Posts tagged #MNW

Holidays

The holidays are approaching – 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 finding ways to see these popular culture events as positive elements in the environment and exploring ways to channel them in support of each child’s development.

Humble Beginnings

It has become somewhat of a MNW tradition to have one day when students and staff bring in childhood pictures of themselves and we all try to guess who’s who.  For example, the baby you see labeled as “33” is our own Primary Co-Director of training Ginni Sackett!

While pictures of us in the First Plane of Development (birth to age 6) are always charming, some students also were brave enough to share a picture of themselves at the often awkward age of 13, lest we forget where all children are going and from whence all of us have come.

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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