Students are challenging in different ways. As a point of interest, my top five most challenging students were all boys. And nature dealt each of them a very difficult hand to play. They are certainly the children I think about most today and I often wonder how they are doing.
If I interpret the word challenging to mean the Montessori student that caused me the greatest amount of personal angst, the one I thought about the most, and the one I worked the hardest to help — that student would be “Joe.” Three-year-old Joe could not sit still, he could not stop antagonizing other children, and he had difficulty following directions. Unfortunately, most of Joe’s social experiences ended on a negative note. And Joe did not have a friend.
Thoughts from Montessori teachers on socializing...What was I to do with him? Well, to begin with, I redirected his behavior as often as necessary, and I held him accountable to the rules, just like the rest of the children. But I also gave him as much freedom as possible in the Montessori environment. As well, I made sure that Joe and I had many opportunities to work with the Montessori materials together, and I acknowledged his successes, no matter how small. Most important by far, I let Joe know that I was his friend. I communicated with Joe — telling him about myself, my weekend, and so on. And, just as importantly, I asked Joe about himself and his interests. The better Joe and I came to know one another, the harder Joe tried in the classroom.
Three years later at the children’s Montessori kindergarten graduation party, I watched Joe work cooperatively with the other children as they served food and drinks to parents and friends. I felt proud of Joe and I was happy for his parents, who had been so worried about Joe’s struggles.
Joe continued to struggle socially, but he always worked hard. And every year he got just a little bit better. I would like to think that my work with Joe contributed in part to his future successes. I can say with certainty that helping Joe with his challenges had a lasting impact on me and my work as a Montessori teacher.
- My Most Challenging Montessori Student - Redirecting Behavior
- My Most Challenging Montessori Student - Responsibilities
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, July 27, 2012.