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Daycare Center and Family Home Forum>Conflict With Coworkers Over Discipline Styles
Lissa Kristine 12:32 PM 09-30-2017
I recently started a new job at a "Montessori" preschool. I used quotations because what I am seeing in this school and what my impressions of Montessori should look like are two very different things.

To start, the approach seems to be a combination of dictation and letting kids run free with no control. This is a group of 2-5 year olds (with most being 3 and 4). Twice a day, they are told to sit down at a table and are made to trace letters or copy words/letters in notebooks depending on skill level. Those who cannot trace the letters have their hands held as they are guided to do their letters. These forced "notebook times" can last upwards of 20-30 minutes. If a 4 year old accidentally writes the numeral "5" backwards (something, I struggled with myself until I was in first grade) she is told by the other teachers to "erase it and do it the right way."

Yesterday, the kids were getting a little restless in the afternoon. Lunch was at 11:30 followed by naptime, snack time (where the girls were told to eat without talking even after most had been silent for over two hours), and notebook time. All in all, we're looking at about 4 hours or so of preschoolers sitting. The other teacher there determined that it was too cold to go outside (it was in the mid to upper 60s- warm in the sun- especially if running around outside), so they didn't have outside time. My coworker's approach to the kids getting a little restless was to put some nursery rhyme cartoons on a tablet and make the kids sit quietly to watch.

My instinct was the opposite. In the absence of outside time, my thought was to open up as much floor space as possible, put on some music, and let the kids have a "dance party" to get some of their energy out.

I am also constantly at odds with some of my coworkers. One minute, I'm being reprimanded for disciplining the children, but the next, I'm reprimanded for letting the children do something they aren't supposed to do. On Tuesday, I told a toddler to stop throwing dirt and wood chips (after some dirt got into my eye). I was told that I am just supposed to "observe" and that they're allowed to throw dirt. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, I was reprimanded because a four year old took it upon herself to pour some Cheerios into a cup (which she spilled) despite me telling her to wait. Yesterday, I confiscated a toy car from a four year old boy who was rolling it to his friends during naptime. Without even asking me what had happened, one of my coworkers (the same one who told me not to tell the kids not to throw dirt) forcibly took the car from me and returned it to the child, telling me to "let him sleep with it." If he HAD been sleeping with it, it would be one thing, but he and his friends were trying to make the car "jump" from one cot to another. [The car was confiscated a second time from the assistant director- though other teachers, and my boss seemed to blame me; it was returned by the director after the boy continued to throw a tantrum over it. I took it a THIRD time when, while playing with it, he rolled it right over to me. That time, he did NOT throw a fit about it, and he did not get it back until after nap.]

I'm having a really hard time adjusting to the discipline styles (or lack thereof) of my coworkers. That, coupled with dealing with kids over the age of 2 who won't eat unless they are spoon fed (I was a toddler teacher previously and all of my children (who were 1 and 2) ate just about everything without any assistance.

The one thing I am finding is that I am able to- quite easily- capture the attention of MOST of the kids during circle time, etc without yelling. And, when I do have a chance to step in assert some authority, the kids do respond pretty well. I just feel trapped because there's always a chance that any amount of discipline I do (from redirecting a child to temporarily removing a child or toy from a situation, etc) will be immediately undermined by my coworkers. I cannot be expected to keep control over the children if this happens, and this can have very drastic consequences beyond dirt in the eye or spilled Cheerios. The children in the school often take off running down the hallway ahead of the teachers, or they will attempt to leave the fenced playground area. The school uses a church building, so there are often strangers in the same building. The list of potential things that could happen to a child who is so out of control and completely unresponsive to discipline seems endless, and I do not want to be the one "responsible" should such an event occur.
flying_babyb 02:13 PM 10-01-2017
talk to your boss, let her know your worries. Let her know your worried for the kids safety. See what she says. Dont toss anyone under the bus by name. Also ask for a written set of rules to be posted in the classroom, that way everyone knows what needs to be inforced
Hunni Bee 12:24 PM 10-03-2017

1. I am not well-versed in Montessori practices...but I can tell you that NONE of that is developmentally appropriate or best practice. The notebook writing, the hand-over-hand tracing, the being made to re-do it until its "right". The not going outside, the watching of cartoons, the inconsistency of discipline. All wrong.

2. Take it from someone who worked at a crappy daycare for 5 years trying to turn it into a good place for probably need to find another job. It will just suck your soul.

This place is clearly using "Montessori" as a mask for them to not really have a curriculum, do any real teaching, etc. They are clearly mired in this and are not interested trying to actually be Montessori or even developmentally appropriate.

Im sorry you have to deal with this. I advise you to start looking for another job. One of the great things about childcare is that we are always hiring
Josiegirl 04:03 PM 10-03-2017
I agree with HunniBee. Sounds like someone stuck the term Montessori on their sign, figuring it would attract tons of clients, then they'd just wing it. I don't think anything you told us about in your post, is developmentally appropriate or quality child care, let alone Montessori.

You could talk with your boss but I think the problems are much more than differences in discipline. I'm with HB, I'd look for a different place to work. This group does NOT sound like someone that would be easy to work things out with.
Lissa Kristine 08:30 PM 10-03-2017
I actually have a toe in the doorway of another daycare... one that will offer me MORE hours and has actual babies and toddlers- not four year olds who are less independent than the one-year-olds I used to work with.

I'm just trying really hard not to lose my patience while I'm still employed at this place. One coworker, "B" is the worst. Today, I told the kids on their mats that they needed to keep their shoes on (as per our DIRECTOR'S instruction- in case of evacuation). B told me that I'm not allowed to tell one of the kids what to do because he isn't my kid. (I should add that I work from 11:30 to 6 most days; B leaves between 12 and 12:30, so we don't spend much time together). In the short time that we ARE together, B will often (loudly) try to engage me in conversation about the weekend, what she should wear on a date, Halloween costumes, etc at the most inopportune times. Her favorites are when I'm trying to keep the kids engaged in a post-lunch "Circle Time" or when the kids are settling down for their naps. Of course, this means that the kids are kept up and either sleep late OR they reach the point where they are so wound up that they never sleep. (I've learned that a lot of kids have a "sweet spot" with naptime; if they are on their mats for too long without settling down, then they just won't sleep.

I will say that if I'm left alone (even though I'm not supposed to be), situations that often trigger tantrums with some of the kids lead to NOTHING. The kids seem to understand that I don't give in to screaming and crying. I also don't tolerate things like kids running down the halls into the other classrooms unsupervised. (I came from the world of corporate daycare where allowing the kids to do that would result in instant termination. When I worked with 1 and 2 year olds, my kids knew to line up against the wall when getting ready to leave the classroom, and they were counted going in and out of the room). The kids are starting to see that I don't mess around with misbehavior, but I am also a lot more relaxed about other aspects such as play time. I don't expect four year olds to sit quietly for 4 straight hours. I wouldn't pass out a cutting worksheet to half a dozen kids who don't know how to use scissors. That would just frustrate them. My approach was to give the kids strips of paper so they could just practice using scissors without the pressure of cutting on a line.

Reasons I haven't walked out of this job:

1. I'd have to face my boss eventually if I want my paycheck.
2. Abandoning the kids could ruin my potential of working at another daycare in the future.
3. I'm poor and cannot afford to be out of work right now.
Tags:co-workers, co-workers - competitive, daycare environment, discipline - policy, discipline policy, montessori
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