It wasn’t only in our Montessori classroom. One little boy punched another, older boy, in the stomach during recess. Although there were witnesses, the younger boy categorically denied it, while the older boy was standing there crying. After Spanish, Señora took me aside to tell me that one of my little girls couldn’t concentrate because she had a tangle in her hair; another played under the table during the Montessori lesson; another boy made repeated trips to the bathroom during the half hour lesson. The same boy from recess? He stuck his tongue out at another and the two of them ended up at the peace table during the Montessori lesson.
What in the world was going on?
Montessori Classroom Management: Children Are Inherently Good
It’s not a full moon. I know; I checked! We queried that perhaps, a storm was coming to our drought ridden area and the children could “sense” it. My Montessori school director walked by and asked me how it was going. I told her it was like the Friday before a long vacation. Interestingly enough, other Montessori teachers throughout the building were observing the same thing in their classrooms.
When I went back to my room after dismissal, my assistant was sitting at a desk, exhausted. “They were just plain naughty today”, she told me. I started to agree, but then, thought of what Dr. Montessori would say. I remembered that she used the term naughty to describe behavior that was immature rather than immoral or wrong. In a lecture in 1946, she had this to say about misbehavior in children:
- Children are not naughty by nature.
- It is wrong treatment that makes them [children] naughty.
- Mental starvation causes naughtiness.
- Lack of activity causes naughtiness.
After reflecting on this, I gently reminded my Montessori classroom assistant that the children were not being naughty, but rather, acting in accordance to the environment in which they found themselves. Dr. Montessori said that “Only exercise and experience can correct a disability, and it takes long practice to acquire the various kinds of skills that are needed. The undisciplined child enters into discipline by working in the company of others: not by being told he is naughty.”
So, tomorrow is another day. We will joyfully greet each student, assuring him/her that we are glad they are in our classroom. We will begin the day by modeling calm, quiet voices and a demonstration of personal space by a mini-lesson on walking around, not on, a rug. We will reflect on the good that’s happening in our Montessori classroom and not dwell on the negative.
“Discipline must come through liberty. . . . We do not consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.” (Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method)
NAMC has created a most comprehensive Montessori 6-12 Classroom Guide that provides much-needed and asked-for direction in the following areas:
- Classroom management (normalization)
- Starting elementary classes off right
- Goals of the elementary program
- Elementary environmental design
- Teaching the Montessori way
- Keep it exciting and inspiring
- Program implementation
- Observation, record keeping
- Sample forms
- Dr. Montessori and the Montessori method