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.

Holidays by Ginni Sackett

Halloween is almost here – ushering in a frequently scary season for Montessori teachers. We often have conflicted feelings around holidays and events that occur in the larger culture – afraid that these distract children from their work, disrupt the calm and productive atmosphere in the environment, and are just plain bothersome to us. I’d like to propose changing those feelings and

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.

Meet our Graduates - George

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A little about you:
I graduated with a B.S. in mechanical engineering, and worked with Nike for 15 years in their computer and technology area. I also volunteered in a non-profit Chinese school and youth group ministry before registering for the Montessori training. Montessori has always fascinated me about the way it works and its difference in approach to educating children from conventional education. I never have any experience with Montessori education, and found out about MNW completely by chance. It certainly changed my perspective of the world.

Describe the course workload:
The workload is reasonable. Theory instruction and lesson demonstration is taught at a consistent and carefully moderated pace. The most difficult part is keeping up with lessons through various distractions in daily life. The friendly Montessori environment and helpful classmates and trainers were always there to help when I fell behind.

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
Daily classroom activities were amazingly well thought out. For example, thoughtfulness in the sequence of Montessori theory instruction and lesson demonstration inspires me how Montessori methodology is applicable to almost all aspects of life, both in the controlled classroom environment and out in the busy world. Also, I see consistency in pace of instruction as a good training to help prepare me for the heavy workload in a Montessori classroom.

Did you enjoy your training at MNW?
Yes, I surprised myself that I actually looked forward to attending the next day of school throughout the school year. From the first day, we were given a very clear set of expectations, we were then led in baby steps through the assignments as we learned more. Also, the application of Montessori theory is evident everywhere in the training center, from setting up of lunch room to the respect everyone gives one another in our interactions.

What were some unexpected challenges?
I did not realize that every single day at school, when we forgot ourselves through the fun watching our trainers demonstrate how to give lessons, and listened with intrigue to the theories and their application, there was some kind of expectations lurking from behind. I heard it, but it sank in only when I was preparing my first album (teaching manual) for submission.

What were some unexpected highlights?
Designing my own materials that can be used in classroom was certainly a delight. Shopping for the "Phonetic Object Box" trained me to look at objects through the lens of the children. Just like what Ginni and Sarah said: it's never going to be the same as before, it was so delightful when I find the perfect item to add to my classroom.

Would you recommend this course to others?
If seeing is believing, experiencing is heartfelt understanding. Through interaction with my trainers and classmates, I feel concern and care that I want children to feel in Montessori environment; through practicing with actual Montessori materials I remembers how to intuitively give lesson using the materials. I could never have imagined the dedication of Montessori teachers without experiencing the training myself.

Any advice for incoming students?
Advice given in the Student Handbook is a great place to start.  It is a good reference for almost everything from preparation for the class to checklist for to do lists. Organization skill goes a long way towards helping us complete albums for submission, and have a better experience doing so. Like a child watching presentations, I was expected to interpret all the demonstrations by myself. Developing a personalized experience relating to the theories and materials helps in making them become alive within us.

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

Meet our Graduates - Alden

A little about you:
As a young male with no children, I'm a little unusual in the Montessori world, so I'm often asked how I made the decision to work with 3-6 year-olds. The abridged version of the story is that I was looking for a career which I could reconcile with my desire to contribute to the creation of a better future, rather than simply a means of acquiring money. I'd settled on teaching, when, serendipitously, my then-girlfriend's grandmother suggested that I look into Montessori. The more I read about the theories and methods employed by Montessorians, the more convinced I 

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

Meet our Graduates - Tehut

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 A little about you: 
I'm a former Montessori student and the child of a Montessori teacher, but it wasn't until I returned to my business degree after 8 months out of school as a full time assistant  that I ever considered Montessori for myself.  I took a number of management classes that stressed the importance of autonomy, feedback, intrinsic motivation, and self-efficacy (a firm belief in one's ability to overcome obstacles and achieve objectives, best developed through experience) for optimal performance and motivation.  I recognized these elements as the methods and results of Montessori education and made my decision there.

Describe the course workload:
We created our own reference albums which ended up being a lot more work than I expected and sometimes more than I wanted it to be. But none of the work felt arbitrary. We observed and took notes on presentations, typed our notes, made illustrations to accompany the text and then organized them into albums.  In addition to forcing a deeper connection with the material than we would have gained from buying and reading textbooks each of these steps served as preparation for character traits necessary work as a Montessori teacher. .

How well did the course prepare you to be a Montessori teacher?
While the course was great academic preparation for the technical knowledge we need before entering the classroom I feel it comes secondary to what Montessori called "the spiritual preparation of the teacher."  In modern language that comes down to separating identity from performance, embracing the call to personal discipline, and cultivating perseverance. Between the workload and the incredible modeling of the staff there are so many opportunities to work on these character traits, which set us up to enter our careers with humility, patience, acceptance, and the knowledge that as long as we keep trying we'll keep growing.

Did you enjoy your training at MNW?
For Montessori children there isn't really a distinction between work and play.  They come to the classroom every day and play "division" or "the verb game" and the MNW staff bring that spirit to the training. Plus, we sing. Like, a lot!  

What were some unexpected challenges?
I struggled with the illustration requirement, mostly because I wasn't expecting the "attention to detail" requirement to be so literal.  There are a lot of details and they all required attention.

What were some unexpected highlights?
The community that developed in our course. There were runs, knitting nights, study parties, group expeditions, a parade, and a musical at graduation.  Sort of "brotherhood in the trenches" kinda thing.

Would you recommend this course to others? If so, why?
Unequivocally, the course is both rigorous and supportive which is rare in general but almost unheard of conventional higher education. 

Any advice for incoming students?
Buy a printer that uses inexpensive ink, keep a spare cartridge, and either set aside plenty of time for finishing (pagination, headings, page protectors, etc) or do it weekly because that always seemed to be the thing that kept people up the night before a deadline!

Posted on July 1, 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.