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.

Foundation Work in Elementary

Elementary students at Montessori Northwest have a unique Foundations Course integrated into their learning experience. Several times throughout the year, they hear from MNW’s Primary Trainers to learn about the first plane child. The focus of these lectures is the work of self-construction as it relates to foundational theory, physical, emotional, and social development. These areas of focus, along with the development of literacy and numeracy for the child under age six, create a “foundation” for what is built upon in the years that follow. 

We asked a current Montessori Northwest Elementary student to share her thoughts on the Foundation Course. Here’s what she so eloquently said:

There are 23 of us, all eager to learn about Montessori education for the Elementary children. But in order to understand the 6 to 12 year olds, we need to understand their previous experiences.  The integrated Foundation Course is our opportunity to learn about the child in his formative years, the child who will become our Elementary learner.  From lecture readings to dramatizations, from the exploration of the environment to Walking on the Line, from Maria Montessori’s discoveries of the child to the trainers' profound knowledge and wisdom, we truly immersed ourselves in the world of the 1st plane child.  Through our work on the Foundation Course, we were all able to learn about and to communicate our understanding of the 0-6 year old, the trained adult who supports this child and the prepared environment. 

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With this foundation in place, we have an understanding of how the child’s absorbent mind and sensitive periods guide him in becoming the person he is, and how the adult and the environment can positively serve that child’s potential.  Our task, as elementary teachers, is to collaborate with him in his next stage of development.

From a personal standpoint, having previously undergone the primary training, I had the opportunity to re-visit and reflect upon principles of practice.  What stands out in that reflection is the importance of understanding the difference between child work and adult work, and the significant implications of that understanding.  Our Montessori theory tells us that the child is internally-motivated and process-oriented, whereas the adult is externally-motivated and product-oriented.  The child’s work is to self-construct so that he can ultimately be a productive member of an adult society. 

As is often the case, understanding the theory is the easy part.  The challenge lies in the practice.  As Montessori educators, we have the clear advantage of working in an environment that supports and guides the child’s self-construction. Within a structured frame-work, we allow them to work at their own rhythm, with developmentally- appropriate materials that are freely-chosen so that they can respond to their inner directives. That being said we are still adults who can fall into the pitfalls of our agendas and timelines.  In our spiritual preparation we must regularly examine ourselves to ensure that we are staying true to our Montessori principles of following the child, and not imposing our adult expectations on them.  In doing so, we will create a psychological atmosphere that tells the child that he is in a safe place to do his work, with adults that are on his side.  The result will be children who are among things, joyful, benevolent, trusting, and non-competitive.  These characteristics are in fact manifestations of the child’s natural state.

Many adults and parents believe otherwise.  They think of children as having tantrums, being whiny, uncontrolled and generally demanding.   Unbeknownst to them, these negative behaviors are defense mechanisms that the children build to defend themselves against adults who are imposing their adult rhythm on the child.  When the child is able to follow his inner laws of development, he will drop his defense mechanisms and choose pro-social behaviors. 

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It is our task to advocate for young children by finding accessible ways to inform parents and caregivers on the child’s need for a process- oriented, self-directed learning opportunity.  Of course, this has to be done in a way that does not critic nor judge, but rather inform in a compassionate and supportive way.  We live in a society where there are many working parents who are under high demands from the working world, and we do not want to add to their stress.  We do however want to stress the importance of temporarily altering our adult characteristics for the sake of the child’s developmental rhythm and needs, and ultimately for the sake of a better world because put simply: happy children make for happy adults. 

Our future work as Montessori educators will be charged with many wonderful and eye-opening moments with children, but it is also one that comes with a great deal of social responsibility.  I think we can take comfort in knowing that the child will be our ally if we trust his human potential and stay true to the Montessori principles. 

Yours in training--Maryse Cohen 

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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.