Discipline in a Montessori School

Ground rules protect the rights and liberty of each individual child and the group as a whole. They promote the internalization of pro-social behaviors and values including: self-control of impulses, consideration of others and a sense of responsibility for oneself and the welfare of the group. Ground rules can help to make life at school easier, make the days run more smoothly, enable children to be more independent and help to develop responsibility.

The number of ground rules is generally kept to a minimum, stated and presented in a positive manner with an emphasis on safety, respect for others / environment and the results benefits all members of the group.

Here is a list of some typical, often automatic, ground rules used in most Montessori classrooms:

  • The child selects a material to use from the shelf and takes it to a suitable table, floor and/or other designated work space.
  • The child is free to use the material as long as it likes and as long as it is treated with respect.
  • After using the material, the child returns it to its place on the shelf, in the same condition in which it was found, for the next person to use.
  • The children restore the environment, clean up spills and messes, put rugs away in proper order, push chairs in, etc., after each activity
  • The child is free to work alone – no child is forced to share with another the materials he/she has first chosen for activity.
  • The child has the right not to choose any materials or activity.
  • Many other common ground rules are established to insure safety if special equipment is used, when traveling as a group, or when staying within supervised areas.

The Real Teacher

When I took my Montessori teacher training one of the many hand-outs I was given was the following list:

Guidelines for Teachers in a Montessori Classroom:

1.) Good general health and emotional stability

2.) Appears attractive

3.) Possesses personal internalized sense of order

4.) Moves gracefully

5.) Speaks with a quiet, well modulated voice

6.) Uses neither rough nor excessive affectionate physical handling of the children

7.) Exemplifies grace and courtesy to the children

8.) Teaches on child’s physical and mental level

9.) Links child with the apparatus

10.) Gives varied lessons to all age levels

11.) Respects the dignity of children, teachers, and parents

12.) Responds to children’s physical, mental, and emotional needs

13.) Draws upon community resources to enrich program

14.) Helps prepare environment consistent with maturation of sensitive periods of the class

15.) Maintains classroom orderliness and cleanliness

At the bottom of the paper it says: Source: Adapted from the AMS Guidelines 1986

Phew! What a list, huh? I gotta tell you, they left a few things off it. I’ve added some below.

16.) Possesses a willingness to be thrown up on if the need arises

17.) Provides a shoulder to cry on for: all children, co-teachers and parents when needed

18.) Demonstrates an ability to think on her (his) feet, is very flexible

19.) Patience, patience, and more patience

20.) Talented musically (well, LOVES to sing anyway)

21.) Peaceful conflict resolution EXPERT

22.) Capable of being yelled at, even hit by a child having a tantrum and remaining calm

23.) Will work for little pay and even less recognition from society

24.) Has genuine interest in learning about EVERYTHING

25.) Doesn’t mind repeating one’s self

26.) Did I say possesses amazing amounts of patience?

27.) Abilities include but are not limited to: unclogging toilets, pronouncing dead fish, shoveling snow, detangling jump ropes, organizing and maintaining peace and safety on a sledding hill, comforting hurt feelings, making play dough, finding lost mittens…oh there just isn’t enough space here.

28.) Capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound! Just kidding about that last one…

These people are amazing! I substituted yesterday in a 3-6 class and left feeling not only exhausted, but completely and totally in awe of my fellow teachers. How do they do it? Day in and day out arriving with a smile and gently reminding small people of often the same things they gently reminded them of the day before. As a mother of three I often go to bed feeling drained of all patience and energy. It is a hard job being a parent, no other job will ever be as challenging; this I know to be true.

Being a care giver of children however, comes close. These amazing people I have the privilege of working with are all also mothers. They come to work and care for and love 16+ children each day only to return home and continue that role AND make dinner? Wow! It can be a thankless job also, if you lose sight of the small rewards through-out your day. Which is easy to do when you are tired on a Friday afternoon.

So, I would just like to say, to all you teachers out there:

Thank you, thank you for loving and learning alongside our world’s children. Thank you for giving and giving and giving more. Thank you for comforting hurts, sharing in discoveries, working through conflicts, providing opportunities for growth and learning, and for being safe, gentle and kind. Our world is a more beautiful place because of you.

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