Rewards and my struggle with them.

We meet first thing every morning and do our morning routine.  We pray, read a bible story, do memory verses, talk about our evenings, and just get together to start off our day.  It is not totally Montessori, but it is very much a part of who we are.  One of our memory verses is Acts 5:29, we must obey God.  

While we were working in the Montessori room, one of the girls in our school was doing sight words and the word was Ax.  She was looking at the pictures, saying the words associated, and then spelling them with the movable alphabet.  The room is generally very quiet, and as soon as she said the word "Ax", the little boy said, "5:29, we must obey God" without looking up from the work he was doing with magnets.  Almost absent-mindedly.   It was so rewarding to see a child that we had worked with remember what we had taught him.  I heard this and It was all I could do to not do a somersault, throw him in the air, and grab my phone and have him do it again so that I could show his Mom.

Although it brought me joy to see him do this, I thought about this interaction while I was reading an article this week by Erica Reischer, Ph.d about reward systems.  Disclaimer.  This is hard for me.  Probably the hardest thing for me about the Montessori approach is the feedback loop. I, by nature, have a cheering personality.  I like choreographed hand shakes after home runs.  I like touchdown dances.  I like flinging children at soccer games after they score goals.  This is who I am.  When children do well, I want to tell them that they did well and do it excitedly.  I want to celebrate and smile and tell them good job.  I like rewarding the process and the results.  But what comes naturally to me, isn't what is best for children.  

At some point, the students start working for the praise as opposed to working for the joy of learning and the joy of the work.  The Montessori approach is a wonderful way to learn, but it is an exercise in patience and self control for the guides and parents.  When you have prayed over students learning, thought about different ways to guide them, presented the materials to them, gone back to make sure you presented the materials correctly, and then for them to finally do something "correctly" after hours of work; to then stifle your joy and continue to ask questions of the child to bring the joy back on themselves is hard for me.  

But that is what we do as teachers and parents.  We put aside our own ideas and norms to do what is best for children.  We don't do the easy things that bring instant gratification, we choose to trust the process and put our students overall well being above our momentary joy.   Even if we are terrible at it.  :)