kindergarten conflicts #1

LatelyI have been struggling with the idea and process of compulsory mat or group time. Everyday A and I seem to engage in a battle of wills where we attempt to calmly enforce the rule that mat time is compulsory for all children, and are soundly defeated by a small group of children who find it difficult to sit through and are not disposed to following direction, or enjoying it. This consistently makes us (as teachers) flustered and annoyed (no matter how hard you try to keep your composure) and only causes all the children in the group to associate mat time with a boring time where the teacher has to wait for certain children to settle and must continuously break from stories, songs or discussions to persuade these children to stay quiet and still.

This daily battle has me wondering- should mat time really be compulsory?  I have chased my own tail on this topic, mentally debating both sides and still have no clear answer.  I understand that structure and routine in the kindergarten are good and useful for helping children predict activities and behaviour, but if they are not at a stage where they are able to sit and quietly listen to the teacher or participate in group time discussions should they be forced to (to the detriment of the other children’s enjoyment of group time)? Surely forcing these children to sit for what must seem like an interminable length of time to them will only make them fear mat times, and have a negative effect on their future schooling life as they will associate formal learning environments with unpleasant feelings.

What I am proposing is this:  if mat time is no longer compulsory, the children who have difficulty with this routine can engage in quiet play nearby while other children willingly participate.  Once they witness other children enjoying mat time they may become curious and choose to join in, or they may choose to continue playing separately.

To all the teachers, carers, mums, dads, grandparents and anyone with an oppinion out there- do you think this would help to calm the unsettled dynamic of the room, or would it put the children who are not participating at a disadvantage by not enforcing the structured routine which they will encounter for the continuation of their schooling lives?