Purpose of This Blog

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Biophilia* (or Love of Life and the Desire to be Whole)




An Essence

I have such fondness for this life. When considered in silence, detached from the burdens and pleasures of each day, there is a balanced mystery to it, and I find myself marveling at the beauty of it all. From where does such attachment spring? Could it really be that it is merely our sensorial appreciation of our immediate environment, moment by moment, that connects us - or is there something more?

An Energy

What is it that calls to us? What is it that moves and shapes us, shakes us and takes us, in turns - first gently beckoning us closer, whispering, near teasing – then, at times, roughly by the collar, demanding our attention, that we wake up - to be fully here and now and present? Is it within us, or from without? Is it our soul, our spirit – or the spirits that sweep around us? Is it biological or psychological? Of life itself, or of the mind suspended?

An Ethos

Of all, such are the questions to our lives that lay incomplete and stranded, strung-out and wanting. These are the infinite riddles that reach forever outwards to the horizon. That they oft go unanswered, in fact, makes them all the more captivating and seductive. What is a question, after all… but a quest?

An Eagerness

There is a voice and rhythm, a pattern of play that guides our days. Who is at the helm?
Oh, Captain, guide my hand and on the rudder till. Stand beside me, and help me keep watch for the storm. 

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(*Note: Credit is due to both to Erich Fromm and E.O. Wilson, two pre-eminent thinkers and posthumous thought partners on this journey. Truth be told, after finishing an earlier draft of the simple reflections above, I was looking for a title that would reflect “love of life”. I credit my years in upper elementary classrooms for letting etymology fuel my search, ultimately landing quite naturally on the term “biophilia”. Little did I know that others preceded me in naming what I explore above. First Fromm, then Wilson, used the term “biophilia” to describe life and our relationship to it.

In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), Fromm wrote:

“Biophilia is the passionate love of life and all that is alive; it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or group. The biophilous person prefers to construct rather than retain. He wants to be more than to have more. He is capable of wondering, and he prefers to see something new rather than find confirmation in the old. He loves the adventure of living more than he does certainty. He sees the whole rather than only the parts, structures rather than summations. He wants to mold and to influence by love, reason, and example” (p.336).

Earlier, in The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (1964), Fromm reflected:

“The tendency to preserve life and to fight against death is the most elementary form of the biophilous orientation, and is common to all living substance. Inasmuch as it is a tendency to preserve life, and to fight death, it represents only one aspect of the drive toward life. The other aspect is a more positive one: living-substance has the tendency to integrate and to unite; it tends to fuse with different and opposite entities, and grow in a structural way. Unification and integrated growth are characteristic of all life processes, not only as far as cells are concerned, but also with regard to feeling and thinking” (p. 45).

Working with Stephen R. Kellert in The Biophilia Hypothesis (1995), Wilson interpreted and redefined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life” (p. 416).
  
Originally, Wilson explored these ideas in Biophilia (1984), set in both an evolutionary and mystical context:

“[W]e are human in good part because of the particular way we affiliate with other organisms. They are the matrix in which the human mind originated and is permanently rooted, and they offer the challenge and freedom innately sought. To the extent that each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little-known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions” (p. 139).

While certainly not definitive, nor necessarily answers to the questions posed in this post, I look forward to studying these perspectives further toward a greater understanding of ultimate truth).