Changes: Moving Up to Lower Elementary

Changes: Moving Up to Lower Elementary

Changes: Moving Up to Lower Elementary is a story selected from Matters of Consequence, a compilation of individual and collective stories of the experiences of the children in Judith Beyer’s classroom, from Early Childhood through Middle School, intended for publication.

During the first week of school, Christopher dropped by to say hello on his way to the 6 – 9 classroom.

Good morning, Judy, he smiled, his eyes reaching longingly over the threshold into the classroom.

Good morning, Christopher. How nice of you to come by. How is Elementary?

Alright, he answered, distracted with nostalgia for the Early Childhood Montessori experience that not too long ago—just last year, in fact—was once his. He watched wistfully as the children went about their work, building the Brown Stair and Pink Tower, making bubbles, putting pipes and fittings together. Some of his old friends spotted him and came over to greet him.

Hi, Chris. Hi, Jonathan. Hi, Kevin.

Happy to see each other again after a long summer, they wasted no time bringing each other up to date, but Christopher remained outside the door, his friends inside.

Well, Christopher, it’s time to go, his mother prompted him, looking at her watch.

Yes, Christopher, I agreed, you do not want to be late for Elementary, but you are more than welcome to come and visit. Why don’t you ask Annette if you can come to see us sometime? It’s fine with me. We would love to have you.

Christopher’s face immediately lit up. Okay, I will. Goodbye. Off he went down the hall, way to the other end of the building to Annette’s room.

That week, Christopher wasn’t the only one to drop by to say hello. Tova came by and Mark came by. Mark even marched right into the classroom, full of confidence. But things were different: tables were rearranged; the book corner moved; and his sure step became hesitant and questioning. I gave each a special invitation to come and visit.

Annette and I met each other in the hall one day.

I have some very homesick children, she confided.

I know, I answered.

We both agreed it was not easy to grow up and leave one home to establish another, to tumble from the top of the heap to the bottom of the community. At the end of the year ceremony last June, the children felt so full of themselves, so in command, so together. They eagerly looked forward to joining the 6 – 9 Elementary class. What happened? They all desperately wanted to know. Did I leave my old self behind? Is it hidden in the book corner? Underneath the Red Rods? Is it lost forever?

Annette and I decided it was best to allow the children to come and visit their old classroom. They needed to know there was still a place for them there, a place to fuel their self-esteem and confidence, a rest stop to rejuvenate their strength to tackle the new challenges ahead. They further needed to see that they truly belonged in Elementary now… that they had outgrown Children’s House.

At first we were fairly liberal about the visits. Christopher came and just wanted to walk around the room. I want to see what has changed, he said to me. Mark and Tova came one afternoon and stayed for snack. I invited them to help serve.

Do you remember how? I asked.

Oh, yes. How could they forget? They excitedly set to the task. Would you like some snack? Would you like some juice? The familiar felt inspiring and comforting.

After the second week of school, Annette and I decided to restrict the visits so they did not interfere with the children’s work. It was important that they keep up and accept responsibility for Elementary expectations. The adjustment to a new program was a difficult hurdle, and more clear-cut guidelines were needed to assist them in overcoming that hurdle.

You know, Annette, I reflected, it is interesting. We sometimes have the same problem when the toddlers move up to the Children’s House. I remember when Tova moved up. Every day she wanted to go and visit Inge and Tracey, and that was certainly understandable. But having an open-ended time for visits soon proved inconvenient for Inge and myself. We finally chose one time of day when she could visit, a time that would encourage her to make a positive adjustment to her new environment. We chose 12:00 PM, a time when the toddlers were just settling down for a nap, and the 3 – 6 children were going outside for recess. It worked. Tova still went to visit Inge and Tracey every day, but often just to let them know it was time for her to go outside and play. We still use the same approach today.

Annette and I found 12:00 PM, too, to be a suitable time. The 3 – 6 children are just sitting down for lunch then while the Elementary students are going outside for recess. Tova and Mark regularly come down at 12:00 PM, and sometimes Lindsey comes too. Tova enjoys sitting with Shawna at her lunch table. Shawna and Tova have known each other since the toddler program and they are close friends. Mark likes to make the rounds of all the tables, carrying his chair from one to the other. At 12:30, they all go back to their Elementary classroom refreshed and ready for a good afternoon of work.

It is working. Annette told me that Tova whispered in her ear that everything in her old classroom was so small. Once I did not see Mark for a while. Mark likes to keep me informed about recent events in his life. He and I make a point of chatting with one another from time to time. Then one afternoon, I saw him on his way out the door with his father.

Hello, Mark, how are you? I have not seen you recently.

I know, Mark answered, somewhat apologetically. Well, Judy, I have too many things to do in Elementary. He shook his head resignedly with an overriding sense of duty to his new responsibilities.

I understand. Perhaps I can come and visit you sometime, but you know you are always welcome in our room.

Okay, I will try but I just don’t know. I have so much work.

In Montessori, retracing familiar steps is a way of moving forward. The past is never just a memory. It is always alive in the present, ready to grow even more. Every experience is a friend for life.

About the Author

Judith Beyer

Judith Beyerhas been involved in Montessori education since 1982, first certified in Early Childhood and progressively extending her Montessori expertise to certification in both Elementary and Middle School. She has led a classroom at all of those levels and has further served as a Montessori educational coordinator. Retired, she is now a teacher trainer for a Montessori teacher training program in the Chicago area. She is also involved in AMS School Accreditation.

Interested in writing a guest post for our blog? Let us know!

The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.

Results for:

More from Montessori Life