A Morning Observing in a Montessori Classroom

October 30, 2022

It is about 9:00 am, half an hour after the children have come inside from the playground and begun their work.  I just arrived at the school to observe the classroom of my son a few months ago. As I walk towards his classroom I see two children, probably 5 or 6 years old, with the long one thousand chains laid out along the hallway.  As the name suggests, this is a chain comprised of a thousand golden beads, laid upon a fleece mat cut to the right size and length. The children are counting the beads one by one and lay number tiles by the appropriate beads as they count all the way up to one thousand.  They glance up at me as I walk by, smile, then go back to their work.

I enter the classroom itself and am amazed as always by the atmosphere within.  It is calm but busy.  There is a constant low level of noise– it is not absolutely quiet, nor is it loud, but there is simply a hum of low voices as they work and talk.  I make my way to the observation chair and take it all in.  There is something about the feel of a classroom full of children deep at work that is so inspiring.

I scan the room and find him, sitting among a group of 3-4 other children and their teacher.  They are working with the puzzle map of North America, learning the names of the different countries.  Then they sing a song that names them all, and I can hear his voice loud and clear singing with the others.  It’s the first time I have heard him sing so clearly and confidently, and my heart swells with pride.  I know he must feel very comfortable here.

I glance around to see what some of the other children are doing.  I see several with their own moveable alphabets on rugs on the floor, spelling out words in front of them. I smile– amused at their phonetic misspellings, elated by their ability and joy in writing out words, sentences, and even whole stories independently.  I see a couple of children slip out the sliding glass door onto the garden to do their work in the fresh air and sunshine.  A small girl, probably just 3 or 4 years old, has the first box of color tablets laid out on a rug. She is doing an advanced variation on this work– she has laid out the tablets along one edge of the rug, and is going out into the classroom to find objects that match the color of each tablet. She has a yellow vase and a blue colored pencil already on her rug, each placed beside its matching tablet. She is now searching for something red. Afterward, she will return each item to its proper place in the classroom.  It’s an impressive feat of memory and concentration for such a young child to navigate a classroom full of her friends without being distracted from her task and remember where everything needs to go afterward.

Almost all children are engrossed in their work, be it practical life, math, sensorial, etc. A few may be engaged in conversation, or a lone child may simply be observing others as they work before deciding what work to choose for himself. It doesn’t surprise me exactly, but it always astounds me just how calm and orderly the classroom is. Over the course of an hour or so I watch my son get a new lesson, work on a puzzle with one of his best friends, and have a snack (washing his hands beforehand and putting his dirty plate away afterward. He always seems so grown up in the classroom).

Before long I look at the clock and see it’s time for me to leave. I catch the teacher’s eye and give a small wave to let her know I’m leaving, then quietly slip out so as not to disturb anyone’s concentration. I take a deep breath as I walk back to my car, feeling a sense of peace and joy come over me. This is such a wonderful place for my child to be, and I am so glad he is here.

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