Have you ever seen this sign posted on the door of your child’s classroom and wondered what it meant? Montessori is unique in its insistence on freedom within a prepared environment. Teachers don’t “mandate”, they “invite” and “entice”. For this, an uninterrupted morning work cycle is needed. The school day is structured to provide learners with at least one daily uninterrupted work period appropriate to the age of the children in the class. This is traditionally understood as a two to three hour period in the morning. The purpose of this long, uninterrupted block of work time is to allow students to select work freely, eventually becoming absorbed in work that has a particular fascination for them at their point of development. Interruptions, no matter how valuable the alternative activity might seem to be, disturbs the fragile development of the child’s focus, concentration, and intellectual exploration on the task.
The classroom is developed for the children so they can achieve independence. Maria Montessori’s design of “casa dei bambini,” which translated means “children’s home” or “children’s community,” was a community for children where they should feel ownership and pride in the environment. The classroom is their community, more than it is for the adults. As you may have noticed, the rooms have appropriately sized furniture and materials, all work is eye level and made pleasing to a child’s eye. The idea remember, is to entice and invite the child. Having a choice in what they work with, rather than being told, allows children to develop independence, autonomy, and a healthy development of free will to learn. Montessori envisioned her education as a movement to empower children to create themselves as “joyful scholars.” Thus it is important for us as educators, students, and parents believing in and operating under the method prescribed to preserve the work cycle period. How can this be done? First a teacher must make the time in her schedule. Our school places door signs that read, “We are in our Work Cycle” as reminders of the concentration taking place or trying to take place within the room. Then when arriving late, saying goodbye to your student outside the door, remaining quiet as you allow them into the room, and abstaining from conversation with your teachers are all respectful practices.
Montessori Work Defined:
Work is a purposeful activity. Maria Montessori observed that children learn through purposeful activities of their own choosing; Montessori schools call all of the children’s activities “work.”
Children work with materials at their own pace, repeating an exercise until it is mastered. The teacher may gently guide the process, but her goal is to inspire rather than instruct. Throughout the classroom, beautifully prepared, inviting curriculum areas contain a sequential array of lessons to be learned. As students work through the sequence, they build and expand on materials and lessons already mastered. All the while they are developing qualities with which they’ll approach every future challenge: autonomy, creative thinking, and satisfaction in a job well done.
Some of the information here has been excerpted from an article found at The International Montessori Council website:
~ sabrina padgett ~