Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to guiding educators towards a centered and intentional Montessori practice.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

How We Say, What We Say - Part IV



In November of 2011, shortly after starting this blog, I created a “wordle” of all of the text of the posts to date in an effort to explore how I was saying what I was saying:

How We Say, What We Say - Part I

It was certainly an interesting reflection of my priorities and sensibilities; at least, in how I expressed them at the time.

In June of 2012, I created another wordle upon which to reflect:


And then, in April of 2014 - a year and ten months and thirteen posts later - I built a third glimpse into the weight of the words I choose:

How We Say, What We Say - Part III

Now eighteen months and thirty-seven posts since the last word cloud, and five years since beginning this journey through the blogosphere, here is another creation: from aphorisms to action. 

Try it out with your own work: www.wordle.net

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On Stillness, Silence, and the Insight that Attends



I am interested in the space between things. Of beauty and majesty I am a devoted fan; it's what lingers within, however, that attracts me the most. 

What defines an experience? And, how does one explore the dimensions and value of each? 

As biological beings, we interact with our world and those sensorial moments define and shape our lives. We place these experiences in boxes of similarily-associated moments in our subconscious, and then gather these memories as tools for understanding our world, our lives, and our future possibilities. 

After all, what are we but ever-changing constellations of unique experiences - constantly making and remaking our selves, informed by the past, present, and potential?

Our souls are cavernous museums of such stories. The experiences we collect stand defined on separate plinths, and hung on the welcoming walls of our inner selves. 

As much as it is the art and artifacts collected therein that brings meaning to one's life, it is also the way the light plays throughout the hall, the quality and movement of the air, and the feel of the floor beneath our feet. There is an intimacy between the objects themselves and the space and energy that connects them. 

What is it like to travel through such a chamber of secrets? The making of one's self centers on the ability to return to the moments of the past, finding meaning and definition from the connections we can draw from and between them, as much as it pivots on the decisions we initiate each new day. 

We can navigate the space between by welcoming silence and stillness into our lives, and by opening ourselves to the insight that attends us. In pausing we welcome proximity, bringing the mystery and magic of our true selves into sharper focus. 



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Peace Day Celebration: September 21, 2017


The following is the text of a brief address that I gave at the annual Peace Day Celebration at the Golden campus of Compass Montessori School on September 21, 2017:

"Good morning!

"Welcome everyone to our ceremony in honor of the International Day of Peace.

"Today, alongside thousands of Montessori schools, and tens of thousands of citizens in the United States and around the world, we pause to celebrate the local, national, and global efforts to create a more peaceful world - and to contemplate what more we can do.

"Please join me in acknowledging our incredible school community: our Children’s House, and our Elementary program; our Farm School, and our High School; our amazing staff; and parents, guardians, and guests who have joined us in solidarity and celebration.

"Our gathering today has extra special meaning, for amongst many skills - including being a physician, anthropologist, educator, and child advocate - Maria Montessori was a peace activist. She saw in the child the hope for a better tomorrow. It was her vision that, through her schools, curricula, and mindset of the adults who worked there, that a more peaceful and just world could be brought into being.

"For her selfless commitment to the world’s children and for serving impacted communities on nearly every continent, Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times - in 1949, 1950, and 1951 - but never won.

"As members of the Compass Montessori School community, we are the heirs of Montessori’s vision, the recipients, and beneficiaries of her legacy. Our job is to continue her call to action, to carry the torch forward.

"Last year we dedicated a Peace Pole to our community on this day. It says 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' in four languages - Chinese, Spanish, English, and Hindi - the four most commonly spoken languages in the world. What does it mean? And, why have it written in four languages? It means that Peace is Possible everywhere: in every nation, every state, every city, every town, every neighborhood, every school, every family, and every person. It doesn’t matter where you live, what language you speak, what clothes you wear, or what color your skin is: Peace is Possible.

"Peace is Possible when each one of us decides to be peaceful. When we help one another, encourage one another, respect one another - Peace is Possible. When we let others know how we feel and what we need - Peace is Possible. When we let others tell us how they feel and what they need - Peace is Possible. Every time we work together to make things better for us all - Peace is Possible.

"What are you going to do today that will make a difference? How will today be different from yesterday, and tomorrow different from today?

"Peace takes practice, and work; it is a continuous process, one that requires thoughtful dedication, an unflappable determination, and the willingness to do even more.

"As we conclude our celebration today, I suggest that we commit to ourselves and to each other what our role is now - and what it will be in the days to come - towards building a more peaceful world.

"Please repeat after me:

I am…
...the future;
I can…
...make a difference;
We are…
…stronger together.
We can…
… build a more peaceful world.

"Thank you!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hate Has No Home Here


We find ourselves in challenging times. Not since the middle part of the last century have we seen in our country such an apparent resurgence of hate speech and harassment, and threats and acts of violent hate crime.
How do we help our students navigate the conflicting messages that they witness in the world around them?
In Montessori schools, one of our mandates is to provide opportunities for children to find their personal moral center. What are many of the lessons in Grace & Courtesy and Cosmic Education intended to generate, but for a deeply felt sense of tolerance, respect, unity, and service – in short, a “spiritual equilibrium” (Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence 73) from which our students can be architects and advocates for peace.
Dr. Maria Montessori saw in the child “both a hope and a promise for mankind Montessori, Education and Peace 31). She dedicated her life to teaching others about the natural laws of biological and psychological development such that they could then align their service to children so to best aid the growing child to become their most natural selves: compassionate, empathetic, and integrated thinkers committed to the care of others.
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As context, consider this timeline of select events from Montessori’s journey from physician to peace activist:
1900 - Following her work at the psychiatric clinic in Rome, Maria Montessori is appointed director of the Orthophrenic School, a model school for training teachers of children with developmental disabilities. For two years, she experiments at the model school with materials to stimulate the senses. Montessori succeeds in fostering the development of some of the children to such an extent that they achieve the same results on state exams as typically developing schoolchildren.

1901 – Montessori begins a second degree - in education, experimental psychology, and anthropology - at the University of Rome, and visits elementary schools to do anthropological research.

1904 - 1908 – Montessori lectures in anthropology and biology at the University of Rome’s School of Education, incorporating her clinical observations of pupils in Rome’s elementary schools.

1907 – The first Children’s House (Casa dei Bambini) is opened in the San Lorenzo district of Rome.

1909 – 1910 – Montessori delivers her first training courses.

1911 – Montessori resigns her teaching post at the University of Rome, and gives up her private medical practice to concentrate entirely on education.

1911 – 1913 The Montessori method is put into practice in English and Argentinean schools, and is beginning to be introduced into Italy and Switzerland. Model schools are set up in Paris, New York, and Boston.

1913 – Montessori delivers the First International Training Course. Students come from European countries, Australia, South Africa, India, China, the Philippines, the United States, and Canada. Montessori travels to the United States for the first time, and founds the Montessori Educational Association.

1914 – 1915 – Montessori delivers training courses in Rome and the United States.

1915 – Montessori travels to the United States for the second time, accompanied by her son, Mario. She addresses the International Kindergarten Union and National Educational Association (NEA). At the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, a Montessori class works in a glass pavilion observed by visitors.

1916 – The Montessoris move to Barcelona at the invitation of the city government; Barcelona remains ther home until the coup in 1936 that brings General Franco to power.

1921 - The New Education Fellowship (today known as the World Education Fellowship) is founded, of which Maria Montessori is an active member and engages in heated debates with the leading educational reformers of the time.

1924 – Montessori’s meeting with Benito Mussolini (who had come to power in 1922) results in official recognition and widespread establishment of Montessori schools by the Italian government.

1926 – Montessori speaks on education and peace at the League of Nations in Geneva.

1929 – 1931 - Montessori continues to train and lecture in Europe.

1931 - Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, visits Montessori schools in Rome.

1932 – At the second International Montessori Congress in Nice, France Montessori delivers a lecture entitled “Peace and Education”.

1933 - The Nazis systematically destroy the Montessori movement in Germany, closing all Montessori schools in that country.

1934 - After conflicts with the fascist system under Mussolini, all Montessori schools in Italy close.

1937 – The Sixth International Montessori Congress is held in Copenhagen, Denmark under the theme is “Educate for Peace.” Montessori delivers several lectures, later collected in the book Education and Peace:

In her Lecture, “Educate for Peace”, Maria Montessori says:
“Education today, in this particular social period, is assuming truly unlimited importance. And the increased emphasis on its practical value can be summed up in one sentence: Education is the best weapon for peace (28)…
An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the spiritual development of man. The enhancement of his value as an individual, and the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live (30)…
The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind (31)…
Peace is a practical principal of human civilization and social organization that is based on the very nature of man (32-33).”

1939 – The Montessoris depart for India to deliver what was to be a three-month training course at the invitation of the Theosophical Society, which has been using the Montessori method to successfully combat illiteracy.

1940 - Italy enters World War II on the side of the Germans. In June, Mario is interned by the British colonial government in India as an enemy alien, and Maria is confined to the compound of the Theosophical Society. Mario is released in August. Still, the Montessoris are not allowed to leave the country until the war is over.

1939 - 1946 – Maria Montessori delivers training courses in India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and further develops the Cosmic Education Plan for the elementary years with Mario’s collaboration.

1946 – With World War II over, the Montessoris return to Europe.

1949 – Maria Montessori is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the first time. At the Eighth International Montessori Congress in San Remo, Italy Montessori delivers the lecture, Human Solidarity in Time and Space.

In it, she says:

“Today the necessity for unity among peoples is more marked… the spiritual understanding, which alone can lead to unity amongst all men, continues to be missing (12)…
[T]he question is to bring about a radical change in he way we view human relations, endeavoring to influence men’s consciousness by giving them new ideas, fighting indifference and incomprehension; to awaken in man’s spirit a sense of gratitude towards other men (13)…
Our task as educators is to ensure that an intense consciousness of universal solidarity will flourish in our children… This is the great task of education: to make the child conscious of the reality and depth of human unity (16-17)…
This is the aspect from which we should consider human relationships if we are to be able to create a better humanity (18).”

1950 - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

1951 - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

____________________________________________________________________

The “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign was coined by young children advocating for their community’s health. It is a powerful message of solidarity and sanctuary, one that calls for “safe places for conversation, work, learning, and living” (Hate Has No Home Here).

The simple statement codifies what we stand for and what we do as Montessorians. As a public message, it is a defining stake in the sand - a declarative statement to all, and to ourselves - about the paramount work of educating for peace.
Click HERE to learn more.
Wishing you Peace.

*              *              *              *              *              *

Sources
Montessori, Maria. Education and Peace. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing
Company, 2007. Print.
---. From Childhood to Adolescence. Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company,
2007. Print.
----. “Human Solidarity in Time and Space” The San Remo Lectures, 1949. Amsterdam:
    AMI, 2003/2004, Print.
Schneider, R. et al. “Timeline of Maria Montessori’s Life”. AMI, www.ami-
    global.org/montessori/timeline-maria-montessoris-life. Accessed 21 August
    2017.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MonTeSSori


As educators in Montessori environments, our job is to create situations that lead students to the edge of understanding - between what is known and comfortable and what is yet to be discovered, unveiled and considered - and then set them free to make the connections that lead to the development of new skills and the integration of knowledge.

That students come to us all along a broad spectrum of abilities, interests, and predilections is to be expected. As such, we each have students that, at times, struggle. Our task is to work collaboratively to lift them when needed, kindly confront them when they balk, and walk beside them as resistance gives way to, at first, reluctant partnership - and then true collaboration.

There is no superhero, nor perfect program, that will “fix” the students amongst us that face the fiercest of struggles - but for ourselves… We, the Montessori collective, is what stands between their experience of the status quo and a truly transformed life.  

Our job is to unravel the very essence of every child’s being who walks through our doors. Regardless of their family’s motivations for attending our schools, our work - our mandate - is to meet them as they are, give them what they need, and never give up.

Much has been made of the processes and protocols necessary to bring greater success (ease, comfort, joy...) to those who struggle - both the students, themselves, and the adults that support them.

Regardless of the mental model, unless approached holistically, these procedural blueprints trick us into a narrow, linear, and determinate way of thinking about children.

For those of us who have been in and around education for a while we have lived the reality that most answers are not what we expect, and - more often than not - are found through circling back and revising our own attachments, fears, and expectations.
How do we master this task? How do we move from a posture of fixing, problem-solving - or waiting for the help to come - to one that possesses the fierceness that calls us to action?

Our job is to, be dynamic, flexible, and open-minded; to scaffold, plan, anticipate, and co-construct; to interpret, bridge, team, and connect - all with the intention of providing what each child needs at this moment, and this moment, and at this moment, along their personal arc of biological and psychological development.

Our service to our students is embedded in who we are and what we do as Montessorians.

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* Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework, a way of thinking, a mindset through which we can highlight student needs, risks, and opportunities -  and then identify the next steps to employ in service.