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8/24/13 at 8:18am
this is tough because I completely agree with you and do not really like this kind of behavior control, but at the same time, I also have a student whose lower elementary class was often too loud for him to work. Honestly, I would just talk to her about it. Ask her how frequently the kids do loose their recess, etc.
Montessori has a lot of freedoms, but it also expects great responsibility. And sometimes kids need feedback on how their behavior is affecting the entire class.
I would definitely talk to the teacher about it and voice your concerns, but then again, the kids may work fine and it might not really matter. Can the kids ever work together and talk??? Does she expect silence or just speaking in a lower voice when working?
Sometimes teachers feel that they need to bear down in the beginning of the year to establish expectations, and I guess that is true to a degree. In my opinion, that is still no excuse for the authoritarian disciplinary approach of this particular teacher! I hope you have seen things improve in your son's classroom by now, but honestly, I would be worried that they would deteriorate rather than improve. The children are learning they have no voice, and their fate is out of their hands. (They are also learning that silent reading is punishment, which is another thread).
One of the true joys in the lower elementary classrooms is that the children are highly tuned in to justice, community and solving problems fairly. Classroom meetings are special times where children can bring up problems and suggest solutions. They are given respect and take responsibility for the way their classroom runs. If a classmate is too loud during work time, the children can talk it out. They do the right thing for the right reason. Not to avoid having a letter from being erased from the blackboard, or to receive a golden star. This freedom and responsibility is the heart of the philosophy.
You are right to be concerned. Don't let the core of the Montessori approach be cut away from your son and his friends. I am curious how things are now. Can you update us?
I don't know anything about your specific situation, so take this advice very generally. By first grader, I'm assuming you mean a 6 or 7 year old in a lower elementary classroom? From the sounds of it, the teacher either has been overwhelmed trying to "manage" the classroom behavior and has slipped into more traditional schooling notions of how to accomplish this, or she her classroom was what my trainer terms a "Monte-something" from the beginning. Is this a new practice she has started recently or has it been going on from the beginning?
Rewards and punishments of any sort are expressly against Montessori practice. Chapter 24 of the Absorbent Mind is a good section to read up on this as well as Chapter 3 of the Discovery of the Child if you have either of those texts. If not, I can provide you with some excerpts or paraphrasing that might help. In short, though, both erode the child's internal direction towards work, their independence, and their follow-through. This punishment in particular is very distracting from what may or may not be an already distracted child/class and discourages reading as it is now juxtaposed as a negative alternative to a positive aspect of playing outside. What is particularly odd about this situation is that, if I am correct that your child is 6-7, she is in the developmental plane for social work in small groups, so it is quite odd that the guide would discourage talking during the work cycle. This wouldn't make any sense even in a Primary classroom where the predominant form of work is individual, but it at least would be more comprehensible to me. I cannot speak about Lower Elementary on this next point, but in Primary one of the guide's primary responsibilities is to redirect a disruptive (non-concentrating) child towards concentration. Assuming this principle is still the same in Elementary, punishment simply will never accomplish this; at best it will only accomplish short-term compliance, which is against the Montessori concept of genuine obedience.
An alternative for lining up at least is sending the children in a few at a time by asking them what work they are going to choose when they get inside if they are going into another work cycle, or prompt them to prepare for lunch if they are going into lunch. Having all the children come in at once, at least in my limited experience, produces more problems than it addresses.