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Blog Posts (26)
  • Persistence in the Second Plane

    Children in the First Plane of development are learning how to push through struggles, how to try again and again and again, often motivated by an internal drive toward their own independence and mastery. Children in the Second Plane are typically already independent in their daily needs. They can dress themselves, feed themselves, and communicate clearly. They can express their frustrations in words and describe their emotional states and motivations. But they are still building their understanding of their own capacity. Now, as children at this stage of development become much more conscious of their role within their group, their accomplishments or failures are just as often measured against those of their peers. The work for parents and teachers, now, is to add to the support and modeling we've done for younger children with specific opportunities to notice the small gains older children can learn from. For example, in the Elementary years, Montessori teachers regularly talk with students about the students' goals for their own learning, helping them to articulate what they hope to accomplish and helping them, along the way, to be reflective to the many small steps it may take to reach the end goal. Elementary teachers become a sort of organizational coach; Elementary students often imagine large scale outcomes for their work and may need more support in identifying the dots between point A and point B. By helping students to identify what the next immediate step is as they move toward a farther-off goal, adult advocates can help learners to focus on the successes that take them toward their more ambitious horizons. Learners at this age are more likely to measure their success or failures against their friends' accomplishments, but wide differences exist in the pace and predicability of development now. As a result, Elementary children can sometimes demonstrate unreasonable expectations for how (fast, smart, tall, popular) they should be. Again, supporting them as a coach might, teachers can help learners now to parcel out their progress through challenging tasks, to help them to identify the ways in which they are moving forward even when they may feel stagnant compared to their friends. Avoid comparing your child to their peers (they're going to be able to do that already without your help) and instead, notice what your child contributes that is unique to them. When you're giving feedback, focus on the effort and thought involved in a task instead of the outcome, and ask your child to talk with you about the ways in which they progressed. "I can see that you put a lot of time into this writing. Can you tell me what you were thinking about when you developed these ideas?" "Your artwork is really evocative. Tell me more about what you are hoping someone looking at this piece will think or feel." Even when you're redirecting children, emphasize the process, drawing children's attention to the small steps that lead to the outcomes they seek. "This math lesson has been a challenge. What are some steps you can take to make sure you're checking your work as you go along?" Finally, we know, too, that it's often going to be bumpy in the Second Plane. Just as it's important to have a trusted adult with whom to strategize and reflect, it's important to have people who can simply be with you during your frustration. Avoid telling learners at this age that their emotions aren't valid or that they should be hiding them, especially when they're expressing sadness or frustration. "You're too old to cry," both devalues the real emotion they feel when something has gone wrong and suggests to them that they are wrong to have felt it at all. Instead, affirm the emotion, remind them that they are capable and you believe they can move through it, and ask them to consider what they might do next. "I can see how much this means to you. It can be really exasperating to struggle with something like this. What do you need to feel settled before you decide what to do from here?" Offer opportunities to practice emotional regulation. "When I am feeling overwhelmed, it's sometimes helpful for me to find a quiet space away from the noise of the classroom to think. Would you like to come with me?" What's most important is not that children at this age get it all right the first time (they won't) but that, when they struggle, they are able to conceptualize the struggle as a part of a longer process. We can't keep the frustrations from happening, but responsive adults can help to frame these challenges to support children's persistence through them, and we can help them to feel a little less alone in the process. #SecondPlane #Elementary #ForParents #ForTeachers #Theory

  • Teacher Talk: Persistence

    When you first learned about Montessori, you may have been enchanted by the peaceful classrooms, by the idyllic language about the nature of children and the hope for the future they offer. You may have imagined yourself a beloved teacher and guide, children gathered at your feet as you offered them a wonder-filled glimpse at the petals of a daisy, bluebirds resting gently on your shoulders. Zippadeedoodah. Most days, as it turns out, aren't much like that. OK. None days are actually like that. The truth is: teaching is hard. The truth is: much of what we look forward to as Montessorians we will never see. The truth is: we do it anyway. Day by day, you may encounter children who are "not yet peaceful." Day by day, you may have to remind yourself to "look to the child yet to come." Day by day, you may wonder why you ever bought into this to begin with. Our work as teachers is not measured day by day. Thank goodness. We would never see the growth. Our work is measured over months and years, as the child who held their mother's neck and cried for the first three weeks of school lengthens and stretches and settles and becomes the leader, consoling a friend on the playground, caring for the classroom pet. As the child who stomped through the classroom, scattering the golden beads and knocking over the tower, too big for their own body and oblivious to the trail they left behind, transforms and calms and becomes graceful and attentive, carrying a silver tray filled with tiny glass bottles without making a sound, welcoming a guest to the classroom with a freshly brewed cup of tea. As the assistant who yelled across the classroom to get the children's attention and rolled their eyes when you assured them that the children really could mop up that entire spill on their own, blossoms and emerges and quiets down, advocating for more time or patience for the children in conferences with parents or prepares an elegant new material for the Cultural shelf. Day by day, the horizon can seem unreachable. That's ok. The horizon will always be unreachable. That's what makes it a horizon, from the Ancient Greek term used to describe the boundary of what we can see. The horizon will always in our view, but never attainable. When you are feeling overwhelmed by the work of it all, by the seemingly endless list of things yet to do, materials yet to prepare, shelves yet to clean, slow down. Take a seat. Observe. Ask yourself, "Where is the growth?" Look for it. It's there, although it's often overshadowed by the work that's still yet to do. We demand so much of ourselves that we can sometimes, ok, often, overlook the good work we've already done. But if we continue to ignore the quiet successes, we are ignoring the light posts that lead us toward that horizon. Day by day, we may only notice the dark spaces, but in the long, slow, path of humankind, we are shining in light. Look to the horizon, then get back to the work of the day to day. Keep going. #ForTeachers #teachertalk

  • Montessori At-Home Day A Million

    We're still doing this. It's been almost a year since most schools were affected by the pandemic, almost a year since many of our children have been inside their classrooms. Those who have returned have. found new preparations in these prepared environments, new obstacles to the society by cohesion. There's joy there, to be sure, but it's different. This week, I'll remind you of some basics for at home, then we'll think about issues of persistence and how they present themselves across learning and development. Here's a reminder of some basics for families who are still at home: In an ideal world, parents and teachers build collaborative relationships over days, weeks and months, working well when things are going well, and establishing the trust on which they'll rely when things get tricky. Y'all. It's tricky. One way to think about (enjoying/enduring/surviving) an extended time at home with your children is to start thinking about it differently. While there are certainly real and important challenges that have come to us all, financial and emotional and social and health, Montessori teachers know that the best way to manage the unexpected is to prepare thoughtfully for what you can predict. So, what are some things you might be do at home to maintain some calm in the midst of an ever-extending-storm? First, remember that it’s human nature to want to understand our environments and to feel some agency in them. Expect, in these unpredictable days, because even though we've been at it a while, it's still unpredictable, that your emotional resilience and your child’s may be tested, and that how that looks may be different for each of you. Your child may be (angry/energetic/fearful/aggressive/quiet/tearful/hungry/sleepy/confrontational/cuddly) … let’s just say, “not themselves.” You may be, too. Be calm in your own response. Acknowledge for your child that things feel strange, that we have been feeling strange so long that we may not remember how it felt before, and assure them that they are safe and supported. Use modeling language that helps them to identify the emotions they’re feeling and helps you to create space for talking about them. “These are certainly some unusual days! I’m feeling like I need some time to slow down and think about the changes around us.” “You look like you may be feeling scared right now. When you’re scared, it’s ok to ask me questions about your worries. We can talk them through together.” Then, in those conversations, sit quietly and give your child time to process their own thoughts. Try to avoid jumping to a solution for them. Instead, buy yourself a little time to think, “You’re raising some good questions. Let me think about how I can best answer them for you.” When you model wait time for your children, you demonstrate to them that you are listening carefully to their questions and that it’s ok to think about your answers before you offer them. For practical purposes, it also challenges you as a parent to take a beat, take a breath and really hear what your child is asking. While you may want to impress them with your confidence, you will do more to keeping the conversation going and providing them with reliable answers about unpredictable topics if you model reflective, careful responses. Your child’s questions may run the gamut: try not to oversimplify the current context, but avoid flooding them with information that’s beyond what they can make sense of. “Are we safe?” “Yes. We have changed the way we live and work to make sure people who may be sick get the care they need and to give doctors, scientists and other helpers the time they need to prevent others from getting sick, too.” For most children, this is simple and accurate. Avoid making assertions that you might not be able to follow through on and focus instead on actions your children can take in their own uncertainty. “You’ll be back at school so soon!” may be better phrased as, “School will open again as soon as we can. Would you like to write a note or draw a picture for your teachers in the meantime?” Finally, take the time to think ahead about what you’ll do “in the meantime.” Our pace these days is not quite as kinetic as we had become used to. Instead of worrying about what your child would have accomplished at school each day, ask yourselves what you can do today to strengthen their minds, to strengthen their bodies and to strengthen their relationships with others. There is no precedent for us to rely on; instead, this is a time to affirm what we value, what is nonnegotiable even in the weirdest of contexts. Start the day with good conversation with your children about how you’ll face today. Help to document those choices at the beginning of the day and come together again over dinner to reflect on how they went. Remember: Montessori is based on making connections for children between the ideas that are most interesting to them and the skills they’ll need to master those ideas. Follow your child. Need a quick-start? Here's a useful article written by a Montessori teacher to think about your child's needs at home in each of the planes of development. #ForParents #Parenting #MontessoriAtHome

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    Infants & Toddlers Early Childhood Elementary Adolescents Philosophy Teacher Talk This collection of essays is to the Montessori community.

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