Wednesday, September 5, 2007

They Inherit Our Bad Traits Too (or Why I Am In Love with the Montessori Teacher)

Geoff and I are both first born children: perfectionists, eager to please, not so interested in trying things that might lead to (gasp! horror of horrors!) failure. Growing up, if I wasn't guaranteed success on the first try at a new skill or activity, I was not all that interested in trying. Geoff was the same way.

It is not so surprising then, that we have two children who, though different in so many fabulous and interesting ways, are both completely paralyzed by a fear of failure in any new situation.

Thing Two turned four a month ago, still wearing pull-ups. He flat out refuses to get on a tricycle or anything with pedals. He won't draw more than straight lines and don't you even think of asking him if he wants to learn how to write his name. Most of his sentences start with "When I am bigger, I will ....."
Is this healthy? Of course not.
Does his fear of trying new things cause him anxiety and frustration that lead to angry outbursts? Yes.
Am I worried about him? Nope. Not a bit.

We had all these issues with his sister. And on her own time, she decided she could do all the things we feared she would never do.

So, when I got a note from Thing Two's preschool three weeks ago, stating that they were combining the younger and older four classrooms and adding a more academic focus, I called up the local Montessori School and asked for a tour. After the tour, I called up the old preschool and withdrew his enrollment.

In the Montessori school, he will direct his time, and no one will tell him what to draw or when. He will be engaged in activities that are as challenging as he wants them to be in an atmosphere of structured freedom that I know he will find comforting and reassuring.

I knew it was the right place for him when we went to meet the teachers last week and he had the following two encounters with Mr. Ben (yes! a male teacher! in preschool!):

Thing Two: What is this?
Mr. Ben explains the task and asks if Thing Two would like to try it.
Thing Two: I don't have that at home. I don't think I can do that.
Mr. Ben: But that's why we come to school, isn't it? To try new things?
Thing Two wanders away and Mr. Ben does not press the issue.

Thing Two, standing in front of the chalkboard easel: Can I draw here?
Mr. Ben: Sure.
Thing Two: I only know how to draw rain (he draws a vertical line) and grass (he draws a horizontal line).
Mr. Ben: I bet you can draw lots of other things.
Thing Two: Nope. I don't make them the right way.
Mr. Ben: But your way IS the right way, buddy.

Is it just a coincidence that today Thing Two brought me a drawing of a pig? Two circles! Connected! With a face! and legs!

Yes, Mr. Ben. Thing Two and I adore you now. And when you bring out your guitar on that first day, Thing Two's hero worship will be undeniable.


Felicia said...

Thank goodness for supportive teachers!

Beck said...

Good teachers are WONDERFUL.

msbelle said...

Oh, that's great! I'm getting excited right along with you! The teacher makes such a huge difference. Yay for circles!!!

Tracey said...

Yay Mr. Ben!

zellmer said...

Wow. You're a really good Mom for moving him to a better school.

stilettoheights said...

wow this is amazing and very inspirational.

I bet that pig drawing is the coolest thing you've ever seen.

gilfling said...

Hooray for Mr Ben!! Oh that is so amazing and I love the fact that your little one will get there ' in his own time' - what time could be better!!

And I just discovered that you nominated me for the uplifting blog award - well first of all I am humbled and then second of all mortified as I have been TERRIBLE at keeping up with the One Small Change challenge - positively awful - It is you that I come to for inpiration!!! You have been doing an incredible job with it. I shall start again next week - oh yes, I will.! said...

This is wonderful!
I think they will really enjoy this.

(p.s. I have tagged you for the Middle Name Game. No pressure though.)

Anonymous said...

This is a great story. I'm so glad you found a good space for your little man. The montessori system seems like such a comfortable space for growing confidence. Best wishes for a fun year!

sara.wears.skirts said...

you and jcasa actually make me want to have kidlets. that's impressive...

Tricia said...

That's great! A round drawing, ah sucess! I love how you call your kids Thing one and two, haha!
Steph, i received your lovely package in the mail today! They are so nice! thank you so much! I love them. One little problem though, the button came off the ring. I have glue problems since i started making jewellery and have experimented with different glues, i find the only one that works well is an epoxy glue (2 parts that have to be mixed together).

LemonCadet said...

This is so good to read! I'm glad he's found an excellent school.