In my 6 years of experience working in a Montessori classroom I have observed an interesting pattern.
Transitions, particularly from one classroom to another, one would think, would be a breeze. The rising students already know many of the children at the new level because the year before—and the year before that—many of them were classmates at the previous level. However, I have witnessed a repetitive social-emotional event. Third-year Primary students have achieved “top of the class” status. Essentially, they have had three years of practicing and mastering nearly every lesson in the Primary level and are generally more than ready to move on to Lower Elementary. The big day comes and they walk through the door into the Lower Elementary classroom as first year students. Suddenly, they become “the wanderers.”
They wander around the classroom for at least the first month or two, looking unsure of what to do. They sometimes avoid choosing lessons as well as debate what they think they already know versus what still needs to be taught. After all, there are new teachers, new and challenging lessons, more expectations, more responsibilities, more accountability, more consequences, more privileges, more reading, more writing, and a few more rules! All of that can be pretty daunting, especially at the tender age of six. The thought that may enter a first year Lower Elementary parent’s mind is; “is my child succeeding like she was in Primary?” Don’t despair parents, by the second half of their first year, they settle in to a routine and become more confident in most skills. By their second year they are more fluent readers, writers, and mathematicians. By the time they reach their third year, they begin to mature into leaders, and then, they bridge to Upper Elementary and start all over again at the bottom of the “social totem pole.”
Just yesterday Dr. Moncure relayed to me a conversation he had with one of my students. This first year Lower Elementary student explained to him the difference between his current experience and his memory of the previous school year as a Primary. “This is much harder,” he explained. As examples, he told the Headmaster, that “I can read a book this thick [putting about ½ inch between his thumb and forefinger] and they can barely read at all.” “And I can do math [he can actually do small math problems in his head] and they can’t.” From the mouth of a 6-year old—who struggles with self-regulation from time to time (the original reason he was speaking with the Headmaster): he could easily see and articulate the challenge of a new level.
Consider this: when you were an 8th grader in Junior High/Middle School and you earned that “top of the school” status. You may have walked out of that school perhaps believing you knew everything, and then, reality hit when you walked into the halls of High School as a Freshman....