Monday, April 30, 2012

Montessori A to Z: V is for Victory

What are the victories in the Montessori classroom? They can be small or large, depending on the child and the situation. Here are some of my favorite victories over the years.

Once I had a child who was later diagnosed with ADHD and was considered for Asperger's. There was just no way that you could get him to practice anything remotely resembling math or language activities. All he wanted to do was to simply play with sensorial, but that usually ended up in crashing and inappropriate behaviors. One day, I realized that he liked to cut paper. So, every day for a couple of weeks, I made him envelopes with a teen numeral written on them. His job was to cut that many pieces of paper and place them in each envelope. It was the only way that he finally learned his teens. Soon after that, he was placed on medication and suddenly started reading Bob books. I went into the staff room and cried.

About 10 years ago, I had a boy who just couldn't seem to learn his sounds. It was very frustrating for me as a teacher, and for his mother, who was also a teacher. I only had him for two afternoons a week, that didn't help, either. He had a fascination with dinosaurs. They ruled his world. Finally, we pulled out the dinosaur alphabet book. Every time he traced a sandpaper letter, we associated it with a dinosaur name. Within a couple of weeks, he had it.

I had a little boy who was so eager to learn and to live his life that he was lacking in impulse control. If he wanted to get something, he would go from 0 to 200 in a heartbeat. Nothing else was more important than getting to that person or object. Eventually diagnosed with some sensory and social delays, he started to receive help once a week from a school psychologist who was working on the impulse control. Just before she started, we had gotten him to the point where you could say his name and he would go back and walk without being prompted.

I had a little boy who was starting to read, but just couldn't master the difference between "b" and "d." I tried the bed hands at the beginning of December, but he still couldn't get it. When he returned from Christmas vacation, he suddenly had it and didn't need to use his hands anymore!

I had a boy who would easily become angry and yell at me or the other children. He didn't like to follow rules nor accept consequences. I started making him use the peace table. He was even allowed to bring me over there if he was unhappy with me. After two years of concentrated effort, he was successfully using the peace table both with adults and other children. After he left me, he was eventually diagnosed with Asperger's.

I had a little three year-old girl who would get mad and yell any time someone said hi to her upon her arrival. She didn't want anyone to speak to her and would glare at everyone. I insisted that she take a break every time she threw a fit when someone talked to her. I told her she didn't have to say hi, but could at least lift up her hand a few inches and wave to someone. Eventually she started to greet everyone with a big smile on her face and was one of the most social kids in the classroom.

I could go on and on about stories like this. Yes, a lot of them are academically-based. I have dozens more. There are also those smaller victories like the days when the class actually goes silent because everyone is working so hard. Most of my children are always working, but there is always a buzz in the classroom. A small victory can be that child who cannot pour herself a glass of water without spilling the entire pitcher everywhere and one day finally manages to do it repeatedly for herself and all of her friends. There are the days when a child finally learns how to tie his shoes and volunteers to do it for everyone. There is that peaceful afternoon where all of the children are sprawled out, reading books both at and beyond their level, simply for the love of books. All of these moments, big and small, are what makes this profession worthwhile.

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