Now that I’m a homeschooling mom, I sometimes look back at my teaching years and think about what I could have done differently. Truth be told, I was a pretty good Montessori directress but I think the experience of being a mother has made me a better one.
I know for sure that I would listen to parents more. And not just listen, but really believe them even when they told me something that seemed to contradict what I saw in class. I vividly remember one little girl, Rebecca, who was in my 3-6 preschool class. She would go the entire day in the classroom without saying a word. She seemed incredibly shy around the other children and the adults.
One day, her mom stopped me and the other teacher in the hallway and said, “Can you help me with Rebecca?” We both nodded our heads. The mom continued, “She never stops talking at home! She talks constantly and I just don’t know what to do about it.” You could have knocked us over with a feather! I don’t remember how we responded, except that after the mom left, we both agreed that she must be mistaken; there was no way that Rebecca could be talkative!
Now I know better. I’ve seen that many kids (not all) have a “home personality” and a “school personality”. My son attended a Montessori school for a year before we started homeschooling. One day his teacher asked me about his behavior in class. When I told her that he wasn’t that way at home, she looked at me with total skepticism. Yep, I was on the other side of that fence now!
Another thing I would change would be to be more relaxed. I’ve mentioned before that I helped my last school with the AMS accreditation process, which involved each classroom being assessed by various people. My classroom dynamics were built around what I had learned in my training and internship; each child worked quietly at a rug, mostly independently. My room was gorgeous and their work was beautiful, but it didn’t have that “buzz” of activity that elementary classrooms often do. The evaluators challenged me to loosen up and have the kids moving around and interacting more, and I began to make changes in that direction.
But, my experiences as a homeschooling mom have pushed me ever further that way; now I would encourage more freedom, more interaction, more talking, and more sharing. Liberty and discipline in Montessori elementary is a delicate thing, and the “liberty” part can get out of hand and sometimes classrooms are completely out of control. That’s not what I mean. I’d just try for a nice balance of freedom and obedience, of silence and chatter, and of learning and fun.