"Why do Montessori Children Polish Pennies?"

by Matt Bronsil, author of English as a Foreign Language in the Montessori Classroom

A pile of pennies

Polishing is a fantastic example of an activity for why practical life is important in Montessori, and I can relate it from a 5 year old's perspective perfectly. When I was 5, there was a penny polishing activity in my classroom. Every day, I chose this penny polishing activity. I remember that fact because I recall one morning walking into the classroom. I was the first student there and I went right to the practical life shelf. Sitting on the shelf where the penny polishing always sat was a completely different activity. The penny polishing was gone!!! I looked at other shelves...the penny polishing was gone. No matter where I looked...the penny polishing was simply gone.

My teacher was in the coat room. I walked up to the door and asked where it was. She said she put it away because she had no more pennies that needed to be shined (I guess I did them all....) and said she would put it out tomorrow. I said OK and walked away, but she knew I needed that activity. Almost immediately, she said to wait a minute and told the intern in that classroom that she will be right back. She went around to other teachers and faculty members in the building and came back with pennies for me to shine.

I remember shining a penny that day. I put the apron on. I sat down. I opened the lid and placed it carefully where I always do. I took a q-tip, dipped it in, and began polishing the penny. After I had scrubbed and covered the penny with the polish, I set the q-tip down and began wiping off the penny. I remember seeing that shine. I remember that *I* created that shine. More importantly, I remember that ritual that came with the activity.

So much stuff is rushed in our lives. At that time, about 3/4 of the rest of Cincinnati was rushing around, trying to get to work after they woke up late, getting their kids dressed and running around, taking their car in to get fixed while trying to plan the rest of their day, or listening to the traffic report, frustrated that they're stuck on interstate 71 when they have to be somewhere in 5 minutes. On the other hand, there was at least one single solitary boy who was allowed to have time to himself to perform this otherwise unimportant ritual.

When I was finished, I am sure I put the polishing activity away. I'm sure I likely went and did what some might call more "challenging" activities. I'm 99% sure I did math at some point, since I'm still addicted to and fascinated by the math materials (Check out my Math Webinar, if interested). But providing me with that ritual was something that still stays with me after more than 30 years.

Matt Bronsil is the author of these posts. He can be contacted at MattBronsilMontessori@gmail.com. To get updates or fill out a form to contact me, visit my Contact Page.

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