Help me do it for myself.

Montessori in a Dene Kindergarten – Montessori in a Dene Grade One Classroom

Trying to turn off my brain!

Posted by mrsmelva on 11/02/2009

Sometimes I wish I could just turn off my brain and not think at all. I get ideas for new activities or changing activities at all hours of the day and night. This has gone on all my life, but a lot more since I started my action research project. I spend huge amounts of time thinking and rethinking about seemingly trivial matters such as how to serve butter and cheese whiz and crackers to my kindergarteners! You are probably thinking, this woman is truly cracked, worrying about such a little thing, but I have always found and am finding even more as I read more and more about Montessori education, that often it is these little things that can have a huge impact on the entire learning atmosphere and environment. I needed to consider food safety, ease of application, utensils for application, containers for each product, placement of the products, quantities available and whether or not to directly teach how to use the items or have the children experitment. My morning class is well normalized (Montessori term, describing appropriate social and learning behaviour based on courtesy and respect) and I decided to set the crackers on the snack serving table in a plastic container, and to place small containers of soft butter and of cheese whiz, with a spreader beside each on, on a plate on the eating table. Then I watched and listened. The regular snack foods and juice were also available. There was some discussion about the yucky crackers (whole wheat)! Eventually a student took a cracker and looked at the spreaders. I took two crackers, sat down and spread one with butter and one with cheese whiz. The student then tried the butter, and a few more joined in  I did need to adjust the placement of the plate on the table, at first I had it too close to the bowl of water that is there for table wiping and there was a risk of dripping water into the food and contaminating it. In the afternoon it was a complete disaster. The afternoon class is not normalized. First, two boys took all the crackers for themselves, except the ones that they dropped on the floor while trying to carry so many. Now, it is February, and the procedure of taking 1-3 items to start with has been in place and practiced since September, so this should not have been an issue. The next thing that happened was that we had overcrowding at the table. There is a procedure in place for that too. I have a card system for all centers in my classroom, where the children choose a card and place it in a pocket with their name on it before proceeding to the center. When all the cards for a given center are gone they are to choose something else. Instead of choosing something else, the children began to take cards from other children’s pockets. I corrected the issue once, and it happened again Then I became a very non-Montessori, bossy level B (for those familiar with Marvin Marshall’s Discipline Without Stress system) teacher. I shut down the snack table and then shut down all the centers. I then gave a heated lecture to the children and my tutor translated it into Dene with equal heat. We continued the day with very traditional, teacher directed, whole class lessons and survived the day, and a little learning happened, I think. Now I can’t turn my brain off, racking it to find ways to normalize this class. I have been very busy making new center materials, but I am reluctant to introduce them to this group. They have broken, lost or misused a substantial amount of center material since we returned from the Christmas break, and I am not sure what to do. I can resort to whole class lessons, but deep down I do not believe that is the best way to teach kids this age. I can strip the room to a very limited number of centers, but would have to do that every lunch hour – hmmmn, could be good for my weight problem. There are some normalized kids in the class who work well at centers and enjoy coming to me for guided reading lessons or working with the tutor on a variety of activities. In my Montessori readings, it is often suggested to go back to practical life activities, but those seem to be the ones they are most destructive with. I will ponder this issue for the next two school days, and the upcoming four day weekend, and hopefully I will come up with something that works. I know that part of the reason that this group is not normalized is that I didn’t have another adult with the group until mid November (there are 26 in the class) and I am not a fluent Dene speaker. I can whine about that all I want, but it won’t change it, what’s done is done, but I do need to find a solution to the issue, and hopefully give my poor brain a rest or a chance to create fun learning activities and to use the activities with both classes.

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2 Responses to “Trying to turn off my brain!”

  1. Kim said

    Since beginning this class, Melva, I too have had trouble shutting off my brain. I see a silver lining for you here though – not an answer to your question however! I think it is so interesting that you are the same person with the same materials, centers, activities and ideas for two completely different groups. I often find teachers are blamed for student behaviors. In my school there are three grade one classrooms and each group of students unique. Each teacher is different as well. For you, it is important to note that the reason for the behavior of the afternoon class is not because of you but it is also important to note that you realize that each group needs you in different ways – there is not one teaching method or pedagogy that will engage and work with every group of children.

  2. mrsmelva said

    Good food for thought, Kim, about the different class needing me to be different, I need to think about that, and also think about whether or not I am different (in possibly a negative way) in my expectations and perceptions of them – could be some self fulfilling prophecy action happening here too. I’ve just begun reading Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit and I’m finding some very interesting ideas in that book which have my brain whirling again, but in a good way.

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