Thursday, May 10, 2012

Perspective Taking

There are many, many skills we all hope our children learn as they grow, develop, and mature.  Some of the these skills we don't even realize are important until we realize our child doesn't have it.  One of the many skills that is an important life skill is perspective taking.  Montessorians know that this is another skill that needs to be taught and modeled intentionally.  In the Montessori environment, there is an understanding of respect:  for each other, for the materials, for the space, for the rules.  With that understanding brings many, many opportunities for learning different perspectives.  As adults know, there are many perspectives to a situation/story/conflict.  Helping children understand other children's perspectives helps them mature in amazing ways.  This is evident as we watch the older students in our environment-they move into conflicts confidently and bring a breath of fresh air by way of sharing something they saw that maybe the children in the conflict did not, or even offering a grace filled reason/justification for why someone was acting in a certain way.  For example, today two boys were arguing over a space in the line at the monkey bars.  One boy said another boy cut, the other boy said no he didn't.  I moved in slowly and just started repeating what each boy was saying, offering some breaths into a situation that seemed to be getting a bit heated.  After going back a forth a few times saying the same thing to each boy about the other one cutting, an older student turned and said, " I saw what happened, do you want me to tell you what I saw" brilliant!  First, I don't have to use my big adultness to make a decision about the situation, therefore, inserting what I think happened.  Second, this older student is going to basically take over the conflict and provide beautiful and respectful perspective.  She said, "well, this boy was in line, but he actually was leaning over here so it looked like he wasn't in line, so I can see why child A thought he cut, but really he didn't"....that being said, the conflict was over-nothing more needed to be said.  Keep in mind one child was 3 and the other was 4-the older student is 7.   They were able to understand the older student's account and go on playing without incident.  Seeing another's perspective and opening our minds to others thoughts is a way we connect with one another and build relationship.  This doesn't mean we have to agree, but it's important to pause and think about how others are thinking/feeling.  It's simply amazing to see children develop these skills.  Along with the ability to take different perspectives, comes the development of communication skills.  The older child who moved into the situation today was able to articulate the conflict in a way that the two younger children could understand.  This happened in a very respectful way-allowing each child to be validated in what they saw and how they felt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another Montessori Truth

Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about.  I received my 'Tomorrow's Child' Montessori magazine this weekend-I read it cover to cover.  It has such rich articles about Montessori and I love reading what others are saying about this wonderful philosophy. 

There is an article talking about 10 Truths that teachers/parents should not be ignoring.  One of them is the statement above. 

Children/Adults want to be known.  They want to be cared for.  They want to feel understood and believed in.  In Montessori environments, because children have the freedom to work and unfold at their own pace and interest level, the teachers are able to get to know each child.  And, because the learning is individualized, we get to learn about each child's strengths and areas they need extra work/practice on.  This is a gift for the children and the teachers.  We get to see the uniqueness of each child. 

This was taken from one of the articles in 'Tomorrow's Child' which was taken from the book Feel Bad Education by Alfie Kohn"If we took seriously the need for kids to feel known and cared about, our discussions about the distinguishing features of a 'good school' would sound very different.  Likewise, our view of discipline and classroom management would be turned inside-out, seeing as how the primary goals of most such strategies are obedience and order, often with the result that kids feel less cared about-or even bullied-by adults."

Even mainstream education groups have embraced the idea of teaching the 'whole' child, including the physical, social, emotional, artistic, and academic.  However, very few conversations occur about the aspects of the child that aren't academic.  Why is that?  In addition, more and more homework is being assigned so children have even less time to pursue other interests when not in school. 

My experience in the Montessori classroom is that paying attention to the emotional and social aspects of children brings endless fruit:  confidence, leadership, conflict resolution skills, community building, standing up for what's right and a belief in themselves in their learning.  Learning to interact and work together with others (children and adults) is one of the most important life skills-no matter where we all go in life, we will have to deal with people.  Children need to practice these skills and given the opportunity to care about others so they can work together.