Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Planets

My trainer/mentor/friend, Carol Scarrett of Western Montessori Teachers' College, sent me an email the other day with these amazing pictures attached.

I have no idea where they came from or if I am violating copyright laws…..but I think I feel a work coming on!

Monday, December 28, 2009

With My Own Two Hands

Sometimes the universe just seems to reach out and smack you across the top of the head. This happened to me a few years ago on a quick trip to Calgary. It was a busy visit butI managed to keep a promise I’d made to myself when hearing that one of my best friends had been diagnosed with cancer. I promised I would never take a trip to Calgary without seeing her. This trip was no different.

I arranged to see my friend the morning my family was scheduled to return home to Vancouver Island. I hurriedly packed our suitcases, tidied the messes we’d made in my Mom’s house and waited for my friend. Finally, her car pulled up in front of the house and I ran outside. We gave each other a big hug, then we got in the car and she told me that her cancer was in remission. After a few happy minutes of hugs and tears, we settled down enough for my friend to start the car. We drove for a few minutes in joyful silence then she suddenly said “Oh! You have to hear this song.” She pushed play and I heard With My Own Two Hands by Jack Johnson for the first time.

Perhaps it was the joy of that moment but With My Own Two Hands immediately reminded me that anything is possible as long as some sort of action is taken. After all, my friend had refused to just accept her illness, fought hard and won a few more years.

Personally, the song reminds me of the many conversations I’ve had with my teenage sons about the importance of taking action and speaking out. To them the world seems so out of control and the problems so overwhelming. My husband and I have always tried to show them, through our actions and our words, that we “can clean up the earth with our own two hands.”

The lines “I can comfort you/ with my own two hands/ but you've got to use/ use your own two hands” speak to my profession. I may be able to guide, give counsel and perhaps even some comfort but I cannot force another person to change their life or situation. I believe every individual is unique and therefore must make their own decisions by themselves - with their own two hands. I can only offer support and, hopefully, the tools needed for the changes to come from within.

I have long valued peace and happiness and this song also speaks to those values. If my actions can bring a little bit of peace or happiness into another person’s life then it is worth any personal risk I may take.

More than that, however, the song speaks to my belief that any person can change the world as long as that person is motivated to take action. It speaks to the capability and power that a single voice can have. From Gandhi to Martin Luther King, from Dr. Montessori to Mother Teresa – every significant moment in our history has been the result of someone who made an unwavering commitment to a dream – to no longer be content with the way things are, but instead hope for the way things could be.

Finally, this song speaks to my understanding of the need for advocacy in the field of Child and Youth Care. I’ve often heard the phrase “knowledge is power” but knowledge is only "power in reserve" (Brown). It remains useless if it's not tapped into by applying action. I believe that knowledge not put to action remains just knowledge in one’s head and provides no benefit. It is completely wasted. This song reminds me that I have the capability to put any knowledge I have about controversial child and youth care related issues into action “with my own two hands.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joy and Peace to the World

"If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men." Dr. Montessori

My family and I wish everyone a truly joyful Christmas season.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why is it so important that my child be on time for school?

Our classroom opens at 8:30 in the morning and most of the children trickle in between then and 9:00. This gives them time to socialize while they take off their outside clothes, hang everything up in their lockers and cubbies, put on their inside shoes and then wash their hands before starting the school day. By 9:00, most of the children are into focused work and a hush begins to fall over the classroom.

Just at that moment, a child arrives late, pushed through the door by a parent with a quick kiss on the cheek to serve as goodbye. The child stands on the mat for a moment then walks over to the nearest table to greet the child working there. The working child is disturbed. The late child is guided back to the lockers by the teacher but manages to disturb two more children on the way there. The teacher returns to the child she was working with but the moment for learning has passed. The late child takes off her outside clothes and puts them away then goes to wash her hands. Her lunch bag remains on the mat where her parent left it. The bag remains there until one of the teachers guides her back to it.

Finally the child settles down and begins to concentrate on an activity she has chosen………when another late child is pushed through the door with a quick kiss on the cheek…………………………

Everytime a child enters late, the entire classroom is disturbed. The flurry at the door is always distracting no matter how quiet a parent tries to be. The late child misses that very important socialization that the other children have had. The teacher is interrupted in the middle of a lesson and most focused work in the classroom has been halted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Name Change

I've just realized that someone else has used the blog name "Montessori Musings" so I've changed the name of my blog. Hopefully, no one has already used "A Montessori Musing Place". Oh well, if I must I'll just change the name again. Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The classroom environment

The design and maintenance of the classroom environment is the most important task of a Montessori teacher. It is a special place, carefully prepared to encourage the children to "reveal their true and normalized selves" (Standing) and must be maintained with a zeal bordering on obsession. For example, constant vigilance must be held to ensure the classroom remains clean and orderly, and if any of the materials are broken or have pieces missing they must be removed from the shelf immediately and repaired or replaced. Dr. Montessori compares the teacher's scrupulous care of the environment to that of housewives of the twentieth century. "In our countries where each wife has her own home, the wife tries to make the home as attractive as possible for herself and her husband. Instead of giving her whole attention to him, she gives much also to the house, so as to make surroundings in which a normal and constructive life can flourish" (Montessori). In a classroom that is kept clean and tidy, with all the equipment in excellent condition, the teacher not only shows her love for the children and concern for their progress, but ensure herself an environment in which she can easily observe them. If the teacher is continuously interrupted during class time because of less than meticulous preparation, she may miss an important observation opportunity.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Outdoor Activities

The Hammer and Nails

This is a favourite activity rain or shine. The tool case holds a small bucket of roofing nails, a 10 oz. hammer, a pair of child sized work gloves and a pair of clear acrylic goggles - again, child sized. The work may be done standing or sitting. This child clearly prefers to sit while hammering nails into the stump.
Just inside the door of my classroom is a shelf which holds all the outside materials. These are, for the most part, materials that facilitate the child in working outside. There is a bucket filled with bird seed and a scoop, a large pitcher to carry water to the bird bath, a sandpaper activity, a small outside broom and rake, the hammer and nails activity, and a bucket and a small watering can (the bucket is filled by the teachers and the child scoops water into the watering can to care for the outside plants). Needless to say, when weather permits, these are very popular activities.

I should add that the photo in this post was taken a few summers ago. The temperature was -7 today - too cold to be out on the deck without a coat!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The role of the teacher as facilitator of the child's learning

Early in her work, Dr. Maria Montessori realized that it is not easy to educate teachers to "kindle flames rather than fill vessels" (Socrates). This is understandable: the Montessori method is philosophically and practically different from other educational methods, and is also very different from the personal educational experiences of most adults who become Montessori teachers. The words"directress" or "guide" are sometimes used rather than "teacher" because of the different role of the adult in relating to the child - directing him to find the best way to learn from the environment rather than from the adult. Following the same line of thought, the word "facilitate" as defined by the Oxford dictionary is 'to make something easy, to promote or help forward'. Therefore the word "facilitator" would mean someone who enables another to move forward; someone who makes things easier.

A Montessori teacher, then, is a facilitator. However, the process of becoming a facilitator is difficult. Most of us are products of the traditional classroom in which the teacher is an authority figure. Because of this personal experience, it is not easy to discard our early impressions and replace them with that of the teacher in a less dominant role. It is a process that requires much self-analysis. "We insist on the fact that a teacher must prepare himself interiorly by systematically studying himself so that he can tear out his most deeply rooted defects, those in fact which impede his relations with children" (The Secret of Childhood).

In more up-to-date terminology, a person wishing to become a Montessori teacher may have to undergo a serious attitude adjustment. To be a true facilitator for children, a teacher must strive to see children as dignified human beings, and learn how to understand why children do what they do. A teacher must be realistic about his or her own capabilities & personality traits and constantly work toward developing to their full potential.


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