Originally Answered: How do most children adjust to traditional school's after attending Montessori from pre-K to 6th grade?
Whenever I hear this question I think about a scene in the movie Mean Girls. Kady, the movie’s protagonist has been homeschooled in Africa by her anthropologist parents. Her first “real” school is a public high school.
At first she is shocked and confused by the rules of the school. As she says in a voice over,”Never before had I lived in a world where adults didn’t trust me. I got in trouble for the most random things.” Then she is seen getting up to sharpen her pencil or to go to the bathroom and teachers being dismayed with her.
This is the kind of “transition” problem Montessori children have. They have been taught to be responsible and to think for themselves and now they are placed in a situation where they aren’t usually allowed to.
Being a Montessori teacher in a traditional school, I can tell you that these are the things that teachers get upset with. My program only goes to 3rd grade, so I get to hear it from the 4th grade teachers everyday. I’m not going to lie to you, they complain. I think it is human nature to be skeptical of things that are different and to try and find fault with them. But over the years I’ve tried to push past the complaints and actually look at the “problems” that my students have when transitioning.
First are the MANAGMENT problems. Asking permission for everything. Montessori students are used going to the bathroom when they need to go, they sharpen their pencils when they need to, they get up and get something that they need to complete their work with, they put on chapstick…. The only time I make them ask for permission is during a lesson or if they have been abusing the privilege, so a classroom where they have to ask permission, or just aren’t allowed to do such things during class time takes a little time to get use to.
SOCIAL- Montessori students are used to working together and helping their peers. They are used to using conflict resolution skills to work through their problems, they are used to the teacher not only respecting their input and opinions, but encouraging them, and they are use to respecting other children’s needs and having their needs respected. This can cause a problem when children are now in a situation where they are constantly given ultimatums and they aren’t allowed to come up with solutions on their own.
ACADEMIC- Montessori children are use to being able to move on to new material when they are ready for that information, not when the scripted program and district benchmark says that they should. They are also used to saying to the teacher, “I’m having a lot of problems understanding this concept, could you show it to me in another way?” Additionally, they are use to having a hand in their education. A common question is “May I study …. a write a report on it for science this week?” Obviously, in a classroom where the teacher follows a script and teaches only what they are scripted to teach, will take some time getting used to.
So yes, there are adaptation problems. But you know what? Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They know how to work independently and in groups. They are problem solvers who can make choices and manage their time well. So in general, after an initial adjustment period, they can do adapt quite well. And, at least in my eyes, the skills that they have learned from being in Montessori classroom completely outweigh the problems that they encounter when they first make the transition to a traditional school.
Additionally, I think you need to think about your goal for you child's education. As Matt, another Montessori teacher who posts here has stated in a similar answer, "If you're looking for someone to succeed in life, Montessori is a good choice. If you're looking for someone to succceed in public schools, the public school system might not be a bad choice."
I'm sitting here with two of my ex-students. I showed them your question and they wanted to add their two cents. This is the first time I've ever sat ex-students down and said, "Tell me about your transistion." All the other times I just listened and watched as teachers, parents, and children spoke about what was happening in the years following them leaving Montessori. Even I am amazed at how important their Montessori upbringing was to them. (Both children went from age 3 to third grade.)
"K" is 12 years old, in seventh grade and has been in a Gifted and Talented classroom since 4th grade. He says," It is really a big change. People in the traditional classrooms don't think about the other people in the classroom. They just think about how well they are doing. In addition they don't have the same relationship with their teacher, I felt like my traditional teachers just came to school to teach the lessons and not really to see how the students were thinking and caring. They didn't teach us about the things that you could base your life upon, and only worried about academics and scores on tests.
I had a problem with rules in a tradition classroom. I couldn't sharpen my pencil when I needed to; it was during a time when the teacher told us that we needed to take notes!
I also never got time to focus on what I was learning, it was always off to a different topic.
Teachers said every year that that they never finished teaching concepts because there wasn't enough time. But after the standardized test school just turned into a daycare center, it was like now we didn't have to learn anymore, why couldn't they finish or at least get a little bit closer to the end of the topics then?"
"S" is 9 and just went to a 4th grade GATE classroom, she says, "At the beginning of the year I would go home and feel bad for myself because my new teacher was so strict. Because it was the beginning of the year and she was trying to get the rules out. She would blame things on Montessori if I did something wrong. Like if I got up to get my own paper instead of sending my materials person to get it.
In GATE I kept on getting a lot of math and reading. Whenever I finished something, I got more and more work. But it was never new material, it was just more. LIke I was being punished for being smart.
I think that our teachers are just there to make us pass tests. I mean, I get tons of homework now, like 10 pages a night, but my teacher says as soon as the standardized tests are over we won't get any more homework. Do they really care about our education or do they just want us to pass the test?
I care about my grades and I don't want the teacher who just wants me to pass, I want to understand what I'm doing and how to do things. My teacher explains in a different way than I learn and it gets harder. Then when I get the assignment I don't know what to do, and then I can't finish it and she gets mad.They don't understand that different students have different learning skills.
When I grow up I want to be a doctor, but if I am being taught like this, it's going to be hard."
Both of my students want you to know that they are very glad they went to Montessori and even though they have had problems transitioning, they NEVER regret having grown up in Montessori classrooms.
K wants to end with, "I never will regret being in Montessori. It allowed me to use my energy towards my education as opposed to being punished for it."