Home > Children, Education, Elementary Education, Montessori, School, School Reform > Beyond Classroom Management (and tennis)

Beyond Classroom Management (and tennis)

Classroom ObservationA little less than a year ago, I wrote my eleventh blog post about classroom observations in a Montessori school.  At that point, I had been working at Evergreen for only three months. The “Montessori Way” was still new to me.  I was not used to seeing children making choices in the classroom, learning by doing, moving quietly around the room and discovering answers to their own questions.  I was amazed by what I saw at Evergreen. It was so joyful.  I had to share my reflections; I had to Blog.

How time flies.

Today, for the first time in months, I visited a traditional public middle school.  Out of respect, I will not mention the name of the school—it’s known as one of the best middle schools in Maryland.  It’s a place filled with good kids, smart kids, ambitious kids.

I was in for a surprise. After one year at a Montessori school, I had forgotten the texture of a school day in a traditional school. My first observation: the children were polite, obedient, and self-possessed. Students raised their hands to answer teachers’ questions.  They opened their books to page 73 when asked.  They stood up quietly when the bell rang.  No one was loud, rowdy or unruly.  It started as a pleasant morning.

Until… my second observation: where was the passion for learning?  I can hardly believe the lack of energy I felt. Sure, students were passively well behaved.  But classrooms lacked the vitality that I am accustomed to.  You could see it in the students’ body language.  No one craned forward or perched at the edge of her seat.  Heads were lazily propped by hands and elbows.   There was no buzz. There were no animated conversations—just a muted tennis volley: a teacher lobs questions at her students, and they lob back, one at a time, with a hand raised. How I wished for Maria Sharapova’s grunting. Sharpness.

My school, Evergreen School, a Montessori school has changed me. A few years ago, I might have complimented this school.  Well-behaved children, well-managed classrooms– once this seemed like an extraordinary achievement.  But now, how I appreciate the energy and enthusiasm of children who feel ownership of their learning! Joyful children. Passionate children.

Schools should be as alive as childhood itself.  Learning is an active, energetic endeavor.  Isn’t it?

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