I’m trying to find a balance between this whole back to work thing and everything else in life; Sean, blogging, TV (clearly, those are the only other three things in life). It is difficult. Officially, I was back to work Monday, although I went into the classroom a few times last week, Monday was the day. It’s hard for me to admit to myself that it’s just Wednesday now… I feel as though it should be Friday. And tomorrow, oh tomorrow, is a big deal because it’s Back to School Night — the chance for parents to come in and meet the teachers (that’s me!). It’s always a little nerve wracking for me to think about what I’ll share with parents. “Hi, I’m Jasmine — my biggest hobby for the last four years has been writing about myself on the internet” doesn’t seem that intelligent. In fact, my life in the last three days has consisted of: our AC not working (it’s 90 degrees outside), being pretty confident there’s a spider living in our bed (our sheets are currently in the washing machine), my cat coming out of a depression (Feliway is a life-changer), and being so busy with “back to school” that I haven’t even watched TV since Sunday night (what the heck was that Miley performance all about?).
Since my life, right now, isn’t all that interesting or academic, I figure I’ll tell them about the one thing that is always meaningful: how much I believe in Montessori education. I mean, that’s probably what parents, who enroll their children in a Montessori school, want to hear about. Why am I teaching in a Montessori school? Here’s why:
I believe in following the child. Children are just like adults; they have different learning styles, interests, hobbies, friends, likes, dislikes, strengths, areas of growth. Just because they are six does not mean they should be doing “this” or “that” quite yet. They’ll get there when they’re ready. There’s no point in rushing a child, no point in holding back a child. Allow them to work at their own pace, when they are ready, interested and invested… just see what happens.
I believe in mutual respect and understanding. Adults tend to “baby” children. We talk to them in small voices, use language for common necessities like using the bathroom that we would never use with another adult (i.e. potty), we think they either aren’t listening, won’t understand, or aren’t interested in day-to-day stuff that we go through. Adults take on a leadership role with children and try not to seem weak, or misunderstood or wrong. If you can get past all that, you’d notice children are fully capable of handling real language (i.e. bathroom), they want to know when you make a mistake (and equally they want to hear that it’s okay to make a mistake), they want to know that you’re giving them respect by chatting with them and taking interest in them. They want the common understanding that you’re both humans, in an environment, and you’ll work together, help each other and learn from one another.
I believe in teaching children about compassion, empathy and conflict resolution. Lots of schools have a no-tolerance policy. Not their fault, I guess. But what happened to making mistakes in a safe environment? What happened to modeling to children how to act, what to say, what’s hurtful to another person? It’s important that children know how to deal with situations when they arise, and a no-tolerance policy puts a blindfold on the real problem so that they will only be repeated in the future. It’s important that children learn how to feel what someone else is feeling, it’s important they know why they are saying sorry and what “I’m sorry” actually means. Peace education is not only a major step forward for children, but for these kids, who will one day be the leaders of our world… I’d argue it’s more important they know how to be just, and fair and peaceful than know their math facts.
I believe in freedom with limits. One of two phrases usually come up from people who aren’t too familiar with Montessori; either, it’s “too rigid” or it’s “too chaotic”. It’s funny, because when I look around my classroom — I don’t get the sense of either of those things. I see, in my classroom, a community of people working independently or in small groups toward a common goal — developing a lifelong love of learning. I don’t restrict children from working with a material — I follow that child’s interest and in return they show respect for the work. Of course, situations come into play. Maybe what they want to work with is being used — they have to wait (that’s a limit). Maybe what they want to work with is something they’re not developmentally ready for — they have to master what they are already working on (that’s a limit). I don’t force children to work continuously so they’re burnt out but the key in a Montessori environment is that the space is so stimulating — children want to work. They want to keep going. And when you have 24 children, in one space, who are all “going at their own pace”… well I wouldn’t call it chaotic, I’d call it normalized.
It’s supposed to look like that.
Think of a Montessori classroom like this: you’re an adult and you work in an office. Let’s say you’re an architect. Your firm is working on a big project. You have a part, as do all of your co-workers. Are you all doing the exact same thing at the exact same time? Probably not, and if you were your business probably wouldn’t be that successful. You’re each doing your thing, honing your skills, helping one another when you can, focusing when the environment’s right, taking a break when you need it, coming together when it’s important, you’re building and creating and if you like your job (hopefully you do, or else, get a new one) you feel good at the end of the day.
That’s what it’s like. And that’s why it’s meaningful… to me. Interested?