A little background.....my children go to a public Montessori school and we have LOVED it! We have been very fortunate to have great teachers, active parents, and nice kids. We just started our 3rd year and got the teacher that we had hoped for (yay!).
At the end of the first week of school, my oldest DD got in the car and was clearly upset and immediately told me (seconds after she buckled in!) that "she felt like she had worked for nothing" that week. Apparently, the teacher has a system where the kids earn tickets throughout the week for good behavior (and possibly finishing their work plans) and on Friday afternoons pulls 5 or 6 names out of the hat and those kids receive a prize (sounds like dollar store items). DD was very upset that she didn't get something even though she "earned all her tickets and had no tickets taken away that week". Sounds like it's done right before dismissal time when everybody is at circle, so all the kids who don't receive "a prize" watch while the "lucky chosen few" gets something from the treasure chest.
My first thought was: Wow, how utterly cruel and UN-Montessori!! And how is this fostering the love of learning and intrinsic rewards??? I know the teacher is Montessori trained, very kind, soft spoken, and peaceful, so this threw me for a loop. I told DD that she should be very proud of herself for doing such a great job and that if she keeps up the good work she will get her turn at a prize. I felt myself CRINGING at that, but I had to say something to her to remind her that being proud of a job well done is more important than picking a dollar store eraser out of a treasure chest. I'm not against extrinsic rewards in general (all kids want more than a pat on the back sometimes!), but in the classroom setting I just don't feel like it has a purpose.
I'm torn: As a parent I want to let my kids know that you have to EARN "the trophy". You don't just get something because everybody else does. DD mentioned that one little boy had tickets taken away for "making quacking sounds" after being asked to stop. I used that as an example and asked if it would have been fair to the children who DID listen if he had been rewarded for his bad behavior. Then reminded her again that she will have an opportunity at a prize for continuing to do her work and be a good role model. As a Montessori parent, I want my kids to continue on the path of feeling good about working hard (so far, they seem very motivated by completing their work plan for the day and knowing they did their best) and I'm really discouraged about this ticket system. I have heard from other parents that they also use rewards in upper elementary such as "couch potato" reward which allows you to sit on the couch and do your work. Isn't that just Montessori 101? As in, creating a comfortable environment for the child so that they will want to be there?
We have a back to school night coming up and I wanted to bring this up with the teacher. I hate to be "THAT" parent, so....
1. Should I do it in front of all of the other parents and ask the teachers to explain what exactly they hope to accomplish with a ticket system?
2. Should I bring up the example of what my DD said in front of all the other parents?
3. How exactly should I word this to let the teacher know that intrinsic rewards really work with my DD over "prizes"?
4. Should I even try to have this personal feedback conversation at the meeting or just bring it up afterwards?
5. Should I just ask to have the ticket system explained at back to school night and then have the conversation with the teacher about my DD afterwards in private?
6. Should I just bring this up after school when I pick DD up instead of waiting for back to school night?
7. Am I just over-reacting and should I just let this go??
Because I know that this teacher is Montessori trained, using this system already in the first week of school just sort of puzzles me. I talked to a Montessori teacher friend of mine and she said, "This sounds like a system that you might incorporate as a last ditch effort if there were some children who were very hard to motivate or getting out of hand....not something that you start out with."
I could really use some feedback!!! Thanks!
I had a similar experience last school year as well though the token system was a bit different. My children's classroom teacher had decided to use a token system for rewarding the children for various things (completing their agenda, being noticed to have helped someone else, and so on) and some tokens could be removed for poor behaviour. She wanted them to get to a certain number of tokens in order to have the class Halloween (?) party. I did speak privately with the teacher. We were already on good terms and I asked to chat with her for a few minutes after school one day. I expressed some of my concerns, questioned the use of extrinsic rewards and I gave some examples of my children's perceptions (my son was quite concerned that if they didn't get enough tokens they wouldn't have the party; my daughter had figured out that the teacher was going to let them have the party if the teacher had to fabricate reasons to bump up the tokens at the end in any event; they came home saying "so-and-so never gets any tokens cause he never listens" etc.). I purposefully did not go in demanding that she stop it, and I wanted to speak to her one-on-one. A few other parents also had concerns but I didn't want the teacher to think we were ganging up on her.
It was a good conversation and she explained what she wanted to achieve (to motivate students, a few in particular) and she acknowledged that it wasn't a really M way of doing things. We ended it with her explaining that she had used a system like this successfully in the past, that it wasn't meant to be a long term thing, and that she couldn't promise that she would stop it. I don't know if other people spoke to her or what, but within a week or two the tokens had stopped.
What if you let the teacher know you would like to know more about the ticket system and find out if she would like to speak to you privately one day after school or to address all the parents at the meeting in case others were wondering as well. And at that time you could share your concerns.
Hope that helps...and maybe I am THAT parent.
Nora, thank you! That is a great idea. School just started and they are in the normalization period, so I'm not able to get a lot of time with the teacher. However, I may be able to just mention it at the end of the day. I could say something like, "DD mentioned the ticket system and I see that she got a pencil and pad today. Could you tell me more about this or will you address it at back to school night?" I want to add in that Montessori really should focus more on intrinsic rewards and not trinkets from a treasure chest (and DD truly does take pride in a job well done), but maybe I just need to enforce that with DD at home instead of dwelling on what they are doing in class??
I would talk with the teacher about it,and let her know you are not very happy with this system. The teacher will do what she wants ofcourse,but perhaps if enough parents complain she may change it a bit.
In our kids upper el class the norm seems to be that the teacher will punish the entire class for the misbehavior of a few,Usually results in time taken off of recess.It had been quite frustrating for my dd who always says,"Why bother being good?" Now my ds is in that class and I can just see him being *hopping* mad if he losses recess when others are bad.
Teachers want it this way even though they have said it does not work all that well. I have told my kids that unfortunately you have to put up with it if you want to continue at that school.
I hope you have a better outcome.
Wow, I would flip the heck out if my daughter's teacher did something like that. I don't think that a rewards/punishments system has any place in a Montessori classroom. It strikes me as the very opposite of Montessori principles, not to mention that current research shows the direct and measurable harm of that sort of behaviourist bribery. But I'm a bit ideological about that one, so YMMV.
Thanks for all the input! I am still very annoyed with certain things going on in the school/class, but overall I am absolutely loving what I see. Normalization period is over and the class is very peaceful and focused. We are very lucky that it's a public Montessori school (charter) and have 6-9 and 9-12 classes. What i see is that the older children truly are remarkable kids that love to help the younger one's. I see them helping out when they forget a water bottle on the lunch table, leave their coat on the playground, helping my DD's learn to write in the classroom (funny that my younger DD told me today she gave away two of her tickets to two girls in her class for helping her with how to spell when she was writing in her journal! LOL! I thought it was a sweet gesture), and they pretty much have it dialed in because they have been with this teacher for 3 years. For example, they are always very quick to explain where to find something, etc. The other day I asked one of the kids if I was taking away somebody's job by sharpening all the pencils (OMG..the entire bucket of pencils were dull/broken) and they said that somebody is supposed to do it, but they weren't sure who had that task that particular week. Anyway, they are very cute and helpful and my kids are incredibly lucky to have this particular teacher and be grouped with these particular kids.
Now, about the tickets...yes, we did talk to the teacher about it. We basically told the teacher again what DD had said and it was totally taken to heart. This teacher recognizes that it's not a very M way of doing things, however, it's still happening so we are going to talk more about it at parent/teacher conferences next week and how it specifically relates to MY kids. My kids aren't quite as concerned about it as they were in the first week of school, but it still bugs me that it's happening. And don't get me started on the math worksheets and spelling book that comes home every week! One DD loves the work, my other DD HATES it and we struggle every single night with trying to get her to do one simple page with about 10 math questions (it's the accelerated math program, but I don't know much about it). I assume because it's a public school and they do STAR testing, it's just preparing them for that. ::sigh:: I guess I have to pick and choose my battles because it is a public school, but we do feel incredibly lucky overall.
I will give another update soon!
Wow, having a rewards system is one thing, but then also only giving prizes to a few of the kids by chance? That would be enough for me to go to the administration if it couldn't be resolved with the teacher. It's clearly impeding your daughter's focus on her work and making her feel like she hasn't accomplished a goal. Does the teacher want that? And I'm sure she's not the only one feeling like this. Good luck!
I think the kids are all pretty much over the whole ticket thing. In fact, I keep finding tickets stashed all over the place (in DD's lunchbox, in her pencil holder at school, in her cubby, etc.) I think now that they see they will all get a chance, she's like, "whatever" and doesn't even care if she has her tickets put into the hat. However, as a fairly hard core Montessori parent *I* still don't like the system. I found out that is was started by a previous teacher that used to work with their teacher so it's just a "old habits die hard" type of thing.
There are SO many things throughout the years that have made me a little crazy about this school. Just today I was talking to the teacher that handles the PE class for the entire school and also the TA for DD's class. I said to the TA, "I realize there is a very delicate fine line/balance because this is a public Montessori school that has to comply with state testing, but I really do not like the homework that is being given. In a traditional private Montessori school, homework isn't even given to lower elementary students" and immediately the PE teacher jumps in with an obnoxious, "Well, this isn't a private Montessori school. It *IS* a public school!" Arrghhh....this woman is always so beastly, rotten, and unpleasant and I really wanted to say, "Yeah, just said that."
Really? Spelling workbooks and accelerated math sheets PLUS a reading log every week? Yuck.
In so many ways I feel blessed to have my kids at this school. I would say it's 90% Montessori, 10% public school and it's the 10% that I really, really struggle with. :( Thanks for listening to me vent and all the responses!!!!!
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