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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Student Wandering

Remember that saying, “Not all who wander are lost” ? Well… in a Montessori classroom that may or may not be the case.

Types of Wanderers

1.        The three year old-pretty new to class-wanderer.  This kiddo needs to wander; in essence he is definitely not lost!  He/she is absorbing everything they see.  This is not limited to the materials, but human interactions, grace and courtesy, and language.  This friend needs to move about and just “be”.  Now, that doesn’t mean that the teacher can’t artfully try to entice him/her into engaging in a work that the child enjoys observing.  It’s the perfect lesson invitation, “I see you like watching this work.  Let’s have a lesson on it.”


2.       The work avoider-wanderer.  This child would rather do laps around the classroom than exert the effort to make a selection.  Why?  Could be a couple of things:

1.       Perfectionist children hate mistakes.  They are painful.  For this child, not taking the risk of choosing a work is safer than making a mistake.

a.       What to do?  Model yourself making mistakes and talk to the child about how you felt and what to do next, like don’t give up and keep trying.  Explain that the classroom is the perfect place to make mistakes, we are all learning and without mistakes, we don’t grow!

2.      The child who can’t choose.  We see children that have no control over any aspect/choice/decision in their home.  This child doesn’t choose because it is not something they are accustomed or comfortable doing.  They want the teacher to choose. 

a.       What to do?  Offer the child three choices to select from.  Educate the parents of the child’s challenge and ask what kind of choices he is offered at home.  Help the parent to be mindful to start offering the child some choices in the home.  Start with selecting his clothing and what to have in his lunchbox. Capitalize on that beautiful absorbent mind!  Invite the child to stay with you to observe the lessons you are offering around the classroom.


3.       The challenge eluder.  This is a child who doesn’t want anything to do with challenges.  Some of these children are used to being rescued by adults when they face challenges.  They learn they will not be rescued in a Montessori classroom.

a.       What to do?  This child needs enticement and success!  Key into what he/she really loves and incorporate it into some activities.  Love trains? Have a wooden train for the child to polish.  Like race cars?  Print out small pictures of race cars to use as counter in the cards and counters.

4.       The atypical learner.  This child may have an undiagnosed learning difficulty that causes them anxiety or difficulty in certain situations. 

a.       What to do?  Careful observation of frustration levels will help you see if this child needs additional assistance.  If you feel that something is developmentally wrong, request the parent go for a developmental and/or speech screening at their local public school. (Please educate yourself on what is available for parents and where they can go.)

                                                                                                                                      i.       This can be a delicate situation.  The way I have handled it in the past is to have a conference with the parents starting with the child’s strengths and how they progress successfully with the materials they do use.  Then share your observations of the behavior that may not be typical, in your experience, for a child of that age.  (You are not a doctor, never suggest a diagnosis! Developmental ranges are quite vast in early childhood, especially with speech.  What might look like atypical behaviors could still be within normal ranges for the child’s age.)

                                                                                                                                    ii.       I also share what interventions or assistance I have modified for the child’s success.  From there, I suggest the developmental or speech screening, provide the information to the parents, and explain what the screening entails.  The screening is just to be on the safe side to make sure the program will be meeting all of the child’s needs. Please be sure you are also supporting the parents by answering their questions and making yourself available for extra meetings or communication as they move through the screening process.  This can be a nerve-wracking time for a parent.   If the screening indicates other supports, then parents, teacher, and school can work together to make certain all are doing what should be done for the child.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Happy New School Year!

For many of us, the year new school year has begun (or will shortly) and we all know what that means…new kiddos!  New students are “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”.  It sounds cheesy, but it is absolutely true!  Setting expectations high and being clear what the rules are in your classroom is critical to solid management.  The best way to do this is through modeling your grace and courtesy during your circle time every day for several weeks or all year, and being consistent in the classroom.  Beyond that, well, things happen like…
What do you do?
 I would first address the hitting child with “Johnny, hands are not for hitting.  Hitting hurts!  Hands are for working, rolling rugs, and petting your kitty. (Please insert your own things hands can do, gosh that sounds funny!)
Why did you hit?” most often, you get a shoulder shrug or an “I don’t know”. 
“Johnny we have to talk Mark now, he is crying.”  This is when you are going to whisper coach the two through a resolution. 
“Mark, please tell Johnny how you feel.” He says, “Sad”.  “Please tell Johnny why you are sad.”  He says, “I was hit.” “Tell Johnny that you don’t like to be hit.”  He tells the offending child using an “I” statement (I don’t like it when you hit me, it hurts).
The final piece is that I ask if the child who was hurt needs care, like a hug.  Then ask if the offending child can offer some care.  I do not make children apologize.  A forced apology is meaningless and equal to a lie.  If the child looks remorseful, point that out! 
"Johnny, your face tells me that you might feel bad about hitting Mark.”  Then move on.  Don’t bring it up again unless it happens again.  If it does, keep the child at your side to work for a little while to observe what might be setting him/her off.
Keep checking-in!  In the next posts I will cover wandering students, inappropriate observation, disruptive voice and misuse of the materials.