Saturday, October 17, 2015

The children never stop amazing us everyday!

Sometimes, I think our issue as adults can be that our expectations for what our kids can really do isn't high enough.  We allow fear, worry and comparison to others to get in the way of believing the beauty and capabilities of children.  I know it's true for me.

This week we had an incident on the playground with 3 Lower Elementary (1st-3rd) students.  It happened as we were dismissing and as I was talking with the children, I realized emotions were very high and there were questions that didn't have answers at the moment.  I asked the children if they would be ok if we re-visited what happened in the morning-there simply wasn't enough time for me to give it the attention and energy it needed. I asked them to go home, think about what happened and then we'll chat in the morning.  I honestly wasn't sure what would happen-this isn't something I have done before (wait until the next day), but the circumstances just presented in a way that this seemed most appropriate.

I then emailed all 3 families letting them know we were aware of what happened (I knew for certain the kids would report this to their parents and I also knew my wonderful families would speak into the situation in a very healthy way).  I told them we would all be talking in the morning.

Without going into the nitty, gritty details I'll tell you that there was some physical lashing out that happened along with hurt feelings and misinterpretation of the situation.  We had 1 1st grader, 1 2nd grader and 1 3rd grader who were involved.

I can't necessarily prepare myself for these types of conflict resolution opportunities-what is brought to the conflict varies depending on many things, so I simply prayed and welcomed all that could be resolved and more importantly, what could help support their friendships moving forward.  What I don't think adults/the world understands or appreciates is that children are working through hard things each day just as adults.  Their emotions are no different b/c they are younger.  So, what they encounter on a daily basis with their friends or problems is a big deal.  At CMS, we pay attention and as much as we can, allow for time and space needed for processing.

We sat together for about 10 minutes and honestly, I mostly listened.  It was beautiful.  The grace they showed one another was something to marvel at-their ability to forgive and go right back to loving was amazing.  They all 3 shared their emotions in the midst of things and were able to explain what they thought and why they did what they did.  I was humbled to be part of such a wonderful exchange among friends.  They held each other accountable, addressed what needed to be addressed and wiped the slate clean.  We adults have so much to learn from kids.  Challenge yourself to step back, listen, observe and take in the greatness of your child today.  Allow yourself to be uncomfortable in something you may typically take control of or have a judgment about.  Don't be afraid of what your child may do or say-it's likely to soften our heart.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Independent Work-Protecting Concentration

The teachers have been discussing quite a bit lately how many children desire to work with a friend in the classroom, but are rarely successful.  For weeks now, we feel like we have been putting out fires with no clear message or rationale for doing so.  Two children will choose a work together and it turns into playing with the materials, sitting at the rug and chatting or even rough play.  For many children, it's difficult for them to be successful with a work while doing it with a friend.  Occasionally, there will be two children who will work well together, but more times than not (our experience lately anyway) has been it's not been successful.  We've even noticed for some children that the thought of maybe working with a friend at any time consumes them to the point of not being able to choose a work, or hovering around the friend who isn't available, waiting for them to be finished so they can invite them to work.

So,  today, in the pre-primary classroom, we decided to take a stand to protect children's work cycle and ability to focus and concentrate.  We talked with the children and told them that the teachers have noticed lately that many children are having a hard time concentrating/focusing because of so many works with friends happening that aren't successful-we're seeing a lot of rough play with the materials and just silly behavior that is interrupting those working in the classroom.  We told them that for the next several days, everyone will be practicing working independently.  Today was the first day and it was lovely.  Many children have been missing the opportunity to work alone and build their attention and focus because all they can think about is working with a friend. Now that the option has been taken off the table, it seemed, for many, to be helpful.

One of my Montessori mentors asks the question (knowing there isn't a right or wrong answer) "can 4 and 5 year olds work successfully with one another?"  I have seen some that can certainly work well together and I believe they can develop the skills to be successful working with others, but before that can happen, children need to learn to work alone.  Maria Montessori spoke about it like this:  Think of an orchestra-people can't show up one day and play an instrument and expect it to sound beautiful.  Each musician needs to practice, perfect and learn their instrument well before being ready to join the orchestra.  It's the same thing with children-they need to learn how to work independently, concentrate and focus before they're ready to work well with a friend.

Working independently doesn't take away from social opportunities.  In our classroom, social skills are developed and practiced all day long.  Children are interacting and talking with one another often-as they walk through the classroom, they may stop and chat with a friend.  They may need to give a child a message or reminder that can happen at any time.  As they navigate themselves through the classroom, there are opportunities for interactions as well-asking a friend to move their rug or body, reminding a friend to put a work away, or greeting and singing on line.  In our classroom, children are developing their social skills in a prepared/safe environment within the context of work where we provide intentional coaching and support as they learn language and grace and courtesy skills to interact with one another now and in the future.

Ask your child about the message they received today about independent work-it would be a good follow up and opportunity for a great conversation.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Keep Trying

Children's learning is a journey.  In this quick paced world with many expectations it can seem like children go through life checking  off tasks/skills-crawling-check, walking-check, talking-check, potty trained-check, reading-check etc.....but, in reality children are developing, learning, progressing constantly and often times the fruit of their development isn't obvious to the human eye.  So much is happening in a child's brain-what they do today is preparing them for tomorrow. Maria Montessori said they are 'constructing themselves'. They need a lot of practice/repetition and opportunity to master skills and perfect new things they're learning.

Sometimes, as adults, we take away opportunity for growth.  This world is full of pressure to be tidy, and to do things quickly and to have things perfected.  So, we sometimes make the mistake of rushing children and putting inappropriate expectations on what they can do or not expecting them to do things they are capable of doing.

In the classroom, we have a lot of language we use to help coach and support children.  One area we've been working intentionally on is paying attention when children give up easily or don't think they can do something.  Those moments are precious and great opportunity to allow children to push through, give it a try and practice doing something new.

An area of developing independence for children in the pre-primary classroom is putting on snow clothes.  When winter began, children would bring teachers their mittens/gloves and hand them to us vs trying to put them on.  We usually say, 'why don't you give it a try?" or 'let me see you try first'......while they're struggling, they're figuring it out.  Yes, it may take a little longer and they may say things like 'I can't' or 'this is too hard'.....but, the opportunity to practice-with the struggling-is golden.  I can't tell you how many children have mastered putting on their mittens/gloves independently.  On the other side of that as well, sometimes adults can get frustrated when children don't know how to some things independently; yet, they've not been given ample time to develop the ability to do it.  It's great to observe and wait for a child to ask for help, then you can move in with some support along with more opportunity to help them succeed independently-not have an adult do it for them.  If they ask for help, we usually say, 'what would you like me to do?"...again, allowing them to think and verbalize exactly what they are thinking and inviting you into helping.  If a child is really struggling, maybe even crying or seeming overwhelmed, we'll say, 'let me know if you need help'....this serves as a bridge to allow them to ask or indicate they need help.  Adults can sometimes move in too quickly and even take over a situation which sends a message of, you can't do this, so I will rescue things and do it for you.

These great opportunities happen all day long in many areas of the classroom and social arena-children thinking they can't do something, but when given some support and time, they can!  It's ok if it's's ok if it takes some work-that time it takes while it's hard is a time of great growth.

The ultimate goal for teachers and parents is for us to provide environments (whether its home/school/out in the community) that support children as they develop life skills to be independent, resolve conflict, learn about themselves, engage socially in appropriate ways and enjoy life!  When a child feels capable and believed in, the sky's the limit!!

Challenge yourself today to do more observing than moving in.  We can learn a lot about children by just watching and listening.  See where you can help provide an opportunity for a child to push through or keep trying something's so fun to see a child's perseverance!