Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Visit from a Mentor

Today a very important person came to my school.  For several summers, I have been able to spend time with Marian who was one of my teachers when I received my Montessori training.  She has become a friend, a mentor and someone I greatly respect and turn to for advice, guidance and support.  She is in her 70's and so very passionate about Montessori.  In fact, she was trained by women who were trained by Maria herself.  She owned a school for many, many years and provided a wonderful, respectful, loving environment for many children living in the Forest Park area.  I believe it's critical for Montessorians to stay in touch with those who have (and continue to go) gone before us. It's important to hear their stories and allow them to share their wisdom and knowledge with us. It's important to constantly be reminded why we do what we do-what we value and why we believe so strongly in the ability and beauty of children.  Children have a lot to teach us if we allow ourselves to be humbled in their presence and learn by observing, rather than moving in, directing, controlling, fixing.  Instead, we build relationships with children and understand and respect where they are developmentally, socially, academically etc.  We believe that their hearts, minds, and spirit guide their choices and providing them with a prepared environment with beautiful materials and allowing them to build their independence, magic happens in the hearts of children and adults alike who are blessed to be a part of the unfolding of a child.  Thank you Marian for sharing your time and passion with us today.  I am forever grateful that I met you and thank you for the impact you have had on me personally and Community Montessori School.

Great Giveaway From Montessori Print Shop

This is one of my favorite spots to purchase materials for the classroom~great ideas and wonderful support to teachers and homeschooling Moms!

Check it out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Creating Emotionally Safe Environments

Part of my passion for Montessori environments is how respectful of children these environments are.  Not just where children are developmentally or academically, but also emotionally.  As a former traditional teacher,  my training for classroom management and/or discipline was very teacher directed and controlled.  In Montessori classrooms, we help support children as they go through challenging times with their emotions.  Helping children understand what they are feeling and helping them use their words in the midst of frustration, anger, or sadness, is a real life skill.   Children's emotions are respected-frustration, sadness, anger, joy, compassion.  Children, just as they are learning new skills everyday, are also learning how to experience, express and deal with their many emotions.  As they encounter new things in their world, they will experience new emotions as well.  As directresses and guides in the classroom, Montessorians take very seriously the tenderness of a child's heart and mind as they learn to navigate through social situations. Daniel Goleman discusses the importance of promoting, what he calls, emotional literacy in classrooms.  He says it's important for teachers to use opportunities of strife among children to teach children skills of conflict resolution, perspective taking and negotiation.  Goleman's review of research tells us that educating the emotions has a wider mission than preventing violence.  It teaches children to think differently about disagreements (Children Who Aren't Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful by Donna Bryant Goertz

I am being blown away and challenged by a book a friend recommended.  It's a collection of stories written by a woman who started a Montessori school in 1975 with 17 students and now has a functioning Montessori school housing 285 students from pre-primary to Middle School.  Her belief is that Montessori classrooms can serve as healing agents for all children, in particular children who (what she calls) 'eccentric', meaning children who may have some emotional, behavioral, or learning concerns.  My heart is relating deeply to what she says.  And, I am especially moved because we will be welcoming a child with special needs this Fall.  It gives me such hope to think of the power our classroom can have on all the children including this new student who has been written off by many.  We believe in children at Community Montessori.  The power of believing, hope, encouragement, patience, and safety can not be measured-it can't be tested on a scan tron and it can't necessarily be 'counted' in the traditional sense.  But, those of us who know the power of children and believe in their capabilities and gifts know this is BIG!  Here are a couple of quotes that I am soaking in from this author:

'Inclusion of more eccentric children (we all have one of these children or know one personally!) in our classes affirms the human worth of all children.  It provides an opportunity to learn emotional skills as well as academic subjects.  It is an unhealthy burden for a child to be seen as 'good' or 'bad'.  We must relieve every child of that burden and allow all of them to be works of art in progress.'

'A great challenge of any teacher is to distinguish between behavior that can and must be stopped immediately, behavior that requires a sure response that takes the child the first step toward outgrowing it, and behavior that is best ignored until later.  Not every behavior can be dealt with at once.  Our children need strong, flexible, authoritative, and patient teachers-neither permissive nor authoritarian-for sure progress in their learning and behavior'.

'We (teachers) must be true observers of human development.  We must see beneath the veneer of false acculturation and defensive addictions with which the child armors himself against the over stimulation of pop culture and the oppression of deadening academic programs.  We must be observers whose high intellect, sturdy sensitivities, and keen perceptions allow us to penetrate to the inherent and essential drives of a vital, healthy, and human child.  Once we have designed an environment as such, we must leave it flexible enough to fit the exceptional children.  We must stretch our imaginations and our creativity to the maximum, knowing that we will learn as we go, becoming more pliant, more creative, through the exercise of our highest human attributes.  We will become worth of the children we serve.'

She has left me pondering things in a wonderful way...I look forward to finishing her book and taking in her words of wisdom.