These can in fact happen in a room of twelve toddlers. And actually happen fairly often. Humans are hardwired to learn. When they are placed a room free from outside distractions and full of materials specifically targeted to capture their attention, toddlers will sit and focus intently sometimes for hours on end. Watching twelve toddlers silently working like the tiny little people they are gives me goosebumps every time.
-Clear communication of the expectations within a classroom from both teacher to teacher and teacher to student is vital.
I was super lucky to have been able to work for a while under the guidance of two wonderful Montessori teachers, and have had the pleasure of working with a couple other great assistants throughout my time here. As a team we maintain high and consistent expectations for the children in the class. This cuts down on the whole ‘mommy said no so I’m going to go ask daddy’ routine and minimizes the toddlers’ confusion about what sort of behavior is acceptable in the classroom. Also, there are an infinite number of situations that can arise when you put twelve toddlers in a room together for eight hours a day. And each one is entirely unique. The ability to discuss an appropriate response to any given situation [while the situation is actually occurring] with other knowledgeable adults has been incredibly helpful.
Having high expectations is sometimes conducive to high frustration. Learning can be a rip-out-your-hair process when you witness a person intentionally choose to perform a task incorrectly over and over again.
But that IS learning.
How often has this worked:
Step one: realize a truth about life.
Step two: alter your patterns accordingly.
For me, it often looks more like this:
Step one: realize a truth about life.
Step two: realize that truth means it would be beneficial for me to alter a certain pattern I’ve developed.
Step three: try the old way a hundred or so more times.
Step four: guess that’s not going to work.
Step five: try that new thing I’ve discovered.
Step six: SUCCESS! Step seven: repeat steps 3-6 a few dozen more times.
Patterns are patterns because we’ve done them over and over and over and over and pulling ourselves up out of a groove that’s been worn thousands of times takes a bit of an effort.
When everything is fresh, learning can take place in a snap but it doesn’t always happen that way. There are all kinds of factors involved: was the toddler attached to the old way of doing things is he receiving some sort of reward for this behavior elsewhere has a tiny detail within the environment changed in order to distract or confuse him is your paying attention to the fact that he just learned this thing going to make him want to pretend he needs to learn it again in order to get your attention again did he perform that action consciously or did it just sort of happen without any real memory of the thing.
Learning happens best when we are given the space, both emotionally and physically, to make mistakes, both emotionally and physically. We have to experience the results of our actions in order to truly understand them. Education works best in an environment in which children [and humans in general] are able to safely make as many mistakes as they need.
-Toddlers will bring out the best and the worst of you.
They will make you laugh and cry and want to scream and throw things through windows. They will make absurdly profound statements. They will tell you their penis is making dinosaur noises. They will shove a friend down for no particular reason. Later they will stop in the middle of an intense game involving some sort of monster to run over and check on that very same friend. They will grow incredibly quickly and bring you along for the ride, whether you like it or not. Working with toddlers has taken me to the depths of frustration and the peaks of joy. I’m infinitely grateful for my past two years at Hope Montessori Infant Toddler Community and all of the wonderful people who have helped me along the way.