Part of teaching at a Montessori school is that everyone chips in to help wherever they can. We come together as a community to keep our school safe, clean, and running smoothly. I feel like I’m generally able to help in most of the day to day tasks…except when it comes to the toilet paper dispenser. I have tried so many times to change the toilet paper dispenser in the women’s bathroom at my school. I have never been able to do it and always end up getting frustrated and leaving it for the next person to figure out. (Which is a total pet peeve of mine, just ask my husband). But today, quite determined, I looked at the dispenser differently. I looked for something I hadn’t yet seen. While most dispensers that I have experienced need the middle piece to come out, this one stays attached on one side. There’s a clip you have to pinch and voila, it pops right open. Today, not only did I help shape the future minds of America, I successfully changed toilet paper. I was very proud of my accomplishment.
For a long time I thought there must be something wrong with the dispenser. Yet, it was me, my attitude and outlook, that was the real problem. I had left that toilet paper roll empty with the new one sitting on top waiting for someone else to fix it many times before.
How many times do we become frustrated with a child for not acting the way we expect them to? How often do we look at them with the same pair of worn eyes filled with past experiences and judgments? And sadly, have we ever passed along a child to someone else to be fixed when we had given up on them? Dr. Montessori understood the uniqueness of every child. She created her works to meet the needs of diverse learners in a time when everyone was trying to “load the toilet paper dispenser” in the same way. Public education continues to enforce the same techniques over and over again expecting each child to receive it the same way. But, children are like toilet paper dispensers. This is why Montessorians spend so much time studying and observing the child so that we can see how they need to be “loaded”. If we’re becoming frustrated over and over again with a child or a situation, we need to step back and check ourselves first. What am I doing wrong? What type of assistance or mediation does this child require from me? How can I change what I’m doing to allow this child to be successful?
“Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.”-Maria Montessori