Our Montessori Experience Continued
After negotiations with the Preschool Director, we tried another classroom on our fourth day with — it seemed — more communicative activities such as circle time with singing, more interaction between children and teachers, and more teachers. I was now permitted to walk around in the classroom, and my daughter started to explore her surroundings. She made a painting in her favorite colors pink and purple. But she wasn’t allowed to bring it home because a teacher decided weekly which “works” were ready to be taken home.
I started noticing that the noiseless children always seemed passive, in control: when they concentrated on their work, when they ate, when they stood orderly in line waiting to wash hands at the one bathroom sink, when they waited for food, and when they waited to put their plate in a sink after lunch. They displayed no outbursts, no signs of joy, not even during music time where the children had to sit still on chairs. The teachers had rules — it seemed to us — for every activity, every body movement, and other children excelled at correcting my daughter when she stood out of line, sat improperly on a chair, or forgot to clean up her “project.” The other children acted like policemen.
A serious facial expression and a nervous stare replaced my daughter’s beautiful smile, sparkling eyes, and joyful personality. She constantly endeavored to figure out the right way of doing things by observing and following the example of the other children.
Day five came to be our last day. No teacher had attempted to forge bonds with my daughter. According to the Montessori philosophy children are highly competent, and her teachers awaited her to approach them, when she was ready. Why did I stay one more day? Why didn’t I just quit after our second day?? I wanted to. But my husband reminded me that I’m extremely sensitive when it comes to starting my children at daycare and preschool. Which is true. Plus we stood to loose a large amount of money. And I actually liked the School Director, who continued to be very understanding.
On our last day, instead of being 100 pct. focused on engaging my daughter in activities (because the teachers didn’t), I started to really look around and observe the other noiseless children.
During music I observed a young boy, who was crying. He was asked to leave the circle and stand in the corner, because he was “disturbing” music time. No teacher attempted to hug him. He cried inconsolably and then stopped by himself.
Also, I had been scrutinizing a little girl for the two days we had stayed in our last classroom. At all times she had been wearing — inside and outside the classroom — a beige winter jacket and a snoopy bag pack. And she had been sucking on a pacifier (even though she was app. four) except at snack time and at lunch where she placed her pacifier next to her plate. No teacher had made an attempt to make her take her warm coat or back pack off. The Preschool Director caught me looking at the girl and said proudly: ”This is Sophie; she is French; she has been with us for three months; we communicate with her through hand signs.” Defying the silence rule, I walked over to her and told her in French: ”You are French, that’s so nice, I speak French too.” She took her pacifier of her mouth, smiled, and nodded vigorously. This was the first time in the two days that I had been observing her that I saw her show emotions and communicate. I got a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes, and when I left with my daughter shortly after, I knew that we would NEVER return.
Afterwards, I blamed myself for making such a mistake, such an error of judgment. I blamed myself for not trusting my guts. Thinking about the little French girl as one of the preschool’s perceived “successes” at integrating children with English as a second language enraged me. And scared me.
… To be continued.