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“Sticks and Stones may Break My Bones, But Words Can Never Hurt Me!” November 18, 2017

How many of us learned the above rhyme as a child, and how many of us still believe it is true?  For many of us, it is the names we were called that have caused us long-lasting hurt.

In the Children’s House, we focus on simple lessons of grace and courtesy and a safe place to practice these skills~ how to say please, thank you, sorry, accept an apology, accept or decline an invitation, offer to help, accept or decline help, how to invite a friend to play, how to ask to join a game, how to introduce yourself, introduce someone else, shake hands, greet someone, welcome someone . . ..

While the above lessons are still important in the elementary community, the focus of grace and courtesy extends to include the elementary child’s mission to discover for himself what is right or wrong, what are the rules of society, and how to develop a just and caring community, and find his or her place within it.  The children are developing their moral compass.

At the school where I work, the teachers and I are planning a series of lessons to help children develop their own inner moral compass.  The lessons offer opportunities to contribute to the well being of others, such as sewing and stuffing stockings for the local foodbank, to be distributed to other children in need.  The lessons will offer opportunities to participate in a Martin Luther King Junior project.  Students will be invited to participate individually or in groups to write or design a poster that shows how we can welcome someone into our classroom community.  The lessons will celebrate friendship, with a focus during February on celebrating random acts of kindness.  Lessons will include classroom meetings which offer opportunities to group problem solve, without blaming or shaming.  Other opportunities will include sorting actions into different categories, such as rude behavior, mean behavior and bullying behavior.

We introduced this focus on grace and courtesy with a discussion of the common saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.”  At first the discussion was around who had broken a bone and how the bone was fixed, until someone in the group said, “Well, I’ve never broken a bone, or been hit with a stick or a stone, but I’ve had my feelings hurt with words.”

Another child added that hearing very mean words left her feeling damaged.

This was the perfect opportunity to introduce our activity – bullying an apple!  I demonstrated then invited children to take turns coming up to an apple and saying something mean to the apple.  Here are some of the words used:

“I don’t like your color.”

“I just don’t like apples.”

“I don’t like your shape.”

“You are too small.”

“You are a wimp.”

“Grapes are better than apples.”

“Apples are no good.”

“I hate apples.”

There were a few giggles, but then the conversation turned serious as we realized everything that we had said to the apple, we had heard said to people.

Next we turned our attention to another apple, and this time said something nice about the apple.

“You are beautiful.”

“Apples are so good for you.”

“You are just right.”

“I like apples.”

We all agreed that we felt better ourselves saying nice things, so we talked about how when we say mean things it can make us feel mean inside, but when we use friendly words, we feel kind inside.

Lastly, we cut the apples in half.  I had secretly dropped the apple we bullied several times on a hard wood floor, so when we cut the apple in half, it looked bruised on the inside.  The other apple was unharmed.  Of course, after the kids response of, “WOW!”, I explained what I had done, and that this was a demonstration, to make a point, not an experiment to see if we could damage an apple with our words.  The kids were still impressed and got the point.  Words can hurt someone inside, even if they don’t leave an obvious bruise on the outside.

There were immediate requests to “Do it again, please,” but it was time for lunch!

This lesson, to me, is similar to toddlers practicing gentle touches on a flower.  It is a reminder, and an experience we can refer back to.  In the future, when children use mean words to one another, we can ask, “Do you remember when we bullied the apple with our words, and how we discussed how words can hurt us inside?”

I would love to hear from others on ideas they have used to help elementary children develop these important social skills.

I got this idea from a facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/newsnercom/videos/924570201043625/

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Stones from the bucket! Coming full circle! February 23, 2017

Filed under: community,Community Building,creativity,peace,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 6:36 pm

Coming full circle!
Recently our elementary kids’ performed a short play called ‘Stones in a Bucket’ to help us all get a better understanding of how our words can weigh someone down or be uplifting. The stones the children dropped into a bucket represented the harshness and meanness of put downs. Afterwards the children then said something uplifting, and they removed a stone from the bucket.
Now those very stones have been turned into mini works of Art, and distributed around downtown Pullman, our community, to brighten someone’s day. If you find a stone nestled somewhere, it might make you smile, or pick it up to look closer and enjoy the art. These stones are like stones thrown into a pond to send out ripples. These beautiful stones are sending out ripples of kindness and joy!

 

Stones in a Bucket ~ A Play about the Power of Words to put down or uplift! February 20, 2017

annikahalienina

Stones in a bucket

The Maple Room kids  wrote and performed a very short play called, ‘Stones in a Bucket’ as a way to show their understanding that words and tone of voice can hurt, as well as make someone feel happy and accepted.  They performed this play for the 3 – 6 year old children, too, so the younger children can learn from the older children about ‘put downs’ and ‘put ups.’  Thanks, Megan, owner of Montessori Children’s House of Lewiston, for introducing me to the concept of ‘put downs’ and ‘put ups.’

One child held a bucket.  The children took turns walking up to her, saying a put down and then dropping a stone into the child’s bucket.  This child’s face and body language showed her weighed down with sadness.  Examples of comments were:

“I don’t want to play with you.”

“You’re not my friend.”

“I don’t want to sit with you at lunch.”

“You’re not invited to my birthday.”

“Who cares?”

The words and the sound of the stones made a big impact on the preschoolers.

Next the children took turns walking up to the child with the bucket and said ‘put ups’ and took a stone out of the bucket.  The child responded, showing that she was feeling more confident and happier.  We wanted to end on a happy note.  Examples of ‘put ups’ included:

“Do you want to play?”

“You’re my friend.”

“I like you.”

“Do you want to sit with me at lunch?”

“You’re nice.”

Afterwards we had a ‘chat back’ with our audience, and asked for the younger children to respond.  They said:

“The stones sounded mean and hard as they clanged in the bucket.”

“The mean words with the stones made her feel sad.”

“When they said kind words, they took a stone away.  Her bucket got lighter.  She was happier.”

“Words can hurt and make people feel sad.”

The actors responded by saying that it was hard to say the mean words and it made them feel sad.  Saying the kind words was easier and made them feel good.

Thanks, big kids, for teaching the younger students a lesson on kindness and the power of our words.

 

Montessori Memories February 18, 2017

Filed under: Montessori education,Montessori memories,Mother,peace,Practical Life,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 6:22 pm

16826004_10208585533099345_3254929054996917078_oWhen I first saw this photograph, recently sent to me from one of the children in the photo, I thought that it was a photo of me, around 1984, working in a childcare center.  And then I realized it was just my back yard. We are dying Easter eggs.  The child, now grown, said that she always remembers doing interesting things at our home.  I think I was meant to be a Montessori teacher!  I loved cooking with the children, setting out pouring games, and our favorite, the doll’s clothes laundry.  Most of the time in Texas, this laundry was set up outside, but on cold days, I would string a washing line up in the den!

Looking back, I realize my first exposure to Montessori was in a friend’s home in England.  She never called her home a Montessori home, but I remember how peaceful and calm it was, and how activities were available in baskets on shelves, ready for the children to choose.  Anna, my daughter, used a knife to cut up her own snack while we were there.  We left England when Anna was two and a half, so she was very young to be using a knife.  That is my confirmation that this was indeed a Montessori home.  There was the right size knife for Anna to use.

My next exposure was at Arlington Country Day School.  I was looking for a preschool for my daughters, Anna, now four and a half, and Elanor, almost three.  Once again, it was the sense of peace that really hooked me in.  I was close to tears when I realized that this is where I wanted my children to go to school, but also because I had found my passion!  I wanted to be a Montessori teacher.  Thirty-two years later, I am still passionate about Montessori education.  The sense of peace and joy remains an inspiration.  I am full of wonder that after so many years children still surprise me with new and unique ways to learn, problem solve and create with the materials.Just look at the variations below!

HeAnna loves pouring games. Love the wellington boots and apron!re are a few more photos from the eighties!  This is Anna, long ago in England, playing pouring games.  When I saw the water works in practical life at the first Montessori school I visited, I thought, “Pouring games!  my children will love this!”

My one year old son washing dishes at the kitchen sink, while big sis helps!

 

We are the kids of the Montessori School of Pullman and we approved this message November 9, 2016

Filed under: Community Building,cultural studies,peace,Uncategorized — bevfollowsthechild @ 9:12 am
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We are the kids of the Montessori School of Pullman, and we approved this message!

Our primary students, ages 3 – 6, are currently inspired to learn about North America, and many of them are busy making North America books (see photos above, for cultural work about North America)  Our elementary students have been focused on the election for President of the United States of America.

Today, on election day 2016, as President Barack Obama comes to the end of his second term, the kindergarten and elementary students gathered in small groups to discuss their platforms for when they run for president, some time around 2044 and 2048.

“What are the biggest problems facing our nation?”

We have some strong environmentalists among our children. 

“Our biggest problem is water.  In some areas, we don’t have enough water and other places are flooding.  This is bad for people and animals.”

“Everyone needs clean water.”

“We need to plant more trees.”

 We also have children who are very concerned over helping others.

“There are people with no homes and not enough good food.”

“Some people don’t have enough money.”

“There are too many people in jails.”

Other children are most concerned with peace. 

“Crime is a big problem, and violence. “

“What is something we should change about our country?  What is something that would make Americans have a better happier life?”

This is where we heard our children who strongly believe in social justice come through.

“Everyone should have the same rights.”

“We need to use our words to solve our problems not our bodies.”

“We need to change our world through peace.”

Other ideas for improving the lives of Americans:

“We need to recycle.”

“We need to pick up litter.”

“We need to plant more trees.”

“We need to build more homes.”

“Don’t quit!  People need to keep going.”

“Everyone should go to a good school.”

And finally, What would you do if you were president?”

“I would help everyone who needs help.”

“I would give people money who need money.”

“I would give money, food, clothes and homes to the poor.”

“I would build a ginormous reservoir and connect it to all of the pipes.”

“I would help people go to school.”

“I would make it so that everyone can come into America.”

I love to hear the ideas of our young problem solvers.  Maybe one day in the future, one of our students will be asking for our votes.

 

 

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.

 

Making Peace November 15, 2015

I love the concept of peace being an active process.  It is something we can make, and we can actively model how to do that so the children in our classrooms can work together to achieve a peaceful community.  Learning how to resolve conflicts and coexist peacefully may be some of the most important skills our children can acquire.  It is important to remember that like any other skill, children need time to practice in a safe environment, and that with practice, the skill gets easier and more automatic.  The more we ride a bike, the easier it gets, and the less we need to consciously work on balance.  The same is true of using conflict resolution skills and making peace ~ the more we practice, the easier and more natural it becomes.

Montessori education uses various tools to help children practice making peace.

With babies and toddlers, the focus is on establishing a peaceful and loving environment, in supporting their emotional and social development, and in developing strong and trusting relationships.  This allows our youngest children to develop a positive and trusting attitude.

In the children’s house, the peace rose is an aid to helping children take turns using their words to solve a problem.  When you hold the peace rose, it is your turn to talk and the other child’s turn to listen.  We model how to use this format:  I feel ____________ when _________________ because ______________ and I would like ______________________.  “I feel hurt when you run away from me on the playground because I feel left out and I would like you to let me play in your games.”  “I feel mad when you knock down my tower because it took me a long time to build and I would like you to respect my work.”  The rose is then passed to the other child.  “I want to play with lots of friends.  I don’t like it when you want to play with only me.  I want to play with you, but I want to play with my other friends, too.”  “I am sorry.  I won’t knock down your tower again.”  This process encourages active listening, and active problem solving using words.  This is so much better than hitting, calling names, pouting, sulking, or throwing a tantrum.

At the elementary level, the children participate in classroom meetings, focused on acknowledging the contributions of one another to the classroom community, and then engaging in group problem solving.  The older children can run the classroom meetings, gaining practice in leadership skills, too.  Problems discussed might include children not reshelving their books in the library area, hogging materials for a long time so no-one else can use them, being too loud and preventing other children from concentrating, leaving children out during playground games . . .  The children may keep a peace journal to record their own and others contributions to the peace of the classroom community.  This is a beautiful way to help children become aware of peace being an ongoing process, needing careful tending.

What I love about these peacemaking activities is the focus on being open to discussing problems and actively working together to find solutions.  We could all learn from our children.  They are so generous in accepting an apology, in owning up to a mistake and saying sorry.

Our children are the hope of our future.  Let’s help them grow in tolerance and acceptance.  Let’s help them grow to be leaders in making peace.  That’s what our world needs!

Photos below:  Peace journal, a step by step guide to making peace for the elementary aged child, children successfully solving a problem about sharing building materials (Just look at their happy faces – this was a win/win problem solving session), the peace rose in action in the classroom.

IMG_2254IMG_2253making peace 1peace rose 2