|Montessori mentor teachers understand the value|
in letting students resolve their own conflicts
My upper elementary team leader, who was my mentor, gave me Jane Nelsen’s book, Positive Discipline in the Classroom. My immediate reaction upon reading it was “Oh, this will never work! I can’t talk to children like this!” Nevertheless, as I observed my mentor with students, I began to realize that it did work.
I reread Dr. Nelsen’s book and started to apply what I learned from reading and from observing my mentor.
Fundamental Montessori Lessons: Working Around Student ConflictBeing kind and respectful to children is something I have always believed in — that part came naturally. The difficult part was what to do in times of conflict, and more specifically, in times of conflict between students. My mentor taught me that the Montessori teacher plays a much smaller role in conflict resolution than in a conventional setting. She taught me about the role of the Montessori Peace Table and how to be a mediator, not a decision maker. Most importantly, she taught me how to ask guiding questions that really got students to talk about what was at the heart of the matter.
At first, I was discouraged. This was hard stuff! How could I talk to students in the middle of a heated discussion without becoming personally involved? How could I keep calm myself? I was terrified that I would say the wrong thing, imposing my will rather than letting the children come to a resolution.
My mentor was great. She made herself available to me any time I needed her. That first year, I had a particularly challenging class that had a real class bully who deliberately went out of her way to hurt others. I think my mentor spent as much time as I did helping my students resolve their problems. At first, I sat back and watched my mentor guide the discussion. Gradually, I gained more confidence and as she helped me through the mediation process, I was able to take on the role of helping students find peaceful solutions.
I do not like student conflict, but I know that conflict is an important part of the students’ learning to get along with others. When I find myself in situations in which I am called upon to mediate, at times I still find myself taking a deep breath and thinking, “Now, what would my mentor do?”
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, July 17, 2012.