Thursday, November 24, 2011
On this Thanksgiving Day, I am overwhelmed with all of my blessings and gifts in my life. I am so thankful mostly for the people in my life~my family, my church community, the CMS community, my neighbors etc. I am also reminded that this life is not easy. Somewhere along the line of growing up, there seems to be a belief that if you do A, B, and C, life will be 'easy'. Not so...life is hard-relationships are not always as we want them to be, people we love are hurting or sick, or maybe we are hurting or sick. There are tough financial situations that bring daily stress to one's life as well as aging parents, special needs children, job loss....the list is endless regarding challenges in this life. But, as a dear friend has recently reminded me, there is always hope. Hope is a funny thing....it's in all of our hearts-the hope that things will turn around, that we'll get to spend time with or mend a relationship with someone dear to us, the hope that someone will come home or get better....hope is very powerful. In our classroom, we see tangible hope in the children. Maria Montessori believed world peace begins with children and I completely agree with her (no surprise there eh? :)). We see hope in the children as they display compassion, empathy, love, friendship and loyalty. We see that in their young little hearts, they have the power and capacity to do and say things that some adults struggle with. We had an incident in the back room last week that was so powerful, it moved me to tears. Alfie Kohn was the guest speaker at the Cincinnati Montessori Society conference in the Spring. He has challenged the teachers at CMS to allow children to work through their conflicts rather than trying to 'fix' them for them. It's been hard, but we have seen the fruit when we have been able to walk out what Alfie Kohn suggests. The back room was full (9 children and myself). Two little girls were having a conflict over a choosing the same table to work. One girl was sitting in the chair and the other little girl had her leg wrapped around the leg of the chair. I hear 'I was here first, no I was here first, no I was here first'......I walk over knowing that this would be a great time to really help them work through it together vs. me resolving the problem. I go over and begin reflecting what each girl is saying to the other (simply repeating their words). Girl A was saying 'I was here first'...so, I say, 'It sounds like A thinks she was here first'....Girl B says 'But, I was here first'.....so, I say, 'It sounds like B thinks she was here first'....this went on literally for about 8 go arounds with them saying the same thing and me repeating it. As this was happening, the room became silent and all children were watching/listening. In the midst of repeating what the girls were saying, I was also saying, 'it seems like we have a problem-how can we solve the problem'.......after going back and forth several times, another little girl came up and very sweetly said, 'I actually saw what happened (good thing in the hindsight that I didn't see what happened-it may have swayed me one way)'....so, I said, 'Oh, would you mind sharing what you saw?'...so, she proceeds to tell what happened, speaking to the girls directly and the girls were listening intently. It was clear that the little girl who was sitting was indeed there first. As the little girl finished telling what had happened, the little girl standing welled up with tears b/c she knew what the little girl was saying was true. At that moment a little boy walked to the kleenex box, and brought the little girl a tissue. She then said, 'But, I want this table'.......The little boy who brought the tissue then pointed out to the little girl another table that was available. She then went over to that table and the children got back to work. I was blown away at the power of this exchange. All the children were empathetic to the situation-they were bothered that two of their friends were in conflict. This was not about who was 'right' or 'wrong', rather, it was about the children building the skills/confidence to work out a conflict which they did beautifully. This process took about 10 minutes which is a lot of time for this type of issue; however, so worth it! All the children in the room witnessed and learned an important lesson and got to see first hand a healthy way to work out a difficult issue. I learned later that the little boy who gave the kleenex to the little girl had ran to another room to report to a teacher that 'we have a problem in the back room'.....this is their very serious work of learning to manage themselves and get along with one another in a respectful way. So, on this Thanksgiving Day I am incredibly thankful for the children in my classroom who teach me powerful, important life lessons each and everyday.