Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sliding to School

When you enter our school there is a long set of stairs for the children to navigate.  In the winter, it can get slippery.  We've tried lots of surfaces, and the one we have now works pretty well, but I'm always nervous about the children.  When we were looking for solutions, I semi-jokingly suggested a slide.  Evidently, great minds think alike.  I viewed this video on Dan Pink's website.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The End of Men

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Earlier in the year I wrote about boys being left behind.  On NPR I heard Hanna Rosin being interviewed about an article she wrote titled, "The End of Men" for the Atlantic Monthly.  While it is unclear why boys and men are lagging behind women, there are several hypotheses.  One is that the supposed female right brain dominance is simply more suited for the social and managerial skills needed in today's economy.  Another is that with the elimination of many blue-collar type jobs, college is the clear path to middle-class and upper-middle-class life, and women find more success in college.  Some posit that schools throughout life are simply more amenable to female skills and less so for males.  Montessorians believe that society benefits when all are valued and feel fulfilled.  Let's figure this out.  Women and men have much to offer.  As societal norms change, let's find the change we need to help all people thrive.  More widespread Montessori education is part of the answer, as the environment supports all kinds of learning styles.  Read the article at:  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/1/.  T-shirt available at:  www.zazzle.com.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary

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I've been considering as of late what makes a good Montessori teacher.  We can all agree that the teacher must be trained in the materials and the theory.  The teacher must understand child development.  The teacher must communicate effectively with the parents.  The teacher must be able to present the materials effectively, and keep adequate records.  But what is the element that elevates an ordinary teacher to extraordinary?  Dr Montessori says, "To stimulate life,–leaving it then free to develop, to unfold,–herein lies the first task of the educator. In such a delicate task, a great art must suggest the moment, and limit the intervention, in order that we shall arouse no perturbation, cause no deviation, but rather that we shall help the soul which is coming into the fullness of life, and which shall live from its own forces. This art must accompany the scientific method. (The Montessori Method; Maria Montessori). It seems to achieve this "art" our observations must be discerning and unbiased, so that we may recognize the moment where we may stimulate the inner life of the child.  We must also be attuned acutely to the child, so that we know when to leave the child free to use his own "force" to develop.  Montessori also states, " It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism (The Montessori Method)."  So while we may possess all the mechanics of a Montessori teacher (materials, education, etc.) without the necessary inner spirit and art we will fall short of being the complete teacher.  I think I understand.  I have seen rooms which operate well, are managed well, but there is no great love.  The children have not coalesced as a community, they show little excitement, and the work is confined to the materials.  I have also seen rooms where there is a living spirit, where the children are respectful yet alive, where education comes in many shapes and forms.  What do you think?  What is the intangible something that transforms a Montessori teacher into a phenomenal Montessori teacher?  Perhaps it is the living of life with a true excitement that is generated by all the possibilities.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spread a Little Sunshine

School's out, the graduates have graduated, the casa is clean, and it is World Cup Soccer time!  Feeling happy, and thought you might enjoy this happy little song!  As my children say, "Hip, hip hooray!  It's such a beautiful day!"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An Ode to the Graduates

A colleague of mine observed in the Casa on Tuesday and what she said struck a chord with me.  She said, (and I paraphrase), "If every parent in Montessori could see your older children, they would all stay for the third year."  She was most struck by the children's independence, their problem-solving ability, and their "living-out" of the grace and courtesy lessons.  She noticed it with all the children, but especially with the older ones.  One child offered her tea, without any prompting.  The child made it herself, and when my colleague went to wash her dishes said, "You don't need to do that; I'll take care of it."  Another child deflected a not-so-nice comment with grace and ease.  An indication of their independence was my comment, "I can't get anyone to take a presentation this morning--they are all so busy."  To me it seemed a chaotic morning, because as those last days of school wind down the energy level and noise level seems to rise, but to her, it was a community living with purpose and love.  I will miss our lovely graduates, with their unique personalities and gifts.  I know that regardless of where they go for first grade and beyond, the foundation they have laid will serve them well.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sleeping With The Laundry

There is a mom's blog called "Sleeping With the Laundry," the name of which, depending on my mood, I find funny or sad (been there, done that, and I can't believe I'm admitting it, although my name would be "Napping With the Laundry").  The blog is also now an iPhone app, for those of you with that capability.  At both school and home, I felt like I was literally sleeping with the laundry, so we had a laundry folding party for the school laundry.  The children fold laundry every day but it felt special when everyone pitched in.  So many projects are like this--heavy work for few hands, and light work for many hands.  It was satisfying for all of us to get our laundry under control, and we had fun doing it!  Now I need a Montessori laundry folding party at my house--any takers?