Freedom and discipline can be two terms that might be embedded in such a way that they can never go together. It is not an issue with our conscience but with how we have been trained to see these terms as contradictory since our own childhood. There have been drastic changes that have been implemented in the education system, and it is now trying to enhance strategies that will help freedom and discipline go hand in hand. The change will be effective only when it starts in lower-grade classes like Montessori and works its way up to higher-grade classes. The balance of freedom and discipline is what is working in a Montessori classroom.
The perception of what freedom and discipline entail in a Montessori classroom is highly subjective. Montessori can be chaotic at its best, but it is not impossible to imbue the values of freedom and discipline, even in classes with little ones. Internal discipline in a child can only be nurtured if they are given the freedom to make their own choices.
The interpretation of these two concepts can vary from teacher to teacher and even from school to school. There are schools that use a strict teaching system and impose discipline ideologies on students. And there are schools and Montessori classrooms that understand the benefits of blending freedom and discipline together. Teachers only provide guided support by showing them the directions, but self-discipline is something that children have to understand and practice on their own.
When the child becomes accustomed to doing things and activities without any help, they start creating a cycle of their own. This brings a level of accountability to the learning environment, and they start taking responsibility for how they respond to situations. It is erroneous to think that children in Montessori classrooms who are given freedom end up being the least disciplined. Instead, they are given the responsibility to be held accountable for their actions, and they initiate learning from the mistakes they commit. Trying to control and feed them discipline cannot help them grow, and they start behaving only because they think there’s no other choice available to them. It can have a significant impact on their perceptions, which they may carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Montessori classrooms also come with clear boundaries; it is not like children can waltz in and have the time of their lives. The children aren’t scrutinized intensively, but a clear understanding of what to do and what not to do is conveyed effectively to them without clouding their judgments. The boundaries are kept to help children learn and understand that each of them and their peers are respected and honored for who they are and what they contribute.
Before moving further, it is essential to discuss what discipline means in a Montessori classroom. Self-discipline is something that comes from within and naturally, and it is directly related to the inner growth of children. Freedom and independence have no hand in how discipline grows, and on the contrary, they can further help connect children to the idea of being disciplined. When children are granted the authority to do what they want while respecting the boundaries, they tend to be more assertive and respectful to their surroundings and to each other.
Discipline in Montessori classes will never be imposed by an authoritative figure who constantly dictates how and when to do things. It will never be something that a child fears, let alone something that imprints the anxiety of being controlled. But an invisible line of control will be promoted so as to ensure that the child understands the right behavior for himself or herself and how his or her actions will affect his or her peers and the community he or she is in.
Now the question arises: if the child prefers to learn on their own, what is the need for teachers, and how does a Montessori classroom help with this? Smaller kids take time to leave their comfort zone and settle into a new learning environment. Therefore, the teachers act as guides and provide support to them so that the children are pushed forward to walk in the right direction. Once they understand how to behave in different situations, they can exhibit the same learning and understanding even if there is visibly no one to supervise them.
Obedience comes in different phases. A child is not ready to understand instructions before the age of three. When a child responds to an urge, this is the first instance, or phase, of obedience. The second phase of obedience is when the child tries to understand what another person is trying to communicate to them and responds by doing what they want. Most of the time, parents and teachers, to an extent, feel this is the last level of obedience. But there is yet another phase of obedience where children joyfully obey after analyzing what they have been asked to do. This can be induced in a child only if they have Montessori training that makes them understand how freedom and discipline are well blended.
Montessori schools can only bring about this effective change if their teachers have been trained to understand the concept and are effective in incorporating it into the curriculum. These teachers must be equally exciting and enthusiastic in order to blend well with the children and have enough patience to tolerate the children’s tantrums.-
Arranging a classroom that pertains to the cause is a necessity, and this will help the child connect better with his or her new surroundings.
Montessori education helps in the self-development of a child. Montessori teaching allows children to be more responsible for how they react to a situation and be accountable for their actions. Over a period of time, these decisions will help the child be molded into a better person. And this knowledge will help them grow beyond the four walls of the classroom.