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How to avoid calling children from across the room

Dear Ask a Montessorian,

I play several roles at my school, including teacher and administrator.   I have noticed that I am raising the voice in my environment and I am not being able to control it. When I notice that someone is using a material in the wrong way or something similar or disruptive, I feel angry and call the child’s name across the room. How can I improve in this area?

–Alyssa S.

Dear Alyssa, congratulations on your achievement of both roles! You must be very busy and rewarded daily by your work as administrator and guide in the classroom.

Now, take a deep breath and know that within yourself, you already hold the answer to your questions. Because you are skilled and aware of your own feelings of frustration and sense of discord, you can tap into coping strategies before and during challenging situations. Here are 5 easy strategies to implement right away:

  1. Recognize that this IS and ISN’T personal.

Children are learning and require repetition and reminders of the expectations–especially when it comes to behavior. You have the honor of reminding and guiding them and while we cannot control the child, we can influence and guide their behavior by how we react.

  1. Pause.

In the moment, when you feel like calling out, pause. This is a challenge, but if you pause and count to 10, you give the child a chance to self-correct, the other children to step in, and ultimately you can think of how you will react. If the child is in danger, step in immediately and say something such as, “I don’t want you to get hurt, I must put this away for you” and proceed to calmly collect the material (sometimes it’s necessary to completely remove it for a work cycle and redirect to something in nature such as looking out the window, the nature shelf, or your classroom library). However if there is no danger, proceed to the next step.

  1. Note to Self.

Make a mental note or write the issue on a slip of paper. Schedule time daily to review what you are observing and use this as a tool for developing grace and courtesy lessons.

  1. Grace and Courtesy.

Plan to present a grace and courtesy lesson every single day. Make it part of the routine and speak scripted and calmly. “Today, we will practice how to remind one another to push in a chair. Sometimes I notice chairs have been left out. This is a problem because it can cause us to trip or get hurt. Let me show you how we solve this by pushing our chairs in or reminding one another to do so.”  Gather around a table with chairs left out. Ask for a volunteer (possibly a co teacher) and present the lesson to the group.

  1. Individualize.

You might notice one or two children who need constant reminders and repetition in order to grasp social graces and appropriate use of materials. Prepare yourself first; sometimes this means waiting until the next work cycle. Invite the child when you are not frustrated and can present the lesson individually. Also, consider presenting something new if you suspect misuse to be a result of boredom. Ultimately, remember that we are unique. The child who tests rules and limits is your greatest classroom anthropologist. The child who commands attention is your classroom leader. The child who explores and tests the materials is your scientist. Look for the strengths of the children and present materials that call upon their strengths, all the while knowing that you are in the presence of the hope and promise for mankind.  As Dr. Montessori said, “the child is both the hope and a promise for mankind.” 

Monica Johnson,

CGMS Early Childhood Instructor