The Non-Competitive Classroom

November 03, 2016


I recently heard a story from a child, who came from public school, about being teased and called stupid when he was put in the lower reading group in the classroom. Apart from being horrified, I was questioning why this even happens. I can think of many reasons.  I know why it does not happen in WMA classrooms. One of the reasons, and the one I am going to discuss here, is the non-competitive environment.

The regular school environment (and the world at large) often tries to motivate people by comparing them to and striving to do better than others. Trevor Eisler in his book, Montessori Madness, says this:

“In traditional schools, no matter what their absolute achievement, students based on their relative achievements. Classes don’t have “students”, they have “smart kids” and “dumb kids”, since each student knows the scores of every other. They see who makes the honour roll, who answers the teacher’s questions correctly, and who needs more help. Students at the bottom are desperate to claw to the top. When this proves difficult, feigned indifference or even the attempt to knock others off their high perch can arise.

Sometimes success is more easily accomplished by creating a separate status ladder, such as a clique or gang. Status, clawing to the top, tearing others down, indifference, and envy: all these fester in an environment in which everyone has their eyes on the same prize.”

Is it possible to teach kindness and respect for others differences when it is being taught that you should compare yourself to others? Yes!

Dr. Montessori’s Vision

Maria Montessori saw her education method as being an avenue to teach social responsibility and peace. In this belief she created a non-competitive environment. She saw the children’s house and the elementary environments as being specially set-up for the child and one in which they are in control.


Classroom Environment

Multi-age grouping classrooms encourage mentorship, leadership roles, role modelling, and creates an environment where students are at a variety of different levels. The materials are hands-on and are self-correcting. This enables children to make mistakes without being shamed and to learn from their mistakes by simply trying again.


Instruction Style

Instruction is one-on-one or in small groups which allows children to reach higher levels of concentration and to ask questions more freely. Students are at different learning levels in the classroom and their peers know that everyone learns at their own pace and they respect that. The students also understand that this means that some children are doing work above grade level.

The directress/director tries to focus on giving the lessons and building the confidence of the student through work that they are capable of. More difficulty is added as each lesson is mastered. We never jump a child ahead, without all the steps in between. This helps them to feel competent, capable of what they are doing and builds self-confidence.


For the directress/director, the goal is to have the child to experience internal rewards from their work. These rewards are internal, not grades, stickers or stars on their papers. The feelings they get from setting goals and achieving them. A sense of pride and accomplishment, which provides further motivation to achieve more goals. The goals are not all individual, but rather classroom goals such as respecting others, respecting others’ work, the sanctity of concentration, sharing the materials, and helping others.


The View From Here

At WMA we have no “dumb kids”, no “smart kids”, no “honour roll” or “special students”. We simply have children that are all here to learn each day.

In this non-competitive environment (with uniforms, which takes another form of comparison out of our school) we do not have cliques that are formed. We do not have big shows of envy where the students are tearing others down or an indifference to learning. Our students are happy and they want to learn. They are often excited about learning and coming to school. They are honoured in this environment and they are allowed to be who they are, therefore they are relaxed and the emphasis and energy is placed on learning, not on being better than someone else or hiding that you are not as good.  Students work together to achieve learning goals, and social goals to bring about peaceful individuals, classrooms and school.



Join us at our Open House Event November 9th to learn more:

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