Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Most Challenging Montessori Student - Redirecting Behavior

NAMC montessori teacher most challenging student redirecting behavior
Challenging students can benefit greatly from the patience
and understanding of a Montessori teacher
I will never forget the first day I met him: I was a first year Montessori teacher, eagerly greeting children and parents at the open house before school started. A rather serious looking boy was walking around the Montessori classroom, clipboard and pencil in hand. I walked over to introduce myself and he looked at me and said, “You’re the new one. Last year we had a new teacher and I got her fired. You'd better watch yourself because I’m watching you. This school is run by the kids and if we don’t like you, you’re gone.” And with that, he turned and walked away. I was left standing there with a “what just happened?” look on my face.

Afterward, I reported my tale to my mentor and she said, “Yes, you need to watch everything you do or say. He reports it to his mother, one of the pre-k teachers.” She did her best to reassure me it would all be just fine.

True to his word, “David” carried that clipboard everywhere he went. He made notes if he thought my voice was too loud, if my work was too much, or if he felt slighted in any way. To my dismay, David would shout out in the middle of a lesson that he thought I had broken one of his many rules. He would then slip out of class on the pretense of going to the restroom and report me or my assistant to his mother. Or, if he thought something needed immediate attention, he would pick up the class phone and call her classroom. Unfortunately, David’s mother did little to redirect David’s behavior as she did not seem to understand why we felt it was not appropriate. As a result, I met countless times with my mentor, the directors of the Montessori school, and David’s mother due to the “reports” he made. It got to the point where my assistant and I were afraid to even open our mouths around this boy. Worse yet, it was having a terribly negative effect on our classroom environment.

Challenging Montessori Students - Working on Redirecting Behavior

Finally, working with my mentor, we came up with a plan. First, we made the rule that David could not leave the classroom without telling us and he was not to go to his mother’s classroom unattended. We clearly explained that this was for his safety. Second, we requested that David’s mother only come to our classroom if she arranged an appointment ahead of time. Third, any time David felt our behavior was inappropriate, he was to write it down and save it until an appropriate time to talk to us – not during a lesson.

We also made David our Grace and Courtesy monitor. Since David enjoyed the organization, order, and feeling of leadership he gained from carrying his clipboard, we encouraged him to keep it but to use it in a new capacity. No longer was he on the lookout for policy infringement. Instead, we asked that he keep track of all the positive behaviors he observed from both teachers and peers. He was to look for the little things that went unnoticed. Then, during our bi-weekly class meetings, David was to give his positive behavior report. This helped him start looking for the good in people and situations.

I would like to say that our problem was solved overnight, but as is usually the case with behavior modification, it took time. We had good days and we had serious lapses. However, it did get better as the year progressed and the following year was even better. As with most challenging students, helping David required a well thought out plan, time, and lots of patience!
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, July 25, 2012.


  1. I can imagine that would have been a difficult situation! Sounds like you and your mentor handled it well. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I try to do my best because in august 2012, I start as a new teacher too and there going to be difficult but I can handle thanks to share with us your experience. Nylvia said.....

  3. I realise this is not "polite," but surely reporting to his mother, another teacher, was quite bizarre ? As a parent I would not have accepted or encouraged this behaviour, let alone participated and allowed this to continue. Kudos to you and your mentor, but why do we entertain bad manners or form of this sort ? The role of a guide is not to answer to, or be kept in check by a fellow teachers' child. What is it we teach children who are allowed such tyrannical power ? I applaud your self possession, as I could not imagine how you managed the day to day until you resolved the situation. Bravo !


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