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 - Polly

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A little about you:
I was an EFL teacher and was in the process of applying for a Primary Teaching course in England when my friend introduced me to Montessori. I hadn't heard that much about it and after observing at a school in London and speaking to the Montessori trainers, I felt this was the course for me!

Describe the course workload:
Although it was a lot of work, more than I expected, I really enjoyed it. As much as possible I tried to type up the notes on a daily basis to keep on top of things and that really helped. Other times I let myself have a night off and do something fun!

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
I now have a new perspective not just of how I perceive children, but also of the role of the teacher. Ginni and Sarah have given me a strong theoretical understanding of child development and the Montessori materials and how we work with them in the classroom. It was great to have the opportunity to be in the same classroom for observations and practice teaching. I was able to get to know each child and able to make the connections between what we learned at during the lectures and what I observed during my practice teaching and observations.

Did you enjoy your training at MNW?
Absolutely! I can honestly say it has been a life changing, eye opening experience. I not only feel proud that I worked so hard during the course, but also honored to be a part of a form of education that respects the child and challenges me as a teacher to be as good a role model  as I can be!

What were some unexpected challenges?
Working on the weekends. This made me a little sad at times, but it had to be done!

What were some unexpected highlights?
I didn't expect to meet so many amazing people. Like minded and wonderful!

Would you recommend this course to others?
Yes. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Need I say more!

Any advice for incoming students?
Find a nice, relaxing cafe with a plug socket for your computer and get your typing up to speed!

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

Meet our Graduates - Emily

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A little about you:
Some of my earliest and happiest memories are from my years as a Montessori primary student. Those memories called me back to Montessori and affirmed the importance of this work. I was lucky enough to attend Montessori through 8th grade so I can confidently say this education shaped who I am today.

Describe the course workload:
Previous trainees had described the intensity of the course, but I still was surprised by the time required to create the quality of teaching manuals, papers, and materials that I envisioned for myself. As a former Montessori student, I had a level of familiarity with the concepts and materials that clearly aided my understanding of the content of the course.

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
I feel very prepared on many levels. The thorough exploration of Montessori theory in the lectures and our own theory paper created a solid foundation for the practical application when working with children. The practice with the materials and time in the classroom gave me a sense of what to expect and the confidence that I have access to the resources to succeed in the classroom.

Did you enjoy your training at MINW?
This was a wonderfully rich and exciting year for me. On a personal level it affirmed my own strengths and gave me an insight into my own educational experience. MINW is a collection of amazing and dedicated individuals who create a welcoming, accepting environment for all the trainees and the greater Montessori community. This made it such a joy to learn and grow in their presence.

What were some unexpected challenges?
My challenges were on a personal level. I had some unexpected difficulties during the time in the training. While it was a challenge to balance this and the coursework, the training helped me stay positive and focus on what is important in life.

What were some unexpected highlights?
The Mardi Gras parade was a wonderful memory and a reminder of the spirit of Montessori. It was a fun event and the whole community joined together to participate. I think it showed me the importance of sharing culture and celebrating our differences in a tangible way. I hope to do this often with children.

Would you recommend this course to others?
The more people who deeply understand Maria Montessori’s vision for education the better. It gives me hope to feel her ideas spreading and becoming more mainstream. It is important for all of us to communicate what we know to others in a way that they can understand. I hope to see many more of my friends and Montessori classmates taking the training. It is relevant to all professions!

Any advice for incoming students?
I think making the course the number one priority will allow for a richness of experience and growth of character unlike any other experience. The people you will meet and the opportunities you will have are such an important part of the training itself. If you have many other commitments, it may be difficult to take advantage of all the MNW community has to offer.

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

Meet our Graduates - Patty

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A little about you:
I have a B.A. in Fine and Performing Arts, and danced in four dance companies. My two children, and now my grandchildren as well, experienced a Montessori education. I worked in Escrow for twenty years, but have discovered my passion in Montessori.

Describe the course workload:
The workload included very interesting literature that sometimes kept me up late at night, because I wanted to read more than was required! The workload seemed comparable to a full load of credits in college, plus a few more.

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
By the end of practice teaching I found my comfort level with the children in my host classroom. Everything that Montessori wrote and Ginni [Sackett] lectured on was in my thoughts as I observed in class.

Did you enjoy your training at MNW?
I always looked forward to the lectures given by Ginni Sackett, and really enjoyed the Reading Seminars as we shared ideas from the literature in an informal manner. I met some incredibly intelligent and compassionate people that share a similar passion for giving young children an education that is best suited to their psychological and intellectual needs. I knew by the end of this course that I had joined a community that I will enjoy being part of for years to come.

Any advice to incoming students?
Sharpen up your typing skills, and start reading the required readings, not so much to keep up, but to solidify your decision for the course. The Absorbent Mind motivated me to observe a Montessori classroom, and a conventional Primary class, and I immediately signed up for the Fall at the Institute!

Would you recommend this course to others? If so, why?
I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who wants to teach young people. I am surprised that Montessori education is not a requirement in the public schools, as advanced as we are in the U.S.

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