My Years of Montessori – Part 2

In my tiny little school we have five teachers, affectionately known as “”The Team”” – and that is about as accurate a description as can be. Together, we not only teach and supervise the students, but we also run, administrate, organize, promote and develop the school. We are the secretary, the cook, the nurse, the guidance counselor and the janitor.

We five have developed a rhythm. An unwritten system has simply evolved in which responsibilities are divided up according to skills and the needs of the moment, with everyone pitching in and no one complaining. Time and again, when difficult situations have arisen (many of them having to do with parents who have different ideas about how the school should be, based on their own child’s specific needs), we have been there for one another. None of us are good friends in our private lives, but during school hours we are more like siblings than colleagues. And that includes the occasional spat –- a difference of opinion, a flare up. They can be intense, emotional, aggravating – but they are short-lived and they always get resolved because . . . in the end, we are a team and we stick together.

There are a few satellite team members: the art teacher who comes in one morning a week, a Special Ed teacher who is there to accompany our special needs student, and the two kindergarten teachers who work in a different part of the same building but in a separate institution with a different organizational structure. Once a month, we all meet to talk about issues of common interest. One of those meetings happened today.

The head kindergarten teacher had requested a half hour of our conference time in advance to talk about some issues she was dealing with. (This was not a new situation; we have often given over a good chunk of our planning time to listen to kindergarten teacher’s problems and to help her in any limited way we could.) Once we were all assembled, she took out her prepared notes and made a short introductory speech -– she asked us not to interrupt her, but to wait till she was done before we said anything. Her hands were shaking. She told us very matter-of-factly about two discussions she had had with the parents of one of her kids and their various criticisms – none of which seemed particularly serious. They were things like: “”Why do you all sit in a circle at the start of the morning?”” or ““Why do we have to go to a Lantern Fest?”” or ““Why aren’’t the kids outside more often?”” (Here it should be noted that there is a fenced-in garden and the kids are free to go outside anytime they want.) In other words, the criticisms were somewhat scoffable – not things like ““My child is afraid to go to school in the morning”” or “”Why does my child come home with bruises?””

At the end of this summary, my colleague stated with tears in her eyes that she can’t take it anymore and she has quit.

Stunned silence.

What the . . . ? . . . are you saying . . . ? . . . I don’’t understand . . . ? . . . is this a final decision . . . ? . . . when did things get so bad . . . ? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I don’’t know what to say.

It is a thin-skinned world I work in now. Half of me – – the hardened half that worked in the real world for 35 years -– is thinking “Please! Grow a spine!”. The other half -– the one that feels so at home in my new workplace -– is thinking “How could I have been so blind to the pain of one of my fellow teachers?”

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4 thoughts on “My Years of Montessori – Part 2

  1. two side notes:
    1 I don’t know how old this teacher is or how long she has been working, but maybe your wealth of experience gathered over decades equips you with an imperturbability and resilience, that she simply doesn’t have yet.
    2 I understand, the two kindergarten staff are not part of the core team. It’s real hard to work at a place, where one – be it by coincidence or structure – might feel excluded, left out or alone. Little problems easily get blown out of poportion, then.

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  2. It is definitely #2. She really IS on her own because the Kiga is a different entity – a private one owned by youknowwho (a fairly big name in your industry . . .) and youknowwho leaves her twisting in the wind a lot. With only one assistant, she bears ALL the responsibility for the place. Short of doing her job for her, we school teachers can’t do much beyond giving moral support. Which we do, but it seems she needs a lot more of that from us. Since we are all at our limits as it is – this is problem.

    I once asked if the school and/or kiga ever had a “Leiter” who DIDN’T burn out. The answer was no.

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    1. that – I am sure _ is true. And if youknowwho is like most people in my line of business, he is of no help at such matters at all. But I didn’t mean to blame anybody. Sometimes, people just can’t cope with pressure of any kind. And I guess, someone good at working with small children might be prone to yield to pressure even more.

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