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January 21, 2010

Longmont Times-Call Publication

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Non-traditional schools influence student behavior By Kimberly Crater Longmont Times-Call

While researching which schools your children should attend, it is important to consider how the school’s environment influences student behavior. Non-traditional schools like Montessori and Waldorf schools look at different ways to approach learning with respect to child development. Both schools work to help children become more independent and responsible. Montessori Schools With a focus on child development, Montessori schools are centered on what will best help students learn. “Children are naturally motivated,” says Abigail Miller, the director of Bloom! Montessori School in Longmont. In Montessori schools, students develop a long lasting, collaborative relationship with their teachers. While teachers monitor progress, students are able to choose what they want to learn at the pace that works best for them. Montessori materials are designed to be self-correcting so students can teach themselves, individualizing the learning process. When students are given the opportunity to choose what they want to work on, they will generally work longer and harder to complete it. Montessori classrooms tend to be open with ample space, allowing students to work independently or in small groups, says Jan Ferwerda, the director of school adSC-140508

vancement at Mountain Shadows Montessori School in Boulder. When students do act out, they can be put in time out. However, before punishing children, Montessori schools believe it is important they understand why their actions were harmful. Teachers use the misbehavior to reinforce positive behavior in the future and students are encouraged to apologize to someone they hurt or offend. Part of the Montessori curriculum focuses on learning social and moral responsibility. These lessons, called grace and courtesy lessons, teach students successful life skills. Waldorf Schools Academic lessons combined with the arts form the core of the rigorous curriculum at Waldorf schools. The structured curriculum, designed around child development, keeps students busy and their minds active. It also focuses on fostering student creativity and imagination. At many Waldorf schools, students “fill their day with doing,” says Laurie Bayless, the enrollment and marketing coordinator at Shepherd Valley Waldorf School in Longmont. Students begin learning foreign languages at an early age. At most Waldorf schools, children will learn two languages, in addition to their primary speaking language. At Shepherd Valley, students learn Spanish and German. Music lessons are started early in Waldorf schools, as well, with

Eisley Beason, a 2-year-old student at Bloom! Montessori School in Longmont, practices her geometric shapes. (Courtesy Bloom! Montessori School)

students learning to play a recorder in first grade and string instruments, such as the violin, in fourth grade. Like the curriculum, the days and weeks are highly structured so children can get used to a pattern. The repetition helps keep students from misbehaving, and helps build long-term memory capacity and make children feel more comfort-

able in their environment. Another focus at Waldorf schools is to endorse cooperation instead of competition, especially in the lower grades, to help students learn the strengths and weaknesses of their classmates and minimize bad behaviors. On the teacher end of things, they move through the grades, developing a relationship is devel-

oped between the teachers, students and parents. The additional time together allows students to build respectful relationships, which often results in better behavior. Having children remain with the same teacher for the eight years of elementary and middle school can be like having an extra parent while the child is not at home, Bayless says.

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