The Colorado Montessori Association is a powerful voice for Montessori advocacy providing a forum for networking and professional growth in the Montessori community. It is a highly functioning, evolving professional organization, unified in its vision, respectful, purposeful and inclusive.

Relationship Development and Difficult Conversations

By Rachel Averch

At the beginning of every school year, I am reminded of Tuckman's stages of group development as he described it in his article, Developmental Sequence in Small Groups*.  According to Bruce Tuckman, every group passes through four stages of development of Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing. Each time a new group of people comes together, it passes through each of these stages. And, every time that a person within a group changes, the process starts over again.

As teachers and school leaders, our classrooms and schools are like living, breathing organisms, that are constantly changing and, whether we are aware of it or not, we constantly experience this process unfolding in the classroom with the addition of new students and their families as old students graduate, as a classroom grows, or as an existing teacher or administrator relocates or retires and new people join the teaching team. And, the beginning of the school year is often a time when these new people come into our communities and a new team dynamic begins to develop. 

In the Forming stage, the team meets one another and begins to work together on mutual goals. During this time, people are often on their best behavior, and are very aware of themselves within the group, preoccupied with whether or not they will fit in and be accepted within the team. In keeping with this, you may have noticed that your classroom often runs surprisingly well in the first few days of school giving you a false sense of confidence and leaving you a little unnerved when a Storming stage sets in.  

The severity of a Storming stage may vary depending on the individuals in the group. In this stage, you typically find that disagreements surface and individual styles become more evident. People begin to get more comfortable and express themselves, often leading to some discourse. It is important to recognize that this is a normal stage of group development and is an important one. In fact, even though it can be uncomfortable at times, it is a crucial stage because without tolerance and patience, the team or group dynamics can fail and this stage is an opportunity to build the group's tolerance and patience. If judgment of others happens during this stage, however, it is destructive, so it is imperative that everyone in the community support one another through this phase. This means that difficult conversations must be had in gentle and caring ways, and that every team member's contributions must be valued and supported. Opinions and views need to be solicited and feedback should be welcomed so that a culture of open communication can begin to develop and everyone can "gel."

In the Norming stage, everyone takes responsibility and works for the success of the greater goals. Tolerance of other team members solidifies and people accept one another. During this stage, too, open communication and engaging in conflict in a productive way occurs (which is preferred over avoiding conflict), so that ideas continue to be shared and growth happens.

I like to think of the Performing stage as that time when the classroom truly normalizes. Everyone is productive, motivated and competent. People are able to function both autonomously and as a team, communicating about ideas and respectfully navigating conflict and disagreements as they continue to improve and strive for ongoing growth and furthering their mutual goals.

While each stage can last just a short time (even a few hours depending on the players in the new group), they can take longer when we don't have the skills to navigate the stages effectively. Those skills are all directly related to being effective communicators and gently and lovingly leaning into the discomfort of difficult conversations.  But, how do we know when to have a difficult situation that needs to be addressed, and what do we do this when we find ourselves struggling with people that don't seem to be on the same page?

In their book, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen of the Harvard Negotiation Project define a difficult conversation as anything you find it hard to talk about, and you can usually tell you really need to have a conversation when you are feeling uncomfortable about it. But when you know that avoiding the conversation or confronting the conversation will both end badly, what do you do? It is recommended that you shift to a "Learning Stance" and break down your difficult conversation into three different conversations:
  • The "What Happened?" Conversation - getting everyone's perspective of what happened.
  • The Feelings Conversation - understanding everyone's feelings and determining what to do about the other person's feelings.
  • The Identity Conversation - understanding what this situation means to each person and how it is affecting each person's self-image.
In order to successfully have a difficult conversation, you must be able to operate effectively in all three realms.  You must be able to challenge your own assumptions and be open to understanding and responding to everyone's experiences, needs and interests in order to provide support to each individual and help a healthy team form.

We may find ourselves wanting to argue to get the other person to see our point of view, but experience shows us that arguing simply doesn't work because the root of the problem is actually the fact that when we are arguing, we think they are the problem and they think we are the problem. As long as we let ourselves stay in that frame of mind, there will be no resolution to any problem because arguing without understanding isn't productive or persuasive.

So, during this season of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, I highly recommend that you take the time to get centered, read a book like Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most* or one of the others listed below under resources, and lean into those difficult conversations for the sake of the health and longevity of the relationships that you are developing and for the well-being of the children and teachers under your guidance.

Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965) ‘Developmental sequence in small groups’, Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399).
Stone, Douglas, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen (1999). Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Viking.

Other Great Resources: 
Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Third Edition. London: Random House.
Gladel, Florence (July 1, 2012). 
"The Harvard Principled Negotiation." The World of Collaborative Practice

Article submitted by: Rachel Averch, AMS, Montessori Children's House of Denver
September CMA Director's Network Meeting
What:       Directors' Network Meeting
Speaker:  P. Donohue Shortridge
When:      Thursday, September 17th, 1:00-3:00 pm
Where:    Montessori Children's House of Denver - Stapleton Campus
Phone:    303-322-8324
Topic:      Forming Positive Partnerships with your Families: Start the school year off with excellence by building constructive relationships with parents. We'll look at the importance of understanding their perspective, plus what they wish you would do and say (but maybe aren't). And what to do should conflicts arise, as well as some further tips on retaining families. 
Come and join other Montessori Heads of School as we network, discuss relevant issues and support one another in leading our schools.  Don't miss it!

Coming Soon: CMA Director's Network Meeting Calendar. We are finalizing the details of our hosting schools and speakers for the coming school year. If you are interested in hosting a meeting at your school or in being a speaker, please email us at!

Once the full year's calendar is finalized, we will include a link to a copy with locations and topics in the newsletter so that you can plan ahead.

In the meantime, you can pencil in the
third Thursday of each month from 1:00-3:00 pm, and watch for the e*vites and newsletter announcements each month.
Do you want support from other professionals in your position?
Would you benefit from sharing ideas and success stories?

How about a sympathetic shoulder to lean on? 
We would like to meet on a monthly basis to offer each other support and suggestions for Instructional Coaches and Mentors. 
Please join us for our first meeting:
Monday, September 14 at 5:30PM
Compass Montessori
10399 W. 4th Avenue
Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
This is a "working dinner." Please bring your own dinner and beverage. We look forward to meeting you and hearing your ideas!

For more information, please contact:
Charley Myers, Compass Montessori School                              

Sheila Wolfe, DCS Montessori School
"We must be taught and we must be willing to accept guidance if we wish to become effective leaders."
 -- Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, 1936
"Montessori in the Mountains"
Conference Retreat

September 25-27, 2015
YMCA Conference Center and Resort, Estes Park, CO
Registration brochure is online at Click on RETREAT tab.

Join Montessori teachers and administrators from Colorado and beyond for a stimulating fall weekend of professional development and personal renewal in a beautiful mountain environment. CMA will host the Welcome Reception from 7-9:00 pm on Thursday, September 24th.
  • More than 70 workshops and panel discussions.
  • Noted presenters will include: Jennifer Morgan, Louise Chawla, Betsy Coe, Marta Donohoe, Judi Bauerlein, Susan Tracy McDaniel, Tanaya Winder, and Frank Leto, as well as local favorites: Dee Coulter, Alice Renton, Donohue Shortridge, Betsy Hoke, Kathryn Ross, Sonnie McFarland, and Betsy Lockhart. 
  • Sessions for Infant through Secondary levels.
  • Up to 15 hours credit for professional development.
  • Exhibit Hall (Alison's, ETC, Laughing Star, Great Extensions, Bluestem, Big Picture Science, Montessori Foundation, and more!)
  • Schools Showcase
  • Receptions and Dinners
  • Music, Yoga, and and Dance
Montessori as a Verb - Live it!
"When we live Montessori, we recognize that Montessori classrooms take on a thousand different embodiments... What makes a “Montessori” program is that intangible unnamable breath that loves unconditionally the children in its care, that accepts and propels without judgment, that seeks to find commonalities to unite rather than to separate.  It is a peacefulness and a peace seeking that goes beyond political affiliations and school accreditations.
When we realize that Montessori is a verb, an action and not a thing, we grant ourselves the grace to grow as teachers.  We grant ourselves the union of community with other educators." 
Taken from: Catherine McTamaney, The Tao of Montessori, pg. 1
The Montessori Mastermind:
Smart Leaders. Exceptional Schools.
The Montessori Mastermind is a small group of Montessori school leaders working in a supportive, confidential community as they hone their leadership skills by learning from one another as well as some of the best experts out there. There are only a few spaces left. Reserve your spot today!

Learn more by clicking here:
Colorado Montessori Association is an advocacy and community support organization. We work to serve both school and individual members. Through working together, we all have an opportunity to raise the quality of Montessori education in Colorado ad make it available to more children. Please take a moment and fill out our CMA Special Events Survey, which we hope will help us to better understand what kinds of events will support you well. Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey!
Colorado Montessorians unite! Support Montessori advocacy in Colorado while also enjoying the benefits of networking, community forums and discounts on events, including great speakers like David Kahn, Jackie Cossentino, Tim Seldin and Phil Gang!  
Without members like you, CMA's work to ensure Montessori training for QRIS quality raters, advocacy for testing options for public Montessori schools, and the passing of House Bill 1276 allowing breakable waivers for Montessori schools wouldn't be possible...
If you aren't already a member, click here to sign up now. 
"Let us give the child a vision of the Whole Universe... the Universe is an important reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life: for all things are a part of the Universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity."
-Dr. Maria Montessori

Member Schools can now sport the CMA "Member Program" Logo on their websites!
If you are a CMA member school or organization in good standing, it’s worth sharing that information!   That you have chosen to partner with other Montessori programs in the state gives additional credibility to not only your school, but Montessori education in general.
You are invited to add this “CMA Member Program” logo to your website, or use it in print publications.  We ask that you complete a “CMA Logo Use Application Form”, and send a signed copy to CMA via email to: Upon receipt of a signed agreement, we will respond to your email with a digital version of the program member logo shown below for your use.  
Classroom Assistant for Young Child's Community (1-3 years old)
Boulder, CO
Position Description:

Classroom assistants are responsible for the well-being of the children in the classroom as well as supporting the teacher with a variety of tasks. Some of these tasks include: classroom organization, cleaning, playground supervision, Montessori material making, and more. The assistant is principally supporting the lead teacher rather than directly teaching children. This role requires someone who is responsible, detail oriented, and skilled with children ages 1-3 years. In addition, the classroom assistants support evening childcare during Parent Education Nights and other evening meetings at MSMS as well as Activity Days offered during Parent Teacher Conferences. Applicants must hold a Colorado Early Childhood Teacher certificate. No exceptions. 

Start Date:
Effective immediately. Concludes on July 31, 2015.

To Apply: 
Applications will be reviewed immediately. Contact

Mountain Shadows was founded in 1976 and is located in a beautiful, renovated farm house on over 12 acres of land in Boulder County. Our program supports children using the internationally accredited Montessori model distinct for its hands-on academic materials, individual and small group lessons, and emphasis on supporting the development of the whole child -- academically, socially and emotionally.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .
Primary Montessori Certified Teacher
Broomfield, CO
Position Description:

Candidates must be enthusiastic, warm, nurturing, kind, creative individuals who completed a Montessori Certification program. Positions available working with children ages 3 to 6 years. Compensation is competitive and based on education and experience.

Full-time employees receive Health and Dental benefits, sick pay, vacation, professional and paid days.

Start Date:
Effective immediately. Full-time.

To Apply: 
Please email resume or call 303-457-4400 if you are Montessori Certified. 

If you have a position that you would like to see posted in the CMA newsletter, please contact us with your position information at: 

Cost:  $35.00 per month for Member Schools, $75.00 per month for Non-Member Schools. 

Position posting deadline is the 3rd Friday of each month for the coming month's newsletter.

To become a CMA member school, click here.
Get Involved with CMA... 
Articles & Images Needed - Submission deadline: the 3rd Friday of each month.
  • Are you a published author or photographer? Would you like to be? Submit your original work to CMA by the 3rd Friday of each month with the possibility of having your photographs and/or article selected for one of the future newsletters. Submit photographs and articles for consideration to CMA at with a copy of your article and some details about yourself. (CMA reserves the right to edit all material prior to publication). 
Be a member!
  • If you aren't already, sign up to become a member of the Colorado Montessori Association, by clicking here.  
  • If you are already a member, don't forget to renew your membership now!
Cave Art
From Pinterest and Alejandra Chavez

Tweezing Sunflower Seeds
From Pinterest and Itty Bitty Love

Stained Glass Windows
From Pinterest and 2Me4Art

CMA Board of Directors
Kathryn Ross - President
RB Fast - Vice President

Lyn Mead - Treasurer
Rachel Averch - Secretary
Sheila Wolfe

Katy Myers
Karen Farquharson
Jim Barrett
Martha Teien

September Board Meeting:

September 24, 3:00-5:00 pm
Montessori in the Mountains, Estes Park

Contact us by e*mail
Join CMA Today!

Member Benefits:

  • Two program administrators are enrolled at no extra charge.
  • Lead teachers receive a $10 discount on membership.
  • Discounts on admission to CMA sponsored professional development events.
  • Featured on CMA website with a link to the school’s website.
  • $40 discount on job advertisements in the CMA newsletter.
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Would you like to have an article you have written published, or do you have any great photos or noteworthy events that you would like to share in the CMA Newsletter?  If so, please e*mail CMA! The deadline for newsletter submitting is the 3rd Friday of each month for the coming month's newsletter.
Edited by: Katie Beglin