Parents are welcome to visit and observe at Alcuin School. To minimize disruption, parents
are requested not to use cell phones, cameras, video recorders or other electronic devices
while in the classroom. The following guidelines should be followed when observing at each
Toddler - Beginning in October, observation in the Toddler communities is through the
one-way windows. Parents should be as still as possible. Observers are asked to refrain from
conversing at the window but are encouraged to go outside to visit with each other. Parents
should write down any questions they have about their observation and leave a note for the
guide to arrange a follow-up phone call. For everyone’s privacy, no still photos,
photography or filming may occur through the one-way windows.
Primary - The Primary classroom guide schedules observation for each family before the
spring conference. Parents are asked to refrain from conversation with the children in the
classroom. “I came to watch you work” is a good phrase to use when questioned. Parents
should not help children with their activities. The point of observation is to see an accurate
reflection of the children’s day. The guide cannot take time from the classroom to converse
with parents either during or immediately following their observation. Parents should write
down any questions that occur during the observation to ask during the conference.
Returning parents may request an observation before the fall conference.
Elementary School - Observation of the Elementary classroom may be arranged with the
guide. Parents should plan to stay approximately 20 minutes. Parents should put any
questions in writing for a later conversation. The guide cannot visit with parents during or
after the observation. Parents should wait in the threshold of the doorway until invited into
the classroom. Parents should not engage children in conversation. Children may volunteer
to show their work. Parents cannot actively observe the class if they are involved in an
activity. A polite “hello” and direct response to questions is fine. Then, parents should quietly
ask the child to return to work. Parents may remind the children that they came to watch them
work. Each parent will be given an observation guideline sheet prior to the visit.
Middle School and Upper School - Parents who wish to observe should contact the Division Head to schedule an observation.
After Your Visit - Observation is highly recommended. It helps give parents a better view of how
their child is working in the classroom. A parent taking the time to visit will give the child the sense of how much the work he/she does at school is valued by his/her parent. Questions about an observation can be directed to the classroom guide/faculty or the Division Head.
Hints for Observing
The environment of an Alcuin School classroom is very diverse. Children are engaged in
purposeful movement, and there are flurries of activity and conversation. The guide/faculty
can usually be found giving a lesson on a mat or at a table or even observing unobtrusively
from another area in the room.
Visual Perspective - Parents should make an effort to alternate between an overall
view of the entire classroom and then focus on one child. The child will be less self-conscious,
and parents will see him in the context of the whole class.
Auditory Perspective - Parents should listen to the noise level as it rises and falls within
different groups of children. Parents will generally hear a “hum” of voices as opposed to
shouting or disruptive talking. At times there will be a special exclamation of excitement
denoting a new discovery.
Learning Style - Parents will notice that children have their own learning styles. With some
types of materials, parents will see groups of children working cooperatively. With others,
parents will find one child working independently. Other children will seem to drift at times,
seemingly not engaged in any direct activity. Often, this child is engaged in his own method
of observation and is actively absorbing information. It will be helpful for parents to alternate
their focus on these three patterns of visual, auditory and learning style. Also parents should
note the ease and joy with which the children work. Parents will notice the intense self-gratification that this unique learning experience affords the children.
Child-Child Interaction - Parents should listen to the way (style and content) the children
talk to each other--the level of respect as well as the normal pushes and pulls of childhood.
Very often observers new to Montessori are surprised that a child will jealously guard his/her
work and tell other classmates that they are disturbing this work, and that, as a result of the
verbal communication, the child will leave. Other new observers are bemused by the
politeness with which one child will ask another if he/she would, “Care for a piece of apple,”
and the other will respond, “Yes, please. Thank you.”