Of all the advice for teachers that is out there, this one is so important! This Montessori based teaching strategy is basically the golden rule for Montessori teachers, and traditional teachers can benefit from it, too.
Calling all teachers! And parents, tutors, nannies and anyone else who works with children of any age.
You want your students to thrive. You want them to learn, grow, listen to what you have to give them, and work hard.
Well, Maria Montessori would (and did) say:
“The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.”
This sounds like the advice we give our students all the time: concentrate! But the advice I want to give you is for teachers and those who help children learn.
My #1 Tip for Teachers
Never interrupt your student. Protect his concentration from other students. Protect it from himself and his own distractions. And protect his concentration from yourself and all your well-intentioned interruptions.
We tell children, “concentrate!” all the time. Now we need to ask ourselves, are we helping them or hindering them?
It’s simple, really, but it helps to dig in a little to think about why concentration is so important.
Why We Should Protect Our Students’ Concentration
As teachers, it’s easy to fall into a double standard without even realizing it: we reprimand our students for blurting out and interrupting the class, yet we interrupt them mid-sentence, or mid-focused-work, all the time.
That’s just rude!
We tell ourselves that we have to keep the class going a certain way. And we really believe that it does them no good to continue uninterrupted if they’re making mistakes.
Now that last thought starts a whole new discussion about correcting students, which we can save for later. But the point remains. Even if you do need to correct a student, do so with respect. And do everything possible to correct at a time that does not interrupt the child’s focus.
2. The Ability to Concentrate is Priceless
“Concentration is the key that opens up the child to latent treasures within him.”
– Maria Montessori
Our goal for our students should be bigger than just passing the next test. The bigger purpose is to help them learn how to learn, so that they continue to learn, grow, and thrive for the rest of their lives.
Concentration is vital. In our noisy, busy world, the ability to focus on a worthy task will make or break their pursuits.
And they don’t need to pursue an academic future to put concentration to good use. Concentration is necessary for learning any new skill, whether an instrument, a sport, a trade, or a new language.
The value of concentration extends even further! Have you ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with someone who is distracted and unfocused, who is checking her phone, glancing around, or spacing out? Concentration can help our children form more meaningful and intimate friendships.
For Christians, and perhaps for other religious, concentration helps us form a true spiritual life. When the goal is communion with God, the friendship of all friendships, we have to learn how to concentrate.
3. Help Students Struggling with Attention Disorders
I realize that this is a highly controversial area of discussion. Many disagree on the cause of these disorders, on the best way to deal with them, and even on the legitimacy of labeling children with such disorders.
I am not qualified to address these disagreements, but I do believe that children who exhibit difficulties with attention deserve even more respect and care regarding their concentration.
If your student who has the hardest time focusing is finally focused even for a second, don’t interrupt him!
How to Protect Our Students’ Concentration
“Praise, help, or even a look, may be enough to interrupt him, or destroy the activity. It seems a strange thing to say, but this can happen even if the child merely becomes aware of being watched. After all, we too sometimes feel unable to go on working if someone comes to see what we are doing.”
– Maria Montessori
It’s time for a little self-evaluation, my fellow teachers. Check out this list of practical tips and think about how many you can, or already do, implement:
- Hold all your students and yourself to the same high standard: interruptions are for emergencies only!
- Have a classroom method for politely showing someone you have something to say. E.g. silently raise your hand, place your hand on the speaking person’s shoulder, etc.
- Never interrupt a focused child, not even with a polite touch or friendly, “I like how concentrated you are.” (An interruption is an interruption, no matter how encouraging it may be.)
- Enter the classroom quietly. When re-entering with the students, wait for all the children to be calm and ready before entering the classroom as a group.
- Provide lengthy periods of time for work to allow your students to enter and remain in concentration.
- Provide places for your students to work independently.
- Limit screen technology.
- Keep the classroom orderly.
- Provide interesting activities and materials to engage your students.
- Observe your students to find what works best for each individual. Usually our rambunctious and disruptive students just need a positive outlet.
- Allow your students to struggle, to make mistakes, to learn how to work through problems independently. Be present and available so they can ask for help if they need it.
Your turn! How do you encourage focus and concentration in your students? Do you implement any of these suggestions? Let me know in the comments! I always reply. 🙂