During my student teaching I was surprised by a few of the teaching methods used by my directress that didn’t seem very Montessori.
One of the first difficult activities our preschool students were required to complete was sorting about 100 different colored wooden beads into compartments. It was the “magic” activity that required a great deal of concentration, sense of order, excellent fine motor skills and sharp sight. It was very time consuming. Most of the children anxiously awaited their turn to sort the small beads. But, there were one or two children who would skirt around the exercise. All the children had done this sorting exercise, except for the few hold outs. After waiting a few weeks the directress would invite the remaining students to do the sorting. If they resisted, she would tell them they had to sort the beads. One little boy in particular did not want to do this activity and the first day he was completely unable to even sort more than a few beads. The second day the task was waiting for him. I became upset as the little boy cried. I would try to coach him kindly, but my “help” seemed to make it worse.
Immediately I talked to the directress about what a difficult time the boy had with the exercise, and how upset I was by his crying and sadness.
She looked at me and nodded, went to the boy’s bead exercise and removed over half the beads. It was like a huge burden was taken off this sweet lad’s shoulders. It took him another hour to finish. He was so proud and happy when he finished his work. It’s strange, but this activity did something to help this young boy become interested and excited in other Montessori activities. He became very motivated to learn. He matured quickly in his academic and social skills.
The directress smiled at me after the happy conclusion and explained why she would give some of the younger children a push at times. She told me she was totally unable to do anything for herself when she first attended Montessori preschool. She was completely lost because she had been waited on hand and foot. After a few months, the directress started to push her to do the activities. It helped her confidence, independence and her desire to learn. For her, this method was life changing