It seems that in a typical mainstream environment, children are not given the time to develop their concentration… because they are never given the opportunity to concentrate! Intensive lessons that are mentally draining are also interrupted by specialist lessons, announcements over the loudspeakers, teacher aides moving in and out of the room and bells ringing. Children are not given the opportunity to finish tasks and are often asked to pack up when instructed and to “finish it next time because now we have to practice counting by fives”. How on earth can a child learn persistence, hard work and concentration in an environment that is full of these interruptions?
In an environment where we don’t value the work a child is trying to finish? What kind of message is this sending to our children? “Don’t worry about trying hard because you are never going to get to finish it anyway”, or, “It doesn’t matter if you rush it just hurry up and get it done because you need to get it all finished by lunch time”! Children in this environment do not seem to value their work. To them, if they can please the teacher by just “getting it done”, then that is all that matters. Often they do not try their best, they scribble quickly or copy other children just to get work finished. We have taken away the opportunity for our young children to feel proud of achieving success through their hard work and have replaced it with rewarding the children with gold stars and stickers. How does this affect the child’s developing personality?
The mainstream schooling timetable has become increasingly hectic and jam packed with lessons. In an attempt to provide enriched learning environments, young children are exposed to a huge array of activities even before their morning tea break! In the mainstream school environment it is becoming common to program “literacy and numeracy blocks” in the mornings before 12pm. These literacy and numeracy blocks may be an hour and a half of literacy activities followed by an an hour of maths activities. Children in the youngest classes are asked to focus for long periods of time on mentally challenging work. A literacy block in a typical morning for a five or six year old child can include: Daily writing, sight words, phonics, handwriting, comprehension activities, oral language activities and reading groups. Needless to say, by morning tea break at 11, both the young children and the teacher are often exhausted!
Is it any wonder that so many children have poorly developed attention and concentration skills? In my experience, most of the children are unable to concentrate and cope with the hectic schedules and busy environment of the mainstream classroom.
Would you like to work in an environment where you had no down time? No ability to choose what you wanted to work on, and when? No opportunity to really get ‘stuck in’ to a topic and complete something you are passionate about?
Montessori education provides time, freedom and calm. It is the perfect environment for young children to develop their concentration and inner drive to learn. Their efforts are valued, they are not interrupted. The message we send children in a Montessori environment is, “You are important and the work you are doing is important.”
Now, if only more Primary Schools in Queensland would incorporate Montessori streams so that more children could have this option!