The borderline between being destructive with works and experimenting with work is often quickly jumped over – oftentimes before a teacher can be there to react. A Montessori classroom allows for the creativity of the child to shine through and blossom while they use the materials: that is, so long as they are not using them in a destructive manner. As a teacher, your reaction to a child misusing the work can set the tone for your entire work-period, and even your classroom. You can say “You know, I saw you using the materials, and you were doing a great job. Do you think that now you are done with the work and may put it away?” such as a wonderful blog I read constantly suggests – or you might walk up to the child and say “I think you’re done with that now, as I see you are not using the work nicely / correctly. Please put it away now.” Up until recently, I would admit to being a part of the latter group.
After noticing a lack in a lot of our works (mainly Sensorial) being used by the children, I came home one night and questioned why. I came up with a few theories and decided to see which one was right by observing the children. What I concluded is I don’t think our level of Respect in the classroom is where it should be. By addressing the child in such a manner I am not respecting him by not giving him the option to choose whether he is done with the work. The child is not respecting the work because they are deliberately misusing it. Furthermore, another child nearby might hear me and misconstrue the circumstances thinking “Oh, there is a right way and a wrong way to do that work” and may consciously or subconsciously avoid working with that activity. So where do you go from here? Respect may seem like a pretty abstract concept that is hard to convey to children, but I disagree. Today at line-time I had a talk with the children about what the word respect means – treating something like you want to be treated. I related to the children by explaining how they can respect everything and everyone around them. “If another child is touching your work, are they respecting your space?” “If you are hitting a piece of one of the activities with another, are you respecting our environment?” I also used some of our past dilemmas in the classroom as an example: “Remember when he was building a tower, and people kept crowding around him and his work fell over? At that time the other children watching were not respecting him, nor his right to work quietly.” – that example seemed to strike home for a lot of them. We left the line to start our afternoon work period, and I made a point to observe if my lesson about Respect had any impact. I overheard one boy tell another who was touching his work – “Please stop, you are not respecting my work.” I could see from this that they understood what it meant to respect other people, I will just have to observe for the rest of the week to see if the lesson on respecting the works and the environment sticks as well.
A child created a wonderful walk-through maze using the Red Rods and the Colored Cylinders. One example of the beautiful things they can accomplish with respect being honored in the classroom.