The Honeymoon Period
Change is hard, and transitions to new spaces often come with a range of unexpected emotions. Montessori teachers are prepared for the unpredictability of the first few weeks of the year. You’ll see that in the simpler routines and the repeated, gentle reminders to children as they learn how to engage in their new classroom spaces. There may be fewer materials on the shelf, or there may be more explicit language from teachers to children directing them to the habits of the classroom. And, if your chid has been in school for a few weeks now, you are probably also noticing a settling in, and breathing a sigh of relief that the hardest part of the transition is behind you.
Be prepared. You might be in the middle of the honeymoon period. As children are adjusting to new spaces, they often tread with more caution than they will when they are comfortable and at ease. In other words, until they know their teachers and peers better, they’re on their best behavior, taking in all those new rules and learning about the environment. And once they have a better sense of the classroom and its expectations, they feel more comfortable testing it. That means that a classroom that may have been peaceful and seemingly at ease can get a little trickier a few weeks into the school year. Children who may have been arriving without distress may be more emotional. Children who have not challenged any of the classroom routines may demonstrate more “lively” activity. Don’t panic. The teachers understand these rhythms, and you’ll see a reaffirming of those same classroom routines and peaceful reminders that were necessary in the first few days of the year.
And in just the same way, hold a steady rudder as a parent. It’s natural and predictable that children should begin to test the boundaries of their new classrooms as they come to realize that they’re going to stay there for a while. Your role is to continue the same positive, confident demeanor you carried those first few days of school. Your child will look to you to see whether you remain sure and supportive of their classroom experience. If there’s new testing going on, keep your confident disposition (at least while your child is watching.) If you’re concerned, increase your communication with your child’s teacher, after school or when the children are not present, to make sure you understand how testing behaviors are playing out at school and to strategize together how to support your child as they move through them. Ask for details about how the day is unfolding and share whatever details your child offers at home… but don’t presume that what your child remembers at the end of the day is a fully accurate description of the day. That’s just not how children’s memories work. Instead, share those details as part of a larger, informed observation of how your child is transitioning to school and trust the collaboration of the teachers and other caregivers who are with them during the day. You’re working together to provide a reliable, nurturing transition between two spaces that each have their own norms and expectations. The more open, supportive communication you can offer to each other, the better care you each can offer to your child. And the sooner your child knows they are safe and secure, the sooner these transitional stresses will resolve.