundrules, and reinforcing procedures, etc. It's time consuming and exhausting, but good in the long run.

    I have more, but will have to come back later.
     
  4. mtiroly

    mtiroly Rookie

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    Jun 6, 2013

    Thanks for your response! I appreciate your taking time to offer your thoughts. The end of the year is quite the whirlwind I realize... thus the reason I am only now able to find the time to thank you for your response 3 weeks later :)

    I guess mostly I am interested in what the last part of your message looks like in your classroom: "reinforcing groundrules and procedures." This is the part where I feel like i missed something, either in the amount of time we spent on them, or the particular language I used, or both. Its as if we do talk about them, practice them, but for many, the carry-over of those groundrules into the classroom was minimal.

    In response to some of your other comments, I am not expecting that children redo the lesson exactly as I show them, only that they don't mis-use them. All the materials have particular principles embedded in them, and mostly I am looking to see that the child is using the material in a way that they are able to discover and/or investigate these principles independently.

    Having an assistant who is well-versed in Montessori, or is at least of similar intentions is a jewel. This past year I had an assistant who had no background in MOntessori and was much more comfortable in being the traditional authoritarian teacher, more interested in the end goal rather than in the process of learning, or getting to that end goal. I don't mean to imply that she was the cause for all our woes, only that it is different when you don't have that other person in the room who is able to help redirect the children in a respectful way that helps foster the child's independence. (This is a huge skill! and it takes time to learn how to do this as an assistant.)

    There are so many variables that work together to create any situation. And I don't think I could ever succinctly describe them in a post. :) Consequently, I am most interested in what the beginning of the year looks like for you, and others: what language you use in talking about the groundrules, how you take time in the beginning of the year to practice them and integrate them into the every-day environment, etc.

    Many thanks!
    All the best!
    Marissa
     
  5. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    Jun 9, 2013

    Marissa,

    With young children, we can talk about groundrules and limits in meetings until we're blue in the face, but they need immediate feedback. If someone is loud, I walk over to them and remind them that this is an inside space, etc. and give them one more chance. If it happens again, then that child is asked to work by him/herself. If someone is misusing the materials, the material is put away immediately. If a child leaves his/her chair out or forgets to put a work away, immediately that child is reminded to go back and make the space ready for the next person. At the beginning of the year, it seems like that's all I do until about October or even Halloween depending upon the group, but it's SO worth it.

    You're right....when you have another adult in the environment that's not in synch with you, it makes your job even more difficult and it creates a discord in the environment. That's probably were most of your problems are occurring. The children are potentially afraid of an authoritarian when they're used to being talked to differently. Have you asked your director for help in training and dealing with this person? I've been there and it's NO fun....stressful actually.

    Good luck!
     

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