Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Connected School

One of the many passions of my heart when I opened my school was that I wanted to help create community and feel of connectedness.  I believe schools need to feed a child's spirit and be a place where they know they are loved, valued, and have a sense of purpose within the classroom community.  I believe strongly that building relationships with the children and allowing relationships to develop and grow among the students is one of the leading contributors to success in the classroom.  Unfortunately, schools are becoming machines for tasks, content, standards, and tests that individuality is being ignored and discouraged.  Children are not given opportunity to be themselves, share their strengths and interests, pursue things they want to learn.  I believe school should be just that-a place where children can be nurtured and supported, encouraged and loved.  Along with those things, they should be expected to be responsible and respectful and held accountable for their actions and work.  In Montessori classrooms all over the world, these things happen naturally.  We believe in children-we know they are capable and have a lot to offer.  We believe they can be responsible.  We listen to them-listen to their thoughts, dreams. and ideas and take them seriously.  This leads to very exciting learning!

This doesn't mean that there aren't challenges in Montessori classrooms-there certainly are.  Challenges and issues that are in the world enter the classroom. But the way they are dealt with is very different.  We approach conflict from a relational place-helping children understand how their actions and words effect those around them.  We give them words and help them express their emotions.  They don't necessarily know how to do this.  We are supportive of their development-not angry and punitive of their mistakes.  Don't get me wrong, teachers can feel frustrated, but we come back to what we believe-we believe in the goodness of the child even if the child is not showing their goodness.  We allow children to speak directly to one another and be involved in the problem solving.  The teacher doesn't have the answers-we are working together to find solutions and deal with conflicts as they arise individually.  I can't tell you how many times a child finds a solution for a problem that a teacher would not have thought about if she/he thought all day.  Children are empathetic, creative, thoughtful, caring, forgiving-we have to allow them time and space to show us and use opportunities that occur to practice these developing skills.

Sometimes, parents are shocked and disappointed when their child does something 'wrong' like hurts another child, or says something unkind, or takes something from another child.  But, these things don't mean there is something wrong with your child.  They are learning social graces and social skills while they are playing. They don't necessarily know how to ask for something or wait their turn or say things tactfully.  They are figuring it out and really need our support and guidance to help them learn.  Sometimes, parents go directly to punishment, or just telling a child what to do instead.  Sometimes, it's great to just ask questions to your child about how they're feeling or why they did something.  Often times, you will hear something you may not have thought of.  We should not assume the worst in our child or a child in the classroom when something doesn't go well.  Instead, challenge yourself to try and look at the situation through your child's eyes.  I'm not saying, they shouldn't be held accountable for their words/actions, but sometimes our tone/irritation or frustration comes through very strong which can overshadow an opportunity for learning.

Challenge yourself to observe your child/children vs inserting yourself into situations.  It is difficult to say nothing at all, but see what happens if you do.  Maybe even take notes-if you go to a park/playground observe other children and other parents and note how everyone is engaging.  It would be an interesting conversation to have if other moms/dads did this.  Let me know if you do it!