Bad taste for Montessori - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 03-18-2005, 02:02 AM - Thread Starter
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I tried to send my then 3.5 yr old to Montessori preschool. He was definately not ready and I pulled him out. However, while he was there I was not happy with what I saw.

First: They would not let me in the classroom to drop off my ds. My ds would cry and hang on to me asking me to sit in the room. They said I would be a disruption to the children and the flow of the classroom. I had to drop him off at the front door of the school and they took him to his class. On the third day a lady we had never met before was meeting and escorting the children. My ds did not want to go with her. She was a stranger. I was sitting in the driver's seat of my van and ds jumped into my lap, clinging to me, screaming his head off. She actually got into my van and started pulling him off of me. She told me he had to go with her and I needed to just drive away. I wrapped my arms around him and firmly (almost violently ) told her to let him go and that no he did not have to go with her. Needless to say he went home with me. I got no apology from anybody.

Second: At one point I was observing through a window (I was allowed to do that) I saw a little girl approach the silverware and q-tips. She picked it up, looking at it. The teacher came over and told her to put it away because she had not yet been shown how to do that activity. Why not let her figure it out and use her imagination?

Third: I asked the teacher how my ds's day had been and she said "Fine." I asked for more detail and she said "oh, he spent some time sitting by himself." That was all I could get out of her. I asked if he played with the toys or children. Her response was,"We don't call it playing we call it work. They are not toys they are tools." Ok, I totally get the whole children's play is their work...I understand that. Let's not get caught up in a vocabulary debate.

Fourth: I arrived early to observe (through the window of course) and for an entire 15 minutes my ds was sitting on the ground by himself in the playground while the other kids were playing (oops sorry working). There were two women supervising. Not once did they approach my ds. I finally walked out there and his teacher just about jumped on me because I had "disrupted" the class. I asked why ds was sitting there and she said "oh he fell off the swing." He was not physically hurt. She said he had cried but when she saw that he was not hurt she told him to stop crying because he was ok. He then hung his head and walked over to the wall where he sat for the rest of the time.

Montessori focuses on independence but are these things common? Not comforting a child because he has no physical injury? Not allowing a child to play with an activity because she has not been shown the "proper" way to do it? Because of this school I am uncertain and hesitant about Montessori.

This is not how they are supposed to be is it?
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#2 of 6 Old 03-18-2005, 02:53 AM
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First off - no wonder it didn't work out.

I spent a few years working in Montessori schools (and attended one from 3-6) and have a pretty good feel for the philosophy, though I'm not "trained" officially.

Not dropping off in the classroom- all 3-6 classrooms I've been in have allowed parents to drop off children. Some encourage it to be quick. Some have only certain areas (parents go as far as the cubbies) but all have the parents go into the classrooms themselves. In my opinion most 3-6 year olds need that. They're just too young to transition in an in-between place. This new lady sounds WAY out of line. That sort of thing NEVER would have happened at any school I've ever been in.

Second- lessons on materials. Yes, that is very montessori. The materials have a purpose. You may not use them until you've had a lesson. Just goes with the territory.

Third- vocabulary- a lot of montessoris work hard at educating parents on the philosophy- it really does help, but this teacher seems just pushy for the sake of being pushy.

Fourth- Sounds like an insensitive teacher to me. Sure, sometimes kids just need some space. Sure, sometimes a kid needs to just sit and do nothing. But it seems pretty obvious that your ds was upset and the teacher knew it and did nothing to comfort him since he wasn't "hurt"

I've found that there is a big difference between schools that call themselves montessori. Even among ones certified by AMS or AMI. You really have to go and watch (a couple of times, at different times of day) to get a feel for whether a school is a good place for your child or not (or in some cases a place for ANY child, sigh...)

hope that helps!

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#3 of 6 Old 03-19-2005, 01:46 AM
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We will be starting at a Montessori pre-school next month, so I don't have a lot of real-world experience to report, but I do know that parents are allowed to bring their children inside the classroom and say goodbye there. That was important to us. The school does encourage the good-byes not to be long and drawn out, but that seems reasonable. My son's teacher is also very huggy, which is nice! I am sorry your experience was negative--I wouldn't like much of what you describe, either.
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#4 of 6 Old 03-19-2005, 11:32 PM
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*Not* very Montessori

You can link to a typical day here:
typical day in a Children's House

As far as "you haven't been shown that" I must say that I have seen this before but it shocks me. Our trainer (AMI) said that if a child shows interest in something they haven't been shown we should:
-Offer the presentation if they are ready
-Offer a "modified" presentation if that is possible (for example, if a young child wants to touch the bead chains but is not ready for the counting work with them, they could be shown how to dust them thus satisfying their need to handle them)
-Offer a different presentation that would interest that child
-If you are about to give a presentation to a different child, but can give the first one the presentation right after, assure the child that in a few minutes you will show her that work. Until then she can watch the presentation you are about to give or do some other activity for a few minutes or wait, perhaps in your chair. Since most presentations (with the exception of a few math and language ones) take just a minute or two, this would not be a long wait.

I don't understand why teachers just say, "You can't do that because you haven't been shown that." This was not in my training!

As far as dropping off children:

I let the parents in my school come to the door and the area just inside. We have a "greeting" area with coat hooks and a bench and shelves for slippers and parents stay there.

There was a child who was having a difficult time separating from his mother after about a month of school. It started after a babysitting incident with the grandmother, though no one could figure out what the incident was (the separation issue came on suddenly while the mother was out one night and the grandmother was sitting with the children. the grandmother did not know what precipitated the anxiety and the child could not verbalize more than the fear that he would be lost.). I let her stay with him and do work with him, though I would normally ask a parent to sit on the bench by the front door. It was a bit disruptive, but since this was not a "typical" separation issue (came on suddenly, was very intense, was not just about school) and she was so respectful of how quiet to be and how to make herself "small" so as not to be too obvious it was okay. After over a week with no progress at home or at school (he would freak out if she walked into the garage to throw something away for fear she was leaving) she decided to have him stay home for a month so that she could just "be" with him. I visited to keep in contact with him and in January he returned and had no separation issues. His mother drops him off at the door and he comes in himself.

I have only, for one year, worked in a school with a "drop off" from the car policy. I must say that in areas of limited parking I understand it but I don't like it. As an administrator I would prefer that if this has to be the policy because of lack of parking space, perhaps the first year students would be "exempt," that is, perhaps they could "park" and be escorted to their classes by their parents as they are the youngest and in most need of a secure separation.

As far as the playground issue with your child hurt, I think this is unacceptable. I would never tell a child that they can't cry if they aren't hurt. Children can be scared, too, from a fall. Also, how does she know he isn't feeling hurt. This is certainly not a Montessori policy.

Well, I hope that you find a different place for your child, one that is more loving. Please understand, though, that none of these things is a "Montessori" policy.

Good luck!
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#5 of 6 Old 03-20-2005, 12:41 AM
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As a Waldorf alum, I know to tell parents considering Waldorf that it's all about the way the individual school works. And as the parent of a kid thriving in Montessori, I know that it's the same thing. I've heard stories like yours, and yet I've seen the caring, the loving atmosphere in my ds's school. As pp have said, you've got a bad school situation here, not necessarily a problem with Montessori.
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#6 of 6 Old 04-03-2005, 03:25 AM
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Gees. That school should be shut down. It does not sound Montessori at all.
My daughters have attended a great Montessori since K. The school goes all the way thru 8th grade and they will continue. They currently are in 4th grade, should be in 3rd grade and are doing 5th grade work.

I could not pull them out at this point. They love it. They have always been treated with respect, cared for and I can walk into a class anytime of day, any day of week.

Remember Montessori is a philosphy and also a currcilum. I have seen some schools only adopt the curriculm and not the philosphy.
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