I have been a Montessorian and educator for over forty years — as an assistant, a Primary and Lower Elementary head teacher, a school founder, a head of school, and a Montessori teacher educator. As I read Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom, I found myself revisiting all those roles, not to mention my personal roles as parent and grandparent. On every page of this book, I experienced flashes of insight — as well as flashbacks. I saw myself, as well as the teachers, assistants, and parents in my school, and the interns I’ve taught, in so many of the mistaken and misguided responses to children’s behavior over the years (as well as in some of the successful responses). If only we all had this book at the beginning of our Montessori journeys! I have no doubt that many of those mistakes would still have occurred, but the wisdom in this book would have helped me and others recognize and redirect ourselves, and, more importantly, helped us exit the shadows of self-doubt and uncertainty much more quickly.
I’ve used Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline books for years, both in my school and in my teacher education classes, but what Jane and Chip DeLorenzo have done with this book — bringing Positive Discipline and Montessori together — is groundbreaking. The authors draw fascinating historical connections between the work and philosophy of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs (the forebears of Positive Discipline) and Maria Montessori. Now that Positive Discipline has been interpreted for and integrated into a Montessori context, it will be so much easier for educators to apply it.
Over the years, our classroom leadership and school training manuals have grown thicker and thicker as we have collected ever-growing research and resources on the social-emotional needs of children. This book easily replaces all these resources when it comes to the psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of preparing the environment. The authors have woven all this together in a way that exemplifies — and amplifies — Montessori’s thinking. This book will become a staple in teacher education, and will supplement, or even replace, a major part of schools’ training manuals.
Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom supports the very complex inner work of the transformation of the teacher. Moving from a position of controlling children to a position of observing, guiding and supporting children is challenging, even when one knows and believes it is the right thing to do. This book asks the questions and provides the evidence that will help us recognize our own barriers to change. Even more critically, it offers tools and practical advice for moving in a new direction. Every teacher faces moments when they have reacted badly or simply have no idea how to proceed in an effective, respectful way. In this book, they will find support, answers, and clear guidance. If I were still in the classroom, this book would probably be next to the bed for those sleepless nights when I was puzzling out what to do next with a child or a situation.
It begins with developing the skills of self-awareness, social awareness, and cultural awareness that allow one to resolve conflict with others. Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom beautifully addresses these skills, and as a result will become foundational for peace education segments of our teacher training, supplemented with the antibias and cultural awareness elements that we are confronting with fresh eyes at the moment.
This book asks the questions and provides the evidence that will help us recognize our own barriers to change.
I am grateful to Jane and Chip for writing this book, and for sharing their own personal stories. They also share many real-life experiences with children to which I think we can all relate. The authors detail appropriate and effective responses to situations by age level, so whether readers work with toddlers or adolescents (or anywhere in between), they will find rich, relevant material here. Questions for discussion at the end of each chapter spark thought, and can easily be converted into scenarios and reflections to make instructional use more active and engaging.
Reading Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom was a real pleasure. While I believe it’s essential to read the book cover to cover, to fully integrate the concepts into one’s practice, I envision readers will dog-ear many sections and return to them when new and challenging situations arise. Jane and Chip have given us a clear, contemporary, and practical roadmap for all Montessorians to follow, with dignity and respect for every child.
Mary Schneider is the director of the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific NW in the Seattle area. She has been involved in Montessori teacher preparation since 1984 and served on the AMS teacher education committee from 2002 to 2017. She is also a former classroom teacher at the Early Childhood and Lower Elementary Levels, and the retired founder and Head of School of Woodinville Montessori School.