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Thoughts on History, Heritage, & Culture Workshop

Ginni Sackett, Montessori Northwest's Director of Primary Training, teaching a workshop on History, Heritage, and Culture.

Ginni Sackett, Montessori Northwest's Director of Primary Training, teaching a workshop on History, Heritage, and Culture.

Having left the Primary environment several months ago to join the Montessori Northwest Administration, it was like a homecoming with "my people" to participate in the second session of Ginni Sackett's Primary Workshop Series: History, Heritage, Culture. The joy of working with children and families came rushing back to me as our community of colleagues approached the realities of engaging children from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in neutral, fun, experiential activities.

Complementing nuggets of lecture, we flipped roles to play like children. When free of discrimination, prejudice, and stereotype, children can come to embrace the universal similarities that thread across our species! Similarly, from movement to story and the artifacts within an environment, the adult is privileged - forced - to undergo a self-analysis that ensures they are practicing the preaching. After all, anything less would be disingenuous.  

In short, as Montessorians girding humanity's future through the vehicle of these young children, there is a relief in knowing our work is inherently designed to foster utopian results.

Register for the final workshop in the History, Heritage, and Culture series, taking place on November 20th, here.

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Posted on November 13, 2013 and filed under Articles, From MNW Staff.

Material-Making for MNW

Celebration of Light Collage

Hello friends and colleagues.

It is that time of year again when our thoughts, energy, and efforts turn towards preparing for the annual fundraiser for Montessori NW, the Celebration of Light, which will be on Janauary 24, 2014. We will be featuring one-of-a-kind Montessori materials and we’re hoping that you will be able to support MNW this year by providing something special.

We’re hoping to have all age levels represented. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Assistants to Infancy: Visual or grasping mobiles; a set of lovely rattles; embroidered placemats, Topponcino; toddler sized-aprons; language cards with objects; a few books; a Practical Life set-up such as glass washing, etc. A “Newborn Kit” that may include an A to I recommended book, rattle, topponcino, and mobile or templates and instructions would be very exciting for expecting parents or friends of expecting parents!

Primary: A beautiful set up for a simple activity such as leaf washing, pouring, sorting, or simple art activity; art to display in the classroom;  set of language cards; set of art materials; set of folding cloths or dusting cloths, etc. A special “To Do at Home Kit” appropriate for the 3-6 aged child would appeal to teachers and parents alike!

Elementary: A collection of lovely bookbinding materials; special art materials; carefully chosen books; set of beautiful Word Study charts; a few Animal Story folders; a collection of teacher-written stories (What Elementary teacher wouldn’t need more stories?!!!); quilted checkerboard; Hand chart; etc.

We also would love to feature a class, workshop, or event in your area of expertise. Do you have skills in bookbinding? Maybe you can teach an infant massage class for parents with their babies?  Are you an avid crafter or scrapbooker? Perhaps you are knowledgeable about local areas that might be of interest for Elementary teachers for their Going Out programs and would be able to offer a tour of that location. Experienced hiker who could lead nature walks or hikes? Teach a cooking class?

There are so many ideas to consider and great ways, both big and small, to get involved. We welcome your help and participation. Please complete and return the donation form by December 6. You’ll find it attached or you can access and submit the donation form  via our website. Items should arrive at MNW by December 21.

Please contact me with any questions regarding your donation. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance for your participation!

Gloria (Hammond) Singh

Elementary and Assistants to Infancy Course Assistant, A to I Alum 2007

gloria@montessori-nw.org or (503) 963-8992 x 111

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Talking Points

This article is available in Spanish by clicking here.

For those of us in Montessori, the idea that one should feel shamed, embarrassed, dumb, or sad in connection with a normal urge is the antithesis of what we want for children.  We want children to feel respected and supported.  We want to be an aid to life, in service to the human potential.  And yet, one place where it can be hard to overcome our own obstacles and conditioning is in connection with the natural tendency for children to talk!  Because I’m here to tell you, if elementary children are not shamed, embarrassed, put down, or saddened into silence, then chances are they will be talking.  Often.  About everything. 

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The most important thing about spoken language in the elementary is that it should be recognized as important work for the children.  “They don’t want to work; all they want to do is talk,” is sometimes what we hear from Montessori teachers.  What’s needed here is a wider, truer definition of work, because the talking is the work.  What happens when children talk to each other? How can we see this talking as developmentally appropriate and beneficial?  We start by recognizing that when children are talking, they’re doing a lot of cognitively and emotionally important things.  They are noticing, attending, perceiving, commenting, describing, explaining, abstracting, comparing, connecting, debating, defending, experimenting, opining, synthesizing, bonding, and expressing, to name just a few.  Whey would we want to interfere with that?  Our role as adults is not to keep them from talking, but to help them find interesting and useful things to talk about.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with some different structures or rules to help the conversations in my elementary classrooms be useful and productive for the children.  “We talk about whatever we want at lunch,” is a good one, but some practitioners find that it doesn’t support the children enough.  “We don’t talk about television or video games or movies at school,” is one that worked for a while in one community.  I explained to the children that what children are allowed to see on screens was a family decision made at home, and out of respect for each other’s families, we kept our focus in school on what could be shared at school without compromising those decisions.

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But the most useful “rule” about talking was this one:  We talk about our work.  Talking is a sign of interest.  So if the children are talking about something, they are telling you they’re interested in it!  And you, the adult, can probably think of a dozen ways to relate what they’re talking about to something they might explore or work on in your Montessori classroom.  So join in the conversation and redirect them!  “You know, what you’re saying reminds me of a lesson I’ve been wanting to give you…” We can tolerate a few irreverent noun booklets or sentence analysis sentences about the Portland Timbers; we can turn a discussion of Halloween candy into a word problem that can be solved with the checkerboard.   And any conversation gets deeper and more philosophical if the Fundamental Human Needs Chart is guiding it. 

Furthermore, the children can share in the responsibility of making their conversations useful and productive.  “Oh, I hear that you’re talking about Disney World/ghosts/your new Nikes/your grandma’s cat that got hit by a car/Miley Cyrus/etc.  How can you make that your work?”  Warmth, humor, and the absolute conviction that they are here to work and they will be happier if they’re working is what you, the adult, can bring to the conversation.    When we can see the children’s talk as a natural manifestation of a healthy community, we can guide them in positive, pro-social ways.

 

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Posted on November 7, 2013 and filed under Articles, From our Trainers, Elementary.

Meet our Graduates - Fang

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 A little about you:
My name is Fang Luan, orginally from China. I worked at Hunan University of Technology in Hunan, China for two years before moving to United States. I had four years teaching experience at St. Alcuin Montessori School in Dallas, TX as a Mandarin Chinese teacher. I never expected this trip to US (2006) became my first step to know about Montessori education. 

Describe the course workload:
In general, the workload is good for me. I always typed my notes on the same day that I received the lecture or demonstration! Do not procrastinate, then you will be fine. Good typing skills, some basic computer skills and amateur photography background or certain drawing skills are a plus. 

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
I had six years' teaching experience before the training. I had many years of schooling, including my Master's of Education in United States. However, there are no other classes that have better prepared me for early child education. This course prepared me not only finding a job but also finding myself. I have never been this confident about my future career.

Did you enjoy your training at MINW?
I decided to come to the Primary training after over a year's serious thinking and research. I moved from Dallas, TX all the way to Portland, OR. I absolutely loved the primary training at MINW. This course is extremely organized and informative. The trainers understand both children and adults. All the staff are helpful, friendly and professional. I could not ask for a better training. I really did enjoy the course. I am organized myself in my daily life but the training goes into more details regarding organization. It fit me very well. 

What were some unexpected challenges?
The big challenge for me was the distance to school. I was in Texas while I rented an apartment and signed a nine-month lease. But just like the coin has two sides, the long distance to school gave me a chance to observe ordinary people everyday and to relax after a day's absorption. 

What were some unexpected highlights?
The co-training was not expected but it turned out great. I was lucky to see two different styles and gain insights from both. 

Would you recommend this course to others?
I would absolutely recommend this course to others, no matter if you don't know what you want to do in the future, or you know exactly what you're going to do after graduation. It is a retreat for yourself to immerse in learning. It is a shortcut to invest your time and money in understanding children of other people or your own children.

Any advice for incoming students?
Just enjoy being as a student. If you can, don't take a part-time job. Enjoy nature, diversity, and festivals in Portland, OR.

Posted on October 4, 2013 and filed under Graduates | Testimony.

Meet our Graduates - Kelly

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 A little about you
I'm originally from Singapore and graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S in Psychology. I've always enjoyed being around children and worked at a daycare center for a few years. I'm kind of crafty (I try to be) and I'm getting to be more outdoorsy after having lived in Oregon for 5+ years!

Describe the course workload:
The course workload is pretty intense. They ease you into it for the first month or so, then it's pretty intense from then on. BUT it's enjoyable, interesting and engaging work. It was very helpful that they gave us a guideline of due dates to help us stay on track and plan ahead. You make your own teaching albums so you're personally responsible for the quality of your work. I really liked the material making assignments, they were somewhat tedious but boy did it feel good to see the fruit of my labor when I was done! 

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
I think the course prepared me as much as it could. I don't think anyone can ever be a 100% prepared to be a Montessori teacher after completing the course because children are human after all and humans can be unpredictable. It definitely prepared me in terms of how to give lessons and conduct myself in the classroom, but I think the overall classroom management just comes from actual teaching experience. 

Did you enjoy your training at MNW?
Yes! I absolutely did! I liked all my classmates, the instructors and MNW staff. Everyone was always so cheery and polite, so it just created a warm and friendly atmosphere. The instructors and support staff were always ever ready to answer questions and give tips and advice, so it made it easy to approach them. 

What were some unexpected challenges?
Presenting lessons to my fellow classmates was hard for me at first. I take time to warm up to new people and to feel comfortable around them, so that took me out of my comfort zone initially. Getting the albums paginated and organized by the deadline sometimes proved to be a challenge. FYI: pagination can take more than just an hour! 

What were some unexpected highlights?
Singing songs together before class, the material making faire, the Celebration of Light auction, and the class cohesion (it made for a better learning experience).

Would you recommend this course to others?
Absolutely! The staff are awesome folks and the information was presented in an engaging and fun way. You could tell that the instructors genuinely loved imparting the philosophy of Montessori education to their students and had a vested interest in helping us become great Montessori teachers. MNW has a warm, family vibe to it and that just makes for a great learning atmosphere. 

Any advice for incoming students?
I wouldn't advise working and doing the course at the same time, I know some people who managed to do it but I personally don't think I could've. I was in awe of those who managed to hold down a job and those who had children at home, I don't know how they did it!! Stay on top of your work and it's definitely best to limit procrastination to a minimum because the work is pretty much non-stop, there's always something to be done. Take as many detailed notes as you can from the presentations and practice with the materials as much as you can until it becomes second nature!

Posted on July 1, 2013 and filed under Graduates | Testimony.