Sounds like a teacher problem...

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 14, 2010 06:00 AM

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My son is in 1st grade at Montessori school. He does his morning work at school until 2:30 p.m. He is reluctant to do it. After two weeks, his teacher let me know he has not had a single recess because he doesn't do his work when required. She suspended him "at least for a week," she said, because she is fed up with him.

He wet his pants two days in a row at school. The teacher said he smells like urine and can't be around other children because of it. When I asked him why he did not go to pee in the bathroom he said, "because there are monsters in the bathroom." At home, he always asks me to go to the bathroom with him because he is scared.

I am a single parent going to school. His father is not in his life much. Sometimes he calls him but that's all. How can I help him do his job willingly? I think his self esteem has been hurt because the teacher asked me to take him home.

From: Zabata, Stockton, CA

Hi Zabata,

This doesn't sound like a toileting issue or a learning issue, and it isn't about Montessori or its philosophy. It's about this teacher. Even private schools can have duds for teachers.

Talk to the head of the school. I'm not an expert on Montessori but I don't think any head of any school would be happy to hear a teacher is "fed up" with a child. What's more, if I'm reading your letter correctly, she sent him home for a week? In first grade?

(For those readers unfamiliar with Montessori schools, they are private schools based on the teachings of Maria Montessori. There are more than 8,000 Montessori schools in the US and they aren't cheap, so they are popular and obviously successful.)

In the meantime, of course, there's your son, who needs support and empathy and maybe some pocket-sized monster spray to carry in his back pocket that he can take into any bathroom before he uses it. You also need to get a better handle on the work itself to figure out why he doesn't like it. Is it too easy or too hard? Is there a learning issue or is it the teacher and the structure of the work period? You need answers. Don't be afraid to ask the questions, including, "Is this school the right fit for my son?"

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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32 comments so far...
  1. I am also wondering if this is a new school for your son - where did he do Kindergarten and preschool (if at all)? Are these brand new "issues"?

    Sounds like first grade reform school/camp to me! Terrible!

    Posted by RH October 14, 10 07:53 AM
  1. Any teacher who seems to be that short fused that she is "fed up with him" should maybe reconsider her profession. No wonder the kid has had a couple of accidents. I am not a teacher by any means but I can imagine it must be a tough job, however, it is her job to be able to make learning interesting and fun for children af that age. It makes me wonder why she thinks it is appropriate to suspend a 1st grader as opposed to actually finding out what the underlying issue is.

    Posted by JD October 14, 10 09:21 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara. This teacher definitely sounds like a dud and I am so sorry to hear about what your son is going through. If would see about changing schools and speak seriously with the administrator at the least.

    Posted by Sarah October 14, 10 09:25 AM
  1. No wonder the child is afraid of "monsters" - there's one teaching his class. Who suspends a 1st grader? I could only see this in the case of a child who had serious behavioral issues that threatened the other children somehow. I would definitely want to know if the head of the school condones suspending a child this young.

    Posted by Q October 14, 10 10:30 AM
  1. No recess? Detention? Suspension? All for not completing his work on time? This is a young child, still new to school. It's first grade!

    That the teacher's reaction to a student of this age who is struggling with his work is to punish him and deny him breaks is stunning. He may have learning issues; he may have fears or emotional struggles with school. He might simply be on the young side. In any case, the teacher should have been taking a far different tack than this. Before letting him go back to this teacher, talk to the principal. ASAP. This poor kid is being taught to hate and fear school, and his esteem is of course damaged now too. (I am not quick to be harsh on teachers; many in my family, including my husband, teach. But this is really a time to tell the principal what has been going on, and demand a better environment for your son -- a different teacher at least, and perhaps a different school.)

    Posted by jlen October 14, 10 10:40 AM
  1. If I were teaching first grade and there was a kid who can't do the work and repeatedly wet his pants, I'd probably feel fed up too, although I wouldn't say it that way. Something is wrong here beyond the teacher--bad placement, maybe Montessori isn't right for him, etc.

    First graders should not need "monster spray" and should not be afraid of the bathroom.

    Posted by di October 14, 10 11:26 AM
  1. I believe taking away recess will have a negative impact on his ability to complete his work as well. Young children are full of energy and from my own experience, little boys especially have a very hard time concentrating with all of that energy built up. We allow my 1st grade son plenty of play time after school so he can better concentrate when its homework time. Otherwise, he can't sit still.

    As for the accidents...my first grade son is having them too. Its an adjustment period that he is just going through right now. Our public school teacher simply asked that everyone leave a change of clothes at school for their child in the event of accidents. First graders have them! First grade teachers should know this and be able to deal with it.

    I think what Barbara suggested is right on. You need to ask some tough questions to the school and to yourself to decide if this is the right place for your son.


    Posted by Sarah October 14, 10 01:24 PM
  1. This poor child. I agree wholeheartedly with Barbara and commenters. Something seems seriously wrong here - and you will be doing your son a great service by showing him that YOU aren't fed up with him, and that you won't allow him to be treated so harshly. Talk to the principal, and, if necessary, find a new school for your son. It breaks my heart to think of what your boy has gone through. Not a good way to start his schooling...

    Posted by CMF October 14, 10 01:43 PM
  1. Children who are "afraid of the bathroom" who have continence issues at this age may be sexually abused. 10% of our population is.

    Posted by wyoming October 14, 10 01:59 PM
  1. My son also attends a Montessori school. He also had problems in first grade getting his work completed in a timely fashion. The Montessori environment challenges students to be self-directed. This is great for the growth of independence -- but it can take a while for a child to adapt.

    I'm horrified to hear that a school that is supposedly "Montessori" would keep a child in from recess! One of the most basic principles of Montessori education is that there is NO clear distinction between learning and play. Children learn in everything they do, and suspending a child from recess serves only to create artificial distinctions that inhibit progress.

    Sue the school for a refund of your tuition and put the child in a healthier environment. Report their perversion to the association of Montessori schools in the hope that they lose accreditation. Best of luck!

    Oh, and my son? He loves school and has figured out how to manage his time (and avoid distractions) in a TRUE Montessori environment. It was a challenge, but he grew to meet that challenge.


    Posted by TF October 14, 10 02:16 PM
  1. It's not just the teacher who's a dud. It's the whole school. Wouldn't the administration know if a student was suspended for a week? And they let this happen? This is not the way a situation like this would be handled in a Montessori School. Did you know, there is no agency that certifies a school as "Montessori"? Any school can call itself one. Thus, many may not hold true to Montessori principles. Find another school.

    Posted by fordpem October 14, 10 02:27 PM
  1. It isn't exactly surprising that a kid who has lavatory issues at home has worse ones in school... how were the kid, teachers etc prepped to handle this?

    Dr. Montessori's original school was designed for orphans from rough backgrounds, who needed to learn coordination, cleanliness, not to bump into things, to polish their shoes, etc., before they could learn things like reading and writing. By the time I attended (US, '60's, school founded by sophisticated parents), that element was more symbolic than thoroughgoing. I remember that we girls didn't have the issues that my brother did, as he was more social and physically active and less self directed. We mostly attended pre-K and K, so of course no homework.

    Posted by Elizabeth October 14, 10 03:55 PM
  1. The problem with teachers in this country are most are women who favor female students... They build lesson plans around the way girls learn best and exspect 8 year old boys to sit for hours at time... They get mad when they can't. Sexism is alive and well in schools. But it's against boys, so no one cares.

    Posted by typical October 14, 10 04:08 PM
  1. I hate to say it, but I'm with wyoming. The first thing I thought of was that maybe someone harmed him in the bathroom, and that's why he's afraid to go back. His teacher sounds like a throwback to the 1940's. Mom should get him out of there.

    Posted by chilly October 14, 10 04:09 PM
  1. Good glory, Maria Montessori must be rolling in her grave! Suspensions, no recess for a first grader? Is this REALLY a certified Montessori school? If it is, they should be reported to the national organization-I am serious about this! Montessori theory encourages self-directed learning with gentle guidance by teachers and aides. I am not aware of specific 'work' that is required in the AM or PM. Honestly, this school may not be a good fit for the child. Certainly the teacher is not a good fit. Develop a "Plan B" with other school options for your child just in case. Also, it sounds like you need to call the pediatrician to look at the toileting/monster issue. This may be a control issue with him or as someone suggested, he may have experienced some trauma while using the restroom. In general, it sounds like a good idea for you and the poor little guy to see a counselor.


    Posted by Bambino's Mom October 14, 10 05:57 PM
  1. I'd take him out of that school, or at the very least, that class, pronto.

    This is NOT good educational practice, and ABSOLUTELY not Montessori practice.

    Posted by Robin October 14, 10 06:42 PM
  1. I am disgusted with this whole thing. Not letting a child go to recess, suspension in first grade. I use to be a preschool teacher and I would definitely have someone fired for that. This is adding way more stress to your child that he doesn't need. School should be a safe, fun place to be. I would also look into why he isn't getting his work done when asked. He may be really struggling with the work that is being taught especially since his teacher seems like an idiot. If she doesn't have patience she is in the wrong profession. I am a single mother of three and we are our childrens only voice, and it is a lot harder for them even if the other parent is in there life it's a huge adjustment and trust really becomes an issue. Your child needs to have a teacher who is going to earn his trust and help build is confidence. I think the bathroom issues have more to do with what is going on at that school than anything else. If I were you I would be talking to whoever I could about this. And if the director doesn't help i would be going over her/his head too. I wish you and your son the very best, I hope this gets resolved quickly.

    Posted by angry October 14, 10 07:07 PM
  1. I agree with many of the posts that commented that this may be a bad fit between the child and school. It's possible he would do better in a more stuctured and teacher directed classroom, especially as it seems as if he might tend to be on the anxious side (I'm guessing this based upon his fears about the bathroom). Learning issues also need to be considered. As someone who works it education, it also sounds like a bad fit between the adult and her career, or at least the grade level she has taught. Being so punitive with a young child is absolutely uncalled for, and I hope his mother had discussed this with the school's director.

    Posted by Julia's mom October 14, 10 07:11 PM
  1. I would first find out why he thinks there are "monsters" in the bathroom. Does he use public restrooms alone? And, what does he read? Check his storybooks. Sometimes I am amazed at what is written for young readers and how they perceive it.

    What work do they have in Montessori that is not manipulative? Most real Montessori work is done with a hands on learning approach, very pragmatic, learn by doing.

    Recess is good for teachers too. Sometimes they need a break Teaching was rated second most stressful to air traffic controllers at one time.

    I really do not feel that a public forum without the facts is appropriate here. And, in my opinion, private schools have often been for perfect people. The rest of us go to public. Many are not rated that high in competition either.

    Pamela Bunting Lewis former teacher, Mother, and one whose own daughter went to Montessori from age 2 1/2 to 5.

    Posted by Pamela Bunting Lewis October 14, 10 07:23 PM
  1. I read/agree with just about ALL of these comments.I have a grandchild in that grade and this is so thought provoking. I am re-Posting it.

    Posted by Valerie Miller October 14, 10 07:27 PM
  1. Dear Mom, Teachers come in all sizes, shapes and attitudes. Unfortunately, there is a monster at the school, but not in the bathroom. She is in your child's classroom and is an authoritarian bully. Take your son's side IMMEDIATELY. You need to advocate for him with a school program that is being stupid, if not downright abusive. Let him know that adults....even teachers....can be cruel, unfair and wrong! In every creative way you can, help him find his voice and start learning how to advocate for himself. He's done a good job in talking to you. Maybe you could let him tell you how this teacher's actions make hime feel...write it down and read it to the principal. That should start making some changes.

    Posted by Mom Whose Been There October 14, 10 08:50 PM
  1. My nephew's NV public school has a program where students get points for running laps -- before school, at recess, after school. That has got to help active kids with the sitting part of school. (and gosh, now I remember playing 'duck, duck, goose' and other outdoor games at Montessori. They later added some kind of dance or gymnastic classes.)

    Posted by Elizabeth October 14, 10 09:10 PM
  1. I'm not a teacher but I'm a mother of 3. It sounds like the teacher or maybe the school has a problem not the child. At this age they should expect "accidents" at my kids elementary school the nurse had bags of extra clothing for the children because of this.

    Sounds like the school may be wrong for the kid perhaps like my middle kid who needed lots of structure he might need that too which they don't have too much of at Montessori schools. Also a first grader needs recess to run off steam.

    Posted by sarahc October 14, 10 09:20 PM
  1. I know it will not be convenient now, but find a different school for your son. This school may call itself a Montessori school, but it is not. This is an authoritarian environment whose focus is not developmental. Find a program focussed on reaching kids at their developmental level and your son will be much happier, less anxious and feel more competent. Follow up with your pediatrician on the toileting issues just to rule out physical causes. Best wishes to you both!

    Posted by laMissy October 14, 10 10:29 PM
  1. This is NOT how any school should handle a situation like this, and especially not a Montessori school, where the rights of the child are and his well-being are respected above everything else. Either find a quality Montessori school (look for the AMI accreditation, that means it's constantly evaluated for quality standards and the teachers must have extensive training and a clear understanding of child development) or put him in public school if you can't afford a quality private school. Don't leave him in that environment; IT WILL DESTROY HIS LOVE FOR LEARNING FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE!

    Posted by tomsgirlinsd October 15, 10 12:21 AM
  1. FYI ...There are not 8,000 private Montessori schools in the U.S. There are about 4,100 private Montessori schools in the U.S. plus about 280 public Montessori schools and another 120 charters.

    Posted by Dennis Schapiro, Editor, Public School Montessorian October 15, 10 06:56 AM
  1. Gee...recess used to be the time that first grade teachers got kids outside for fresh air and movement regardless of winter/summer temperature. They then herded all the kids through the bathroom right after they finished playing. This meant almost no interruptions in the learning segment. It also meant a minimum of toilet accidents or "forgetting" to go.

    Is this style of teaching a lost art?

    First grade is a time to model to children how to work, how to pace yourself, and how to manage your bladder without stress. Expecting six year old kids to already know how to do this is inhuman.

    Don't teacher colleges consider basic human physiology anymore?

    Posted by Irene October 15, 10 08:32 AM
  1. I'm a teacher, and I agree that this woman is way out of line and I'm doubting that the school is really Montessori. If the administrators don't give him a different teacher (or replace her with someone better), switch schools. Unless your local public school is notoriously bad, I'd be willing to bet you could find your son a good teacher there. Explain your situation to the head of the school so they can find you a really understanding teacher. Then explain his past history with the old teacher to the new one so that she'll know she has some previously instilled issues to ease him out of. Poor guy. Whatever you do, don't let it sit.

    Posted by Barbara Desai October 15, 10 03:37 PM
  1. While it is logical to jump immediately to "THE TEACHER IS WRONG," we also need to consider the alternative: This is not all the information. Not only that, but the information provided doesn't jive. Perhaps this story is dramatized?

    I've never heard of an open ended suspension that lasts "at least..." Schools suspend children for a set amount of time. I can't think of anything a teacher or administrator would have said that it would be interpreted this way.

    I've never heard of a suspension because a teacher was "fed up." Kids get suspended for violence, insolence, stealing, dangerous behavior, and other major issues. Perhaps this child has something else going on that mom didn't mention in the letter. Something along the lines of, "Johnny does the exact opposite of whatever the teacher asks in blatant defiance. He pouts and stares at the work he's supposed to be doing, even when prompted or positively encouraged."

    A teacher would not separate a child because of his smell. Perhaps the teacher told the mother that the other *kids* didn't want to be around him because he smells like urine? If that's the case, I don't blame them. Part of school is learning social consequences, and kids will not choose to remain in an unpleasant situation.

    Montessori schools don't have recess. The idea is that kids learn through play, so they play all day. They learn at the same time. This just doesn't make sense.

    It sounds to me like this is a disgruntled parent who has below-age-appropriate expectations for her six year old (accompaniment into the bathroom?) and who has a child who is not behaving appropriately in class (he didn't get suspended just for wetting his pants twice and not working) and is upset because the teacher doesn't share her views. The story got twisted around. We received a *very* biased and incomplete version, followed by a "What can I do to help?"

    I wonder if the teacher's account would read, "Johnny's behavior requires constant redirecting. Johnny refuses to follow any and all directions and constantly seeks attention. He repeatedly interrupts the class and does not participate in an age-appropriate manner. We have tried increased positive adult attention, behavior and consequence charts, special rewards, and other tactics, but Johnny still requires a significant amount of redirection. We are working with Johnny's mother to demonstrate age-appropriate behavior and techniques to create boundaries for Johnny." And there ARE children who use toileting as an attention seeking plan. They don't consciously see it that way or think it through, but from an adult perspective, Johnny gets one-on-one adult time each time he gets an adult to come in with him or has to be changed. I had one of these children last year, and it was a controlled decision for him.

    As a teacher, I'll be the first to tell you that we're not all perfect, or even good at our jobs. However, there is a real willingness to jump on the 'bash the teachers and the school' bandwagon that is distressing. Teachers can certainly be wrong, but parents can too. There are many who school-hop, complaining about 'schools these days' and 'things they made us do.' I request only that you look at both sides of any story, consider the source, and remember that someone's perception of an event is not always true to the way it happened.

    Posted by First Grade Teacher October 15, 10 04:18 PM
  1. @First Grade Teacher, "Montessori schools don't have recess. The idea is that kids learn through play, so they play all day. They learn at the same time."

    I'm not sure where you get that idea. Perhaps you are confusing Montessori preschools with Montessori elementary schools? Montessori schools do emphasize the educational importance of play, but the one I am familiar with has both designated "work time" and "recess time", as well as an assortment of pull-out lessons.

    As for the "who's to blame", does it really matter? If the student is that badly messed up, and the parent and teacher are not seeing eye-to-eye, then SOMETHING needs to change. Are you suggesting that the child should keep the teacher and ditch the parent?

    Posted by Puzzled October 16, 10 08:59 PM
  1. First Grade Teacher, you make an excellent point about the possible other side of the story here, but let me ask you this: even in the hypothetical teacher's side you gave, is that behavior that would warrant suspending a first grader? Acting out, seeking attention, being distracted? I can't see how you can justify a suspension at that age for anything short of violent behavior that threatened his own or others' safety.

    Posted by Q October 18, 10 02:01 PM
  1. Puzzled: Of course I don't advocate keeping the teacher and ditching the parent. I do advocate a 'take a step back' approach for both the teacher and the parent. Sure, the teacher could be doing many things wrong. Clearly she hasn't built the kind of relationship with the family that would enable her to communicate clearly and firmly in a way that shows the family that she's working for the good of the child. I'm wondering what the mom could do to help her child adjust to the school, the classroom, and the teacher. If her expectations are inappropriate, she should want to adjust them for the health and benefit of her child. I responded this way because the clear sentiment through the replies was that the teacher was to blame, and I wanted to throw in the idea of the reverse. If they change schools three or four times for the same reasons, it will be clear that it's a home problem and not a school problem. As far as the Montessori/recess approach, thank you for correcting me. I'll do some more reading on it.

    Q: That depends entirely on how much acting out the child is doing and in what way. There's a big difference between a little sulking and a blatant refusal to follow all directions, which IS a safety issue. There are students who will walk out of a classroom, refuse to exit with the class, run from the teacher...All of these are potential safety issues in the event of a fire or other emergency. Unfortunately, school is not a one-one-one situation without an IEP. A child just can not receive one-on-one attention all day outside of a homeschool setting. Of course, a short-term problem requiring attention as a solution is different than one that has lasted for weeks.

    Posted by First Grade Teacher October 18, 10 08:49 PM
 
32 comments so far...
  1. I am also wondering if this is a new school for your son - where did he do Kindergarten and preschool (if at all)? Are these brand new "issues"?

    Sounds like first grade reform school/camp to me! Terrible!

    Posted by RH October 14, 10 07:53 AM
  1. Any teacher who seems to be that short fused that she is "fed up with him" should maybe reconsider her profession. No wonder the kid has had a couple of accidents. I am not a teacher by any means but I can imagine it must be a tough job, however, it is her job to be able to make learning interesting and fun for children af that age. It makes me wonder why she thinks it is appropriate to suspend a 1st grader as opposed to actually finding out what the underlying issue is.

    Posted by JD October 14, 10 09:21 AM
  1. I agree with Barbara. This teacher definitely sounds like a dud and I am so sorry to hear about what your son is going through. If would see about changing schools and speak seriously with the administrator at the least.

    Posted by Sarah October 14, 10 09:25 AM
  1. No wonder the child is afraid of "monsters" - there's one teaching his class. Who suspends a 1st grader? I could only see this in the case of a child who had serious behavioral issues that threatened the other children somehow. I would definitely want to know if the head of the school condones suspending a child this young.

    Posted by Q October 14, 10 10:30 AM
  1. No recess? Detention? Suspension? All for not completing his work on time? This is a young child, still new to school. It's first grade!

    That the teacher's reaction to a student of this age who is struggling with his work is to punish him and deny him breaks is stunning. He may have learning issues; he may have fears or emotional struggles with school. He might simply be on the young side. In any case, the teacher should have been taking a far different tack than this. Before letting him go back to this teacher, talk to the principal. ASAP. This poor kid is being taught to hate and fear school, and his esteem is of course damaged now too. (I am not quick to be harsh on teachers; many in my family, including my husband, teach. But this is really a time to tell the principal what has been going on, and demand a better environment for your son -- a different teacher at least, and perhaps a different school.)

    Posted by jlen October 14, 10 10:40 AM
  1. If I were teaching first grade and there was a kid who can't do the work and repeatedly wet his pants, I'd probably feel fed up too, although I wouldn't say it that way. Something is wrong here beyond the teacher--bad placement, maybe Montessori isn't right for him, etc.

    First graders should not need "monster spray" and should not be afraid of the bathroom.

    Posted by di October 14, 10 11:26 AM
  1. I believe taking away recess will have a negative impact on his ability to complete his work as well. Young children are full of energy and from my own experience, little boys especially have a very hard time concentrating with all of that energy built up. We allow my 1st grade son plenty of play time after school so he can better concentrate when its homework time. Otherwise, he can't sit still.

    As for the accidents...my first grade son is having them too. Its an adjustment period that he is just going through right now. Our public school teacher simply asked that everyone leave a change of clothes at school for their child in the event of accidents. First graders have them! First grade teachers should know this and be able to deal with it.

    I think what Barbara suggested is right on. You need to ask some tough questions to the school and to yourself to decide if this is the right place for your son.


    Posted by Sarah October 14, 10 01:24 PM
  1. This poor child. I agree wholeheartedly with Barbara and commenters. Something seems seriously wrong here - and you will be doing your son a great service by showing him that YOU aren't fed up with him, and that you won't allow him to be treated so harshly. Talk to the principal, and, if necessary, find a new school for your son. It breaks my heart to think of what your boy has gone through. Not a good way to start his schooling...

    Posted by CMF October 14, 10 01:43 PM
  1. Children who are "afraid of the bathroom" who have continence issues at this age may be sexually abused. 10% of our population is.

    Posted by wyoming October 14, 10 01:59 PM
  1. My son also attends a Montessori school. He also had problems in first grade getting his work completed in a timely fashion. The Montessori environment challenges students to be self-directed. This is great for the growth of independence -- but it can take a while for a child to adapt.

    I'm horrified to hear that a school that is supposedly "Montessori" would keep a child in from recess! One of the most basic principles of Montessori education is that there is NO clear distinction between learning and play. Children learn in everything they do, and suspending a child from recess serves only to create artificial distinctions that inhibit progress.

    Sue the school for a refund of your tuition and put the child in a healthier environment. Report their perversion to the association of Montessori schools in the hope that they lose accreditation. Best of luck!

    Oh, and my son? He loves school and has figured out how to manage his time (and avoid distractions) in a TRUE Montessori environment. It was a challenge, but he grew to meet that challenge.


    Posted by TF October 14, 10 02:16 PM
  1. It's not just the teacher who's a dud. It's the whole school. Wouldn't the administration know if a student was suspended for a week? And they let this happen? This is not the way a situation like this would be handled in a Montessori School. Did you know, there is no agency that certifies a school as "Montessori"? Any school can call itself one. Thus, many may not hold true to Montessori principles. Find another school.

    Posted by fordpem October 14, 10 02:27 PM
  1. It isn't exactly surprising that a kid who has lavatory issues at home has worse ones in school... how were the kid, teachers etc prepped to handle this?

    Dr. Montessori's original school was designed for orphans from rough backgrounds, who needed to learn coordination, cleanliness, not to bump into things, to polish their shoes, etc., before they could learn things like reading and writing. By the time I attended (US, '60's, school founded by sophisticated parents), that element was more symbolic than thoroughgoing. I remember that we girls didn't have the issues that my brother did, as he was more social and physically active and less self directed. We mostly attended pre-K and K, so of course no homework.

    Posted by Elizabeth October 14, 10 03:55 PM
  1. The problem with teachers in this country are most are women who favor female students... They build lesson plans around the way girls learn best and exspect 8 year old boys to sit for hours at time... They get mad when they can't. Sexism is alive and well in schools. But it's against boys, so no one cares.

    Posted by typical October 14, 10 04:08 PM
  1. I hate to say it, but I'm with wyoming. The first thing I thought of was that maybe someone harmed him in the bathroom, and that's why he's afraid to go back. His teacher sounds like a throwback to the 1940's. Mom should get him out of there.

    Posted by chilly October 14, 10 04:09 PM
  1. Good glory, Maria Montessori must be rolling in her grave! Suspensions, no recess for a first grader? Is this REALLY a certified Montessori school? If it is, they should be reported to the national organization-I am serious about this! Montessori theory encourages self-directed learning with gentle guidance by teachers and aides. I am not aware of specific 'work' that is required in the AM or PM. Honestly, this school may not be a good fit for the child. Certainly the teacher is not a good fit. Develop a "Plan B" with other school options for your child just in case. Also, it sounds like you need to call the pediatrician to look at the toileting/monster issue. This may be a control issue with him or as someone suggested, he may have experienced some trauma while using the restroom. In general, it sounds like a good idea for you and the poor little guy to see a counselor.


    Posted by Bambino's Mom October 14, 10 05:57 PM
  1. I'd take him out of that school, or at the very least, that class, pronto.

    This is NOT good educational practice, and ABSOLUTELY not Montessori practice.

    Posted by Robin October 14, 10 06:42 PM
  1. I am disgusted with this whole thing. Not letting a child go to recess, suspension in first grade. I use to be a preschool teacher and I would definitely have someone fired for that. This is adding way more stress to your child that he doesn't need. School should be a safe, fun place to be. I would also look into why he isn't getting his work done when asked. He may be really struggling with the work that is being taught especially since his teacher seems like an idiot. If she doesn't have patience she is in the wrong profession. I am a single mother of three and we are our childrens only voice, and it is a lot harder for them even if the other parent is in there life it's a huge adjustment and trust really becomes an issue. Your child needs to have a teacher who is going to earn his trust and help build is confidence. I think the bathroom issues have more to do with what is going on at that school than anything else. If I were you I would be talking to whoever I could about this. And if the director doesn't help i would be going over her/his head too. I wish you and your son the very best, I hope this gets resolved quickly.

    Posted by angry October 14, 10 07:07 PM
  1. I agree with many of the posts that commented that this may be a bad fit between the child and school. It's possible he would do better in a more stuctured and teacher directed classroom, especially as it seems as if he might tend to be on the anxious side (I'm guessing this based upon his fears about the bathroom). Learning issues also need to be considered. As someone who works it education, it also sounds like a bad fit between the adult and her career, or at least the grade level she has taught. Being so punitive with a young child is absolutely uncalled for, and I hope his mother had discussed this with the school's director.

    Posted by Julia's mom October 14, 10 07:11 PM
  1. I would first find out why he thinks there are "monsters" in the bathroom. Does he use public restrooms alone? And, what does he read? Check his storybooks. Sometimes I am amazed at what is written for young readers and how they perceive it.

    What work do they have in Montessori that is not manipulative? Most real Montessori work is done with a hands on learning approach, very pragmatic, learn by doing.

    Recess is good for teachers too. Sometimes they need a break Teaching was rated second most stressful to air traffic controllers at one time.

    I really do not feel that a public forum without the facts is appropriate here. And, in my opinion, private schools have often been for perfect people. The rest of us go to public. Many are not rated that high in competition either.

    Pamela Bunting Lewis former teacher, Mother, and one whose own daughter went to Montessori from age 2 1/2 to 5.

    Posted by Pamela Bunting Lewis October 14, 10 07:23 PM
  1. I read/agree with just about ALL of these comments.I have a grandchild in that grade and this is so thought provoking. I am re-Posting it.

    Posted by Valerie Miller October 14, 10 07:27 PM
  1. Dear Mom, Teachers come in all sizes, shapes and attitudes. Unfortunately, there is a monster at the school, but not in the bathroom. She is in your child's classroom and is an authoritarian bully. Take your son's side IMMEDIATELY. You need to advocate for him with a school program that is being stupid, if not downright abusive. Let him know that adults....even teachers....can be cruel, unfair and wrong! In every creative way you can, help him find his voice and start learning how to advocate for himself. He's done a good job in talking to you. Maybe you could let him tell you how this teacher's actions make hime feel...write it down and read it to the principal. That should start making some changes.

    Posted by Mom Whose Been There October 14, 10 08:50 PM
  1. My nephew's NV public school has a program where students get points for running laps -- before school, at recess, after school. That has got to help active kids with the sitting part of school. (and gosh, now I remember playing 'duck, duck, goose' and other outdoor games at Montessori. They later added some kind of dance or gymnastic classes.)

    Posted by Elizabeth October 14, 10 09:10 PM
  1. I'm not a teacher but I'm a mother of 3. It sounds like the teacher or maybe the school has a problem not the child. At this age they should expect "accidents" at my kids elementary school the nurse had bags of extra clothing for the children because of this.

    Sounds like the school may be wrong for the kid perhaps like my middle kid who needed lots of structure he might need that too which they don't have too much of at Montessori schools. Also a first grader needs recess to run off steam.

    Posted by sarahc October 14, 10 09:20 PM
  1. I know it will not be convenient now, but find a different school for your son. This school may call itself a Montessori school, but it is not. This is an authoritarian environment whose focus is not developmental. Find a program focussed on reaching kids at their developmental level and your son will be much happier, less anxious and feel more competent. Follow up with your pediatrician on the toileting issues just to rule out physical causes. Best wishes to you both!

    Posted by laMissy October 14, 10 10:29 PM
  1. This is NOT how any school should handle a situation like this, and especially not a Montessori school, where the rights of the child are and his well-being are respected above everything else. Either find a quality Montessori school (look for the AMI accreditation, that means it's constantly evaluated for quality standards and the teachers must have extensive training and a clear understanding of child development) or put him in public school if you can't afford a quality private school. Don't leave him in that environment; IT WILL DESTROY HIS LOVE FOR LEARNING FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE!

    Posted by tomsgirlinsd October 15, 10 12:21 AM
  1. FYI ...There are not 8,000 private Montessori schools in the U.S. There are about 4,100 private Montessori schools in the U.S. plus about 280 public Montessori schools and another 120 charters.

    Posted by Dennis Schapiro, Editor, Public School Montessorian October 15, 10 06:56 AM
  1. Gee...recess used to be the time that first grade teachers got kids outside for fresh air and movement regardless of winter/summer temperature. They then herded all the kids through the bathroom right after they finished playing. This meant almost no interruptions in the learning segment. It also meant a minimum of toilet accidents or "forgetting" to go.

    Is this style of teaching a lost art?

    First grade is a time to model to children how to work, how to pace yourself, and how to manage your bladder without stress. Expecting six year old kids to already know how to do this is inhuman.

    Don't teacher colleges consider basic human physiology anymore?

    Posted by Irene October 15, 10 08:32 AM
  1. I'm a teacher, and I agree that this woman is way out of line and I'm doubting that the school is really Montessori. If the administrators don't give him a different teacher (or replace her with someone better), switch schools. Unless your local public school is notoriously bad, I'd be willing to bet you could find your son a good teacher there. Explain your situation to the head of the school so they can find you a really understanding teacher. Then explain his past history with the old teacher to the new one so that she'll know she has some previously instilled issues to ease him out of. Poor guy. Whatever you do, don't let it sit.

    Posted by Barbara Desai October 15, 10 03:37 PM
  1. While it is logical to jump immediately to "THE TEACHER IS WRONG," we also need to consider the alternative: This is not all the information. Not only that, but the information provided doesn't jive. Perhaps this story is dramatized?

    I've never heard of an open ended suspension that lasts "at least..." Schools suspend children for a set amount of time. I can't think of anything a teacher or administrator would have said that it would be interpreted this way.

    I've never heard of a suspension because a teacher was "fed up." Kids get suspended for violence, insolence, stealing, dangerous behavior, and other major issues. Perhaps this child has something else going on that mom didn't mention in the letter. Something along the lines of, "Johnny does the exact opposite of whatever the teacher asks in blatant defiance. He pouts and stares at the work he's supposed to be doing, even when prompted or positively encouraged."

    A teacher would not separate a child because of his smell. Perhaps the teacher told the mother that the other *kids* didn't want to be around him because he smells like urine? If that's the case, I don't blame them. Part of school is learning social consequences, and kids will not choose to remain in an unpleasant situation.

    Montessori schools don't have recess. The idea is that kids learn through play, so they play all day. They learn at the same time. This just doesn't make sense.

    It sounds to me like this is a disgruntled parent who has below-age-appropriate expectations for her six year old (accompaniment into the bathroom?) and who has a child who is not behaving appropriately in class (he didn't get suspended just for wetting his pants twice and not working) and is upset because the teacher doesn't share her views. The story got twisted around. We received a *very* biased and incomplete version, followed by a "What can I do to help?"

    I wonder if the teacher's account would read, "Johnny's behavior requires constant redirecting. Johnny refuses to follow any and all directions and constantly seeks attention. He repeatedly interrupts the class and does not participate in an age-appropriate manner. We have tried increased positive adult attention, behavior and consequence charts, special rewards, and other tactics, but Johnny still requires a significant amount of redirection. We are working with Johnny's mother to demonstrate age-appropriate behavior and techniques to create boundaries for Johnny." And there ARE children who use toileting as an attention seeking plan. They don't consciously see it that way or think it through, but from an adult perspective, Johnny gets one-on-one adult time each time he gets an adult to come in with him or has to be changed. I had one of these children last year, and it was a controlled decision for him.

    As a teacher, I'll be the first to tell you that we're not all perfect, or even good at our jobs. However, there is a real willingness to jump on the 'bash the teachers and the school' bandwagon that is distressing. Teachers can certainly be wrong, but parents can too. There are many who school-hop, complaining about 'schools these days' and 'things they made us do.' I request only that you look at both sides of any story, consider the source, and remember that someone's perception of an event is not always true to the way it happened.

    Posted by First Grade Teacher October 15, 10 04:18 PM
  1. @First Grade Teacher, "Montessori schools don't have recess. The idea is that kids learn through play, so they play all day. They learn at the same time."

    I'm not sure where you get that idea. Perhaps you are confusing Montessori preschools with Montessori elementary schools? Montessori schools do emphasize the educational importance of play, but the one I am familiar with has both designated "work time" and "recess time", as well as an assortment of pull-out lessons.

    As for the "who's to blame", does it really matter? If the student is that badly messed up, and the parent and teacher are not seeing eye-to-eye, then SOMETHING needs to change. Are you suggesting that the child should keep the teacher and ditch the parent?

    Posted by Puzzled October 16, 10 08:59 PM
  1. First Grade Teacher, you make an excellent point about the possible other side of the story here, but let me ask you this: even in the hypothetical teacher's side you gave, is that behavior that would warrant suspending a first grader? Acting out, seeking attention, being distracted? I can't see how you can justify a suspension at that age for anything short of violent behavior that threatened his own or others' safety.

    Posted by Q October 18, 10 02:01 PM
  1. Puzzled: Of course I don't advocate keeping the teacher and ditching the parent. I do advocate a 'take a step back' approach for both the teacher and the parent. Sure, the teacher could be doing many things wrong. Clearly she hasn't built the kind of relationship with the family that would enable her to communicate clearly and firmly in a way that shows the family that she's working for the good of the child. I'm wondering what the mom could do to help her child adjust to the school, the classroom, and the teacher. If her expectations are inappropriate, she should want to adjust them for the health and benefit of her child. I responded this way because the clear sentiment through the replies was that the teacher was to blame, and I wanted to throw in the idea of the reverse. If they change schools three or four times for the same reasons, it will be clear that it's a home problem and not a school problem. As far as the Montessori/recess approach, thank you for correcting me. I'll do some more reading on it.

    Q: That depends entirely on how much acting out the child is doing and in what way. There's a big difference between a little sulking and a blatant refusal to follow all directions, which IS a safety issue. There are students who will walk out of a classroom, refuse to exit with the class, run from the teacher...All of these are potential safety issues in the event of a fire or other emergency. Unfortunately, school is not a one-one-one situation without an IEP. A child just can not receive one-on-one attention all day outside of a homeschool setting. Of course, a short-term problem requiring attention as a solution is different than one that has lasted for weeks.

    Posted by First Grade Teacher October 18, 10 08:49 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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