Our Real Work: Inside Our Schools and Past the Locked Door
Responding to Newtown
"Education must foster both the development of individuality and that of society. Society cannot develop unless the individual develops, as we learn from observing the child, who uses his newly won independence to act on a social environment."
- Maria Montessori, Education for Peace, p. 65
The days after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, many of us pulled out our crisis response plans and reviewed them. We walked our school buildings, searching for points of vulnerability. We asked police departments and security companies for advice about securing our facilities and keeping our children safe. And we were sad.
Yet even as we go through these necessary and prudent processes, we cannot forgot that our primary focus needs to be elsewhere. Our optimistic attention, both as educators and parents, must stay on doing the slow, patient, and often indirect work of nurturing each individual child to become a healthy, fully actualized member of society. Our focus must stay on creating meaningful, thoughtful, soulful relationships in our schools – between teacher and child, child and child, teacher and parent, teacher and teacher, and, perhaps the most importantly, we must walk beside children as they develop strong relationships with themselves. Embedded in every story of recent tragedy in schools have been stories of failed relationships, of perpetrators who were lonely, lost, and misunderstood. Relationships, not just with others, but each with himself, had failed. Dr. Montessori guided us to support children as they develop their independence within community. Although tragedies will occur again, we know how to help.
One of the challenges in confronting the complexity of a problem, especially if we are reminded of it daily, is to bring it to a scale that fits our lives. The tendency is to assume there is nothing any one of us can do because the problem is so large. That tendency is clearly not helpful, and interestingly, it may be close to impossible for humans to do nothing. As Dr. Montessori pointed out, we humans are workers. We do things. We fix problems. We change our environment.
So what can we do, as Montessori educators, in response to the threat of violence entering our schools? How can we, with manageable steps, support our children and their families, to be healthy and happy? What is our contribution to the great work of making the world a better place?
I am a list maker. Lists help me cope and often give me a place to begin as I confront a challenge. Here is my list of what I believe we know how to do in Montessori schools, and it feels like a beginning. It is my hope that CMA will provide us a forum to continue the conversation, because none of us has all the answers, and our power resides in our sharing. Just like the children within our care, we adult are individuals who value our independence while living in community.
See each child as who they are.
Accept each child as who they are.
Show your love. Children learn to love by being loved.
Listen deeply, which requires taking time, being quiet, getting down on the child’s level, asking clarifying questions, and once again, taking the time.
Be willing to validate what you hear. If a child expresses hate or fear, at the time is it real, and expressing it verbally may help.
Slow down. Allow a child to take the lead on a walk around the neighborhood and see how slowly they go!
Quiet down. We have all had to lean in to hear the words of a child.
Spent time with children. As the adults in their lives, we are some of their heroes and our attention and time is essential to them.
Allow children to make mistakes – that’s how they learn.
Show children how to fix their own mistakes. Empower them to be capable and independent.
Provide an environment that is rich in real-life activities and poor in media stimulus.
Treat each child with respect.
Expect to be treated with respect in return.
Build your classroom on respectful, polite interactions.
Resolve your own personality issues. Your own self-care becomes a model for children as they learn to care for themselves.
Care for yourself first so that you can then care for children.
Apologize if you lose it and we all do at times
Set limits for your child so that he/she can learn to do that for him/herself.
Be the grown up.
Do not ignore warning signs of social or emotional difficulties a child might be having.
Seek out experts you trust, and listen to their advice.
Act on that advice once your feel comfortable that you have found what you need.
Be patient. Don’t give up.
We invite you to join in a dialogue of how to find small ways to support our children to grow. Montessori wrote: “The child is both the hope and the promise of mankind.” (Education and Peace, p. 36) How can we, as Montessori educators, keep that hope strong?
Montessori Infant-Toddler Training Course June 1, 2013 through August 4th, 2014 (22 Saturdays 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. and 32 Monday Evenings 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.) Cost = Contact Janet Humphryes for more information Location: Bright Horizons' Montessori at Greenwood Plaza
Instructors:Janet Humphryes and Patti Templin Contact: Janet Humphryes or call 303-985-4246 for more information.
Join this unique learning opportunity and enter into a collaborative Montessori learning experience.
March - No Meeting Due to Spring Break
NEW COMMUNITY ADDITIONS Montessori Middle Schools coming in August 2013
The Colorado Montessori Association is strongly committed to inclusion and the respect for diversity in the Montessori community. After all, regardless of training or the setting in which we teach, as Montessori educators we all share a belief in the value of a Montessori education for children and their families, and we all do our best for those children every time we are with them. Isn’t this why we became Montessori teachers originally?
Even at the national level, this is a time for working together to discover our commonalities, to discover what works best for children, and for us to discover how, in spite of our seeming differences, we can come together in support of Montessori education.
Once again, Dr. Angeline Lillard has added to this discussion with her latest article, Preschool Children’s Development in Classic Montessori, Supplemental Montessori and Conventional Programs. Journal of School Psychology 50,379-401. This latest study looks at the outcomes of social skills and academic skills in two types of Montessori programs and compares them with those of conventional preschools programs with NAEYC alignment.
We hear the phrase “authentic Montessori” all the time and discuss which schools are “real” Montessori. In this study, Dr. Lillard controlled for the following variables in all of the study programs.
A three year age span
A two-three hour work span
Small group and individual lessons
A whole class circle time
Low, well organized shelves for activities
The classic Montessori classrooms had a specific set of Montessori materials and one lead teacher, the supplemental classrooms had the set of specific Montessori materials but also included conventional preschool materials such as legos, board games, and worksheets, had two adults giving lessons, and had an interrupted work cycle 1-2 times per week. Generally, these classrooms also had a shorter uninterrupted work cycle than the classic classrooms. The conventional (non-Montessori) classrooms had pretend play areas, workbooks, legos, and board games, used primary group instruction, and had organized blocks of time for specific activities.
The amount of time that children spent engaged in standard Montessori materials and the percentage of children engaged with standard Montessori materials was measured. It was found that significantly greater gains on measures of executive functioning, reading, vocabulary, and math, and social problem solving at the end of the school year correlated with the classic Montessori classroom. This is an important finding as all of these are indicators of school readiness and later school success. Although the outcome results for children in the supplemental Montessori classroom were not as significant, they were greater than those of children in the conventional preschool programs.
Dr. Lillard hypothesizes why engagement with standard Montessori materials results in greater executive functioning, social problem solving, and language and math concepts. Materials which give the opportunity to develop impulse control, motor planning, attention to detail, flexible thinking, and task switching (such as the Pink Tower) encourage the development of executive functioning. The sand paper letters, phonics, and the nomenclature works encourage language development. One of each material in the classroom encourages conflict resolution and respectful social skills.
In her review of this article, Julia Volkman, New Research by Lillard Shows Greater Gains for Classic. Public School Montessorian Winter 2013 vol.25, number 2.7 summarizes this research and comes to this conclusion:
“If it isn’t in your album, take it off your shelves.”
Maybe… but this study does give us the opportunity, once again, to think about our role as Montessori teachers, how and why we do what we do, and how we can best do it for our students.
Are we really committed to designing a prepared environment in which every child can reach for his full potential, be prepared for further education, and for success in adult life?
Are our students engaged in meaningful, purposeful “work” that helps develop concentration, gross and fine motor planning, intellectual curiosity, and positive problem solving and social skills?
Are the materials on your shelves just taking space or are they meeting the developmental needs of your students?
What is your rationale for the materials and activities you have provided? What are the developmental goals and aims? How will your students benefit from engagement in the activity?
Are you giving individual but also small group lessons that are well sequenced and with clear presentations?
Are the variations and extensions you provide related to the basic core concept of the original activity? Do they add value to the child’s experience and opportunity for discovery?
Thinking about these questions and being willing to re-examine what we do in the classroom keeps us on the path of discovery. Sharing our thoughts and our ideas will give us all the opportunity to find our common ground and come together in support of the children we teach.
To read Dr. Lillard’s full article go to The Early Development Lab University of Virgina. Scroll to Published to the pdf link.
Julia Volkman will be giving a keynote address at the AMS conference in Orlando this March.
-Christine Lowry, M.Ed. 2013
Montessori Trained and Certified Teachers Time Frame: 2013-2014 SY
DCS Montessori Castle Pines, CO
Montessori Trained and Certified
DCS Montessori is accepting applications for Montessori Trained and Certified Teachers for the 2013-2014 school year. Please click hereto learn more about these openings and our application process.
Contact: Please send applications to: DCS Montessori School, Dept: JJ, 311 Castle Pines Parkway, Castle Pines CO 80108. Or fax to: 303-387-5626. or scan and email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the closing date to apply for this position is March 22nd, 2013.
MCHD is now accepting applications for Certified Teachers at all levels (Toddlers through Middle School). Please click here for the AMS position listing (select United States and Colorado and scroll down to Montessori Children's House of Denver's listing).
BA Degree or higher
MACTE Accredited Montessori Certification at corresponding classroom level
Strong interpersonal skills
3 or more years of teaching experience preferred
Director Qualifications or CDE Teacher's License Preferred
Contact: Beatrice Watson | Executive Director by e*mail or at 303-322-8324 x 21