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Cultivating Confidence & Intrinsic Motivation

Cultivating Confidence & Intrinsic Motivation
Gwen Shangle, Assistant Head of School

"The satisfaction which they find in their work has given them a grace and ease like that which comes from music." - Dr. Maria Montessori

On a recent walk through Gladwyne Montessori’s Primary hallway, I noticed a Kindergarten student building the Roman Arch for a group of her younger classmates, modeling vocabulary and lesson delivery techniques that she has heard and seen used by her classroom teacher. You could hear a pin drop, with all of the children so intently focused on her words and the lesson that she was delivering. 

Gladwyne Montessori students and alumni are confident public speakers even at a very young age. Children are able to stand up and recite something from memory, even if they are not yet readers—and they can do it with clarity, a strong posture, clear intonation, and while maintaining eye contact with their audience!

If you listen carefully to the language used by Gladwyne Montessori teachers, you will hear some of the subtle ways in which they cultivate intrinsic motivation. When a child shows a teacher an object or a project completed, rather than saying “I like that” the teacher will say “thank you for sharing, can you tell me more about that?” Even at an early age, teachers in our Toddler program will ask children to share the purpose and motivation behind their work as well as their own feelings about what they made. If a child goes on to ask, “Do you like it?” the teacher will reply, “Yes, I like the colors you chose” so that the child can associate the affirmation with something that they created rather than receiving an extrinsic reward. In this way, the vocabulary used by our teachers helps children develop not only self-esteem and confidence, but also the skills they need to communicate their pride in an effective way.  

When children at Gladwyne Montessori give lessons to classmates, take on a class assignment (such as being in charge of the class calendar, weather reporting, or caring for a class pet), recite a poem, sing a song, or share about a project of interest, they are gaining comfort and confidence with public speaking and the assertiveness that they need in order to be seen and heard. Additionally, they are gaining “comfort with error” as they learn that if they do not know something, there is no need to cover it up, they simply need to follow their curiosity and identify the resources they need to learn more! 

These daily opportunities build confidence as children know that they are being taken seriously and that they have a real audience where the language they use matters. Whereas adults tend to over-explain to children, in our multi-age classrooms, a young child needs to ask specific questions and be heard a little bit more, so that they might get their answers. And the older child (such as the student I witnessed teaching her peers about the Roman Arch) becomes very well versed in giving instructions. For our students, this is not just practice, it’s real life! 

 - Gwen Shangle, Assistant Head of School
Gladwyne Montessori

  • Kindergarten
  • elementary
  • montessori
  • primary