Noise in a Montessori Classroom
One of the aspects of a Montessori Classroom which people notice is the noise, or, rather, the lack thereof. It’s pretty quiet. A room full of this many adults would be louder.
It’s not silent, though, and no one is making the children be quiet. They’re quiet because they’re working, concentrating, and content.
So, what sounds do we hear?
A snippet of a song.
Someone reading or counting out loud. (Silent reading and counting come later)
Scrubbing. There’s so much washing that happens in a Montessori classroom, and vigorous scrubbing is loud, at least for Montessori standards. If a classroom feels “busy” for no apparent reason, often some gross motor work is happening.
Conversations. Various discussions, affirmations, observations are shared, primarily between children, though also between adult and child, and also as monologue.
So much is happening. The air is electric with learning and joy. Sometimes things fall. Occasionally there’s a small disagreement. But these are anomalies.
When things fall, it is not because carelessness is the norm. It is because, really and truly, sometimes things fall. We’ve all experienced this. Children walking around a classroom are, so much of the time, more aware and more careful than we are as adults, but we have the benefit of our bodies being more practiced than theirs are. Have you ever seen a child watch with terror as their snack slides off their plate, as they are carefully, precisely, inching forward, and yet there’s nothing they can do? We never carry a plate that carefully, yet only rarely drop our food. We’re not more careful, just more practiced.
When the occasional disagreement takes place, it is not because children are selfish and don’t look out for others. Children are incredibly empathetic, and look out for one another. They are upset when one of their classmates is tearful, regardless of the reason, be it a Monday morning or turkey instead of a cheese sandwich or missing a parent. A disagreement happens because, though small, these are full humans. They have their own opinions and thoughts and are free to express them. Sometimes support is required, such as by an older classmate or adult, “It sounds like you two are having a difficult time deciding who is going to eat snack/paint at the easel/use the bathroom first. When you agree, let me know!” When the children agree, both sides are contented. Adults might, on the surface, not have the same struggle. We’re more practiced at the social norms of, “no, please, after you.” but, do we really mean it? Children might express their frustration more readily, but the agreement is genuine.
The noise that happens is learning and life. It is control and synapses forming. It is joy and work, really really hard, important, valuable, life-long work. It is hushed and vigorous. It is good.