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Montessori Institute of America’s school tours, 2016 October 18, 2016

Filed under: Diversity,Montessori education,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:36 pm

As part of the Montessori Institute of America’s national conference  (https://mia-world.org/annual-conference/), I attended the school tours on the Friday morning.  For Montessori teachers, the school tours are always a big highlight of any conference!  This tour was really brilliant because we got to see three very different versions of Montessori, yet all three were very authentic.  One school was large and very corporate, one was small and homey, and one was in a rural setting.  Big differences from Washington State, where I live and work, is that in Georgia there are more children per teacher : 15 children – 1 teacher, versus 10: 1 in Washington.  The group sizes can also be larger, especially in the toddler range.  I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the schools with me!

Below, photos from Montessori Academy of Sharon Springs.  This school serves children ages 18 months through 15 years of age.  The school is run by an educational corporation called ‘Endeavor’.  The building is purpose built for a school, with each classroom having direct access to the outside.  The environment is very polished and perfect.  I loved the photos throughout the building with the Montessori quotes,  the awesome rug in this classroom, the flags at the entrance that signal diversity and the greenhouse that is being built by the middle school students – great practical life for big kids!

Below, photos from Stepping Stone Montessori School.  My first impression of this smaller school was that it is a very warm, homey environment, serving infants through kindergarten.  I loved the sculpture out front, and the emphasis on nature (composting, feeding the birds, herb garden for sensory exploration) and their beautiful infant environment.

Finally, take a glimpse into Children’s House of North Forsyth.  This school is in a rural Georgia setting.  This school has a very full set of Montessori materials.  As an example, for exploring landforms, there were 3 D models, landform wooden puzzles, nomenclature cards, felt versions of the landforms, and materials for the children to make their own versions of the landforms.  The classrooms were very quiet and peaceful.  The adult to child ratio was about 1:6 in the preschool and 1:5 in the elementary, so the children received a lot of adult attention.  The school has a chef (yes, a chef, not a cook) and I was very impressed with the delicious smell of lunch cooking.  The photos below are of the elementary classroom and the awesome outdoor music feature on the playground.

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Making Peace, Part Three October 4, 2016

Filed under: Community Building,Diversity,Montessori education,peace — bevfollowsthechild @ 10:10 pm

Photos above, clockwise from top left – The Peace Rose book, a great tool for teaching respectful conflict resolution, yoga cards for individual yoga practice, oil timers – an aid to relaxation, and yoga flow – learning to listen to the breath to restore calm and peace

Ms. Jane suggested that each month we focus on a quote to inspire discussions around the lunch table and during staff meetings.  As all of the classrooms have been focusing on peace, Ms. Jane chose this quote from Maria Montessori: “Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education.”  After seeing the rise of Mussolini in her own country of Italy and living through World Wars I and  II, Maria Montessori devoted a lot of time to the topic of peace education during the latter part of her life.  She believed, as do I, that our children are the hope for a lasting peace.  When they are young, they are forming beliefs  and attitudes and developing skills.  Through education at home and school, we hope those attitudes include compassion, empathy, acceptance, fairness, and an appreciation for diversity.  We hope the skills they develop include problem-solving skills.

So how are our teachers and children focusing on peace within their classrooms and our school?

On Wednesday, September 21st, on Peace Day, our school joined schools all across the world in singing a song for peace.  We sang it in the morning, so we could include our youngest students from Oak Room, and again in the afternoon.  We joined hands in a big circle, sang Light a Candle for Peace and passed around a globe.  We talked about how children from many countries would also be singing the same song in their own languages, too.  We were all taking the time out of our busy day to celebrate and hope for peace.

What you can do, at home and school:

Create an atmosphere of welcome and acceptance in your classroom and/or home, so that children develop the quality of acceptance of diversity.  Mr. Abe, lead teacher in Oak Room for two year olds, added, We are going to be inviting parents into the classroom to spend the morning with us  to focus on family, culture and peace. We have families that speak Chinese, Korean and English at home. This will create a warm, welcome and accepting environment as we get to know each other.

Learn to share your thoughts without hurting feelings or shouting: Ms. Jane, Aspen Room for 3- 6 year olds, writes, We have learned a lot about friendships and how to share our thoughts with each other, without hurting feelings or shouting.  We have shared friendship stories from my favorite set of books, the dinofours. The main characters are four year old dinosaurs who go to preschool and have some of the same issues that we too have as a class. I love sharing these friendship stories.  Please do look out for books focused on friendship, sharing feelings and resolving conflicts respectfully.  Thanks.

Use tools to help children learn how to relax, meditate, solve problems, appreciate silence and solitude: Ms. Tessa, Willow Room for 3 – 6 year olds, adds, We talk about peace on a daily basis in Willow Room, and we practice peace, too.  We use materials such as the peace rose book to problem solve, the oil timers to  relax (They are so beautiful to watch!), and we have a special stool which is reserved for a child when he or she wants to be alone and undisturbed.  These materials help our children learn to take time to be quiet and calm and undisturbed.  They are learning early how to take a minute or two for a mental health break!  We also use important words, like respect, friendship, calm, quiet.

In addition, we do yoga before every group circle time.  Yoga is a fine way to learn to listen to our minds and bodies, and to learn to use our breath to bring peace, quiet and calm.

Help children recognize the words and attitudes of peace: Ms. Sudha, Maple Room for 5 – 8 year olds, says, Peace Education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment. In the first two weeks, we learned about grace and courtesy lessons, which led to lessons on peace. We have discussed the value of peace in education, peace words and peacemakers. Children are adopting peace mentally, physically and emotionally within themselves. Maple students are making a peace book where they write all the peace words that we use in our daily lives. Peace in education is practicing problem solving and conflict resolution, being loving and caring, being confident, independent, kind and polite, and being respectful  of living things and nature.

Thanks, teachers, for sharing your thoughts on peace education.

 

Sharing of talents May 19, 2016

Today I had the pleasure of attending a very special Performance Day in our elementary classroom.  Once a week, throughout the year, the elementary students are invited to demonstrate and share a talent in front of a live audience of their peers – their classmates!  Today, towards the end of the school year, parents and teachers were invited to attend the performance.  This is a very kid friendly and kid organized event, so the definition of talent is very broad and very entertaining ~ whistling, twirling, showing off a new ballet move or karate move, singing a song, drawing a picture, telling a joke, reading a book, reading a story you wrote, counting (forwards, backwards, in another language, by fives, by tens . . . ), demonstrating a magic trick, explaining a science experiment, playing an instrument – cello, guitar, violin, keyboard, recorder, demonstrating some signs you know . . . the list is varied, endless and changes from week to week.  A demonstration of how to clap loudly, or how to make a special sound from blowing on a blade of grass held between your thumbs, or jump rope , or blow up a balloon. . . you betcha these are talents in the eyes of the children!

I was so impressed with the poise of the children.  The children introduced themselves, told the audience what they were going to perform, performed, took a bow, thanked the audience and then sat down.

The children learn and practice so many worthwhile skills from Performance Day.  They develop confidence in being able to stand up and address a group.  They practice their audience manners, an age appropriate grace and courtesy skill.  They work on developing respect for one another and themselves.  And I think most importantly, they recognize the unique gifts and talents of each child in their community, and so develop their appreciation for both diversity and community.

The final performance of the afternoon included a small group performance of ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ on violin, cello, recorder and keyboard.  Second time through the tune, the quartet was joined by the voices of the children and audience members.  It was very special indeed.

Thank you, Ms. Sudha, for sharing your amazing and unique talents as a teacher!  That is what you performed today as I watched your children share their talents.  You have created a community of children who are confident in their own skills and contributions to the community, as well as appreciative of the talents and contributions of others.  This embodies all of our school values – community, diversity, love of learning, dignity and child centered!

 

 

 

 

Seeing our School through New Eyes April 27, 2016

Seeing our school through new eyes is amazing!  We have Ms. Makiko, a kindergarten teacher from Japan, visiting our school for three weeks.  This is a great cross-cultural experience for us all, and I am really enjoying seeing Ms. Makiko’s enthusiasm for what she is learning about Montessori education.  Yesterday, on her first day, she had a tour of our school and an introduction to Montessori philosophy and practices.  We looked at the practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural areas for different age levels, toddler, three to six year olds, and lower elementary.  She then observed in the toddler environment and both three to six-year-old classrooms.  Today she spent the day with our elementary students.  Observing students from age two to age nine working in their normal environments is a wonderful way to see child development.

Tomorrow she will accompany our elementary students on a walking field trip to our local public library and participate in her first staff meeting at our school.

I am really enjoying hearing her comments and answering her questions.

“Your students are so smart!”  Well, yes, they are.  Children are smart and given the right opportunities, are engaged and excited about learning.

“Your teachers are amazing!”  Well, yes, they are.  All of our lead teachers have Montessori teacher certification for the age levels at which they teach, and all of our assistant teachers have completed a Montessori assistant teacher training.  Our school is passionate about Montessori teacher training.  During the last eight years we have financially supported eight teachers through Montessori certification, and provided a practicum site for an additional seven students, and provided Montessori assistant teacher training for over twenty teachers. Our teachers are also hardworking and passionate, a winning combination.

“I noticed a boy doing math all morning long, and nothing else. Is that OK?”

What followed was a discussion about following the child and the importance of the teacher really knowing his or her students.  Some children balance their learning over a week, and spend each day focused on a different area – math today, language tomorrow.  Other children balance their learning over a longer period.  This is what one of my children did – focus on language for six solid weeks, followed by maps and geography for two months, then math for a month . . . Some children need their teacher to help them balance their learning.  “Yesterday you spent the whole day doing math.  Today, let’s start in a different area.”  Sometimes that might include the teacher and child collaborating on a work plan.  Teachers also need to take into account the development and age of the child.  For a young three-year-old, a focus on practical life is typical.

As for that cross cultural experience, one of our classrooms is currently studying Asia, and will invite Ms. Makiko to introduce them to Japan.  We are also all getting ready to celebrate Moms’ Day with a tea, and so would love to experience a Japanese Tea Ceremony.

I can’t wait to hear Ms. Makiko’s comments and answer her questions over the next few weeks.