|March 22, 2013|
I’m a member of a fairly exclusive club. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am a trained Montessori teacher, that I own and operate a Montessori school, that I attended Montessori as a child or even that I’m a member of the Montessori Madmen. I am a Montessori dad. In a few months I’ll be renewing my membership for the fourth time. I’m by no means a charter member, but I try to attend all the meetings. I read the newsletter. I’m in the know. Recently, I had a revelation about our club and I wanted to share it with you. At the risk of being controversial, here it is: Dads are the third rail of Montessori.
I didn’t coin the phrase. I’ve heard it used in politics “Social security is the third rail of politics.” The analogy refers to the third rail on the subway tracks that carries the electricity. Essentially, the third rail is where all the power is, but you need to treat it with care or you might get shocked. I think the analogy applies to dads, just as it does to Social Security. No one would suggest that social security is the most important of political topics and I am certainly not suggesting that dads are the most important part of child education or any family unit for that matter. I think the analogy holds for both because in spite all our effort, nobody really knows the best way to work with either of them.
That’s where the comparison ends. Social Security isn’t going to stand up for itself. We can’t inspire social security. Social Security is not a club. Montessori dads, however, are all of these things and more. In January, I held a club meeting of sorts to discuss a few things. I inventively called it “Montessori for Dads.” My goal was simple; make Montessori occupy a larger part of dad’s brain. Thirty-five dads showed up and kept the discussion rolling for more than 2 hours. The energy was great. The questions were thoughtful and the discussion was fun and informative. It was our most successful dads event ever. There was no “shock”, but unfortunately, it is difficult to say what -if any, will be the long-term results of the meeting.
Here’s what I learned:
When you get a group of dads together to talk about parenting, there is a palpable sense of humility in the room. In case anyone out there misunderstands, humility is a good thing when it comes to parenting -it might be one of the best things. My theory is that we dads have grown comfortable with the idea that parenting is mom’s game. In that game many of us are considered bench warmers. Sure, we get our time on the field, but it’s usually only when mom goes down with a hammy. I’m sorry if that stings a little. Being a dad, I’m not so happy about the news myself. However, I’m basing my theory on 13 years of experience in working with parents and their children.
O.K. yes, there are some great dads out there. You might be one of them, but that doesn’t change my theory. If you think it through, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Turn on any family sitcom and you’ll see what I mean. Mom generally has her act together. She’s organized, handles the kids and essentially is responsible for the parenting. Dad, when he’s not at work, scratching himself or watching football, mows the lawn and fixes the sink. Cross those lines and you’ve got a disaster on your hands. It’s funny because its true.
In the case of our club meeting, the humility worked well. It created a wonderful openness to the ideas being shared. Dads didn’t feel like they needed to have all the answers. Society gives dads a hall pass and says it’s o.k. for us to be clueless when it comes to child development. We took advantage of this that night. But the group also had something else going for it, drive. I didn’t have to force anyone to show up and I certainly didn’t force anyone to stay and participate. The dads did it themselves. Halfway through the meeting, I found myself thinking of how much we could accomplish if we work together. Perhaps like most bench warmers, we want to get in the game, we just need the opportunity to show what we can do.
After the event, I started thinking about what really seems to be a paradox of Montessori education. In the overwhelming majority of parents that I have enrolled, it is mom who makes the decision to enroll in our school. If I only meet with mom the first time (which is the case 90% of the time), I try very hard to meet with dad shortly thereafter. This is harder than it sounds. Most of the time, when I do meet dad I hear “My wife makes the decisions on this stuff. I’m just here to check the place out.”
Fast forward 2 years. The child has grown emotionally, socially and academically, but that growth is far from complete. It’s the third year, the Kindergarten year where everything comes together. For more than 100 years the value of the three year cycle has been proven over and over again. All that the child learns in those first years has been building toward this moment. It should be a no-brainer. MAB Kindergarten? Where do I sign? For some moms, it is. Then, I get the note that says “We have chosen another program for our child.” So I talk to mom and what do I hear? “I really want to send Timmy back for Kindergarten, but I can’t convince my husband.” BZZZT! SHOCK! We just hit the third rail.
Year after year this happens. Of the reasons students leave Montessori before the third year, this may be the most frustrating, because it tells me something could have been done somewhere along the line to avoid this. But What? Why is it that mom gets the child in the door but dad is the reason he or she stays? Moms, does this sting a little for you, too?
Once again, society and conventional thinking may be a part of the problem. Our entire educational system is based upon the idea that “real” learning starts at first grade. I’ve even heard that from a few dads who have come through my door. Yet all of the most recent scientific studies of brain and child development tell us that it’s actually the first 6 years of life that are the most important. Even President Obama has realized this and has directed a new focus of education on preschool. Yes, Dr. Montessori figured this out more than 100 years ago, but this is not just a Montessori concept. It’s science!
At our club meeting, one of the dads very graciously asked me “Now that you have us here, what we can do for this school and the children.” What a great question! A soft-ball, if you will. What can you do? First, learn why your child is here. Why he or she is thriving. Learn what the teachers do and do not do to aid in that growth. Take advantage of the fact that almost all of what we do here can be done at home. Experiment with your parenting. Discuss parenting with your friends. Discuss it with your child’s teacher. Learn about brain development. Learn what is going on behind the scenes in your child and figure out what is coming on the horizon. Surf the internet to find videos and resources on child development. Start at www.TED.com and this website work out from there. In short, make Montessori and child development occupy a larger part of your brain. That’s all we need.
Most importantly, don’t fall victim to society’s views. You are not a backup. Dad’s don’t babysit! Remember you are not just one dad in a sea of parents. You are a member of an exclusive club but one which consists of literally millions of dads around the world. We are the third rail. We have the power to make a huge difference -one way or the other. As a group, we have yet to flex our collective muscles to influence the path of our children’s education and development, but it’s high time we get off the bench and get in the game.
|March 13, 2013|
By Kristin Tubic (MAB Faculty / Guest Blogger)
When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards – Maria Montessori
On Valentine’s Day this year a bug landed on my pink sweater. I didn’t notice it but a child from my class did and warily cautioned me that it was there. I studied it more closely – It was about half an inch long, black, had six legs and wings. By this time a small group of children had gathered to look at the strange creature on my arm. It started to head towards my shoulder so I let it crawl onto my hand instead so the children could get a closer look. When I moved my hand down to their level there were a few gasps and the area around me got noticeably wider as many feet shuffled backwards. Only when the bug decided not to move again did small heads start poking closer to look. A few seconds later the bug suddenly flew up and away to a nearby light. Again there were scared gasps and one child even ran away from the area when the bug took flight.
I find that this is a common reaction among children. Such yells and gasps can be heard when a spider or stinkbug appears on the classroom floor. I often wonder how such young children can have a phobia of bugs – I think it should be the opposite way around – they should have a curiosity and interest. Is this phobia learned from parents or is it because many of these children have not spent enough time in nature?
Growing up in Australia many animals such as cockroaches, bats, frogs, geckos and spiders routinely found their way into our house. It was such a regular occurrence that sometimes we didn’t even both to escort them back to the outdoors.
In the classroom setting we will sometimes get the bug catcher out so the children can have a close up view of little critters without much fear. Other times we will get a cup and paper and simply let the animal go back into nature. We remind the children that all animals, no matter how small should be taken outside and not hurt in any way.
The wonderful season of spring is just around the corner. The beauty of flowers popping up from the soil and the new leaf buds on the trees make it a pretty awe inspiring time. I grew up in the northern part of Australia that had a rainy season (summer) and a dry season (winter). We never really celebrated the changing of the seasons because you really couldn’t tell when they stopped or started. We could swim in the ocean all year round, the trees never lost their leaves, no snow ever came, and even frost was a very rare event. Needless to say, the first time I experienced the four seasons was when a moved to a northern US state in 2001. So to me, as I suspect for many of the children, Spring is still a magical time.
Spring is a great time for you and your child or children to get out into the great outdoors. The challenge posed to you in this blog is to set aside at least one hour a week to let your children explore nature. This exploration can be unstructured or structured. It can be a nature walk close by to where you live, an exploration of a local park or stream, a hiking outing or simply spending time among the plants and bushes in your garden.
In unstructured exploration your job is to follow the child, not for the child to follow you or your agenda. See what they start looking at, touching or smelling. Equip them with a magnifying glass that they can hang around their neck. If your child is hesitant, you can make suggestions like, “I wonder where that ant is going? Let’s follow it.” If your child asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, be truthful and say something like, “You know what, I have no idea how long turtles can hold their breath underwater for, we can find out when we get home.” A simple question like this can, depending on the child’s interest and age, lead to a simple search on the Internet or a budding interest in ‘all things turtle’ at the library.
In a structured exploration you could let your child know that today we are going on a scavenger hunt to find certain things in nature – this could be a list you’ve made together, or for younger children pictures of what you plan to look for –such as an acorn, a maple seed, a pine cone, a large stick, spotting a cardinal etc.
Other ideas from structured exploration idea are:
- To bring a camera and try to find as many different leaf types as possible (or flowers, animals, seeds).
- Older children can bring a journal and sit in one place and describe in words or pictures what they are seeing.
- Bringing paper and crayons and seeing how many different types of rubbings you can find.
- Be silent in a natural area for 5 minutes and then talk about what you heard.
- Have a picnic in the park or near a stream.
- Make a small raft out of twigs and tall grass and watch it float down the stream.
- Go fruit or flower picking
Getting out into a natural setting is also a great way for children to enhance the information in their brains. A child who sees a nest in a book many come to think that a birds nest is two dimensional, brown and fluffy. Upon actually seeing one in real life and being allowed to touch it, their brain will reorganize itself to include words like prickly, made out of twigs and mud, and three dimensional. A child can see how big a nest is, whether it has a smell, what color it is and what it is made out of. The bottom line is a picture in a book can never replace the power of holding an object in real life.
Here at MAB we think of the outdoors as an extension of the classroom. Aside from the unstructured recess time there are many other ways the children get to experience the outdoors. In our class we like to do nature walks with magnifying glasses and baskets to collect natural objects. We then at a later time analyze and sort the objects, always returning them after we have finished studying them. Sometimes we bring a large blanket into the courtyard and look up at the clouds – watch their movements and shapes that are formed. We also observe if there is a breeze, if we can see butterflies or birds flying in formation. On a beautiful day many classes will bring a table or art easel outside so the children can work in the great outdoors. Scrubbing the exterior of the building, cutting the grass with scissors, weeding, and planting flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables in our garden beds are many other ways we incorporate the outdoors with education.
Some ending thoughts and ideas are to make sure you allow your child to be an explorer. Let them pick up an ant or poke their fingers in the stream. A fun thing to do is go for a walk in the rain and let your child know that today it is alright for them to splash in the puddles. At another time, allow them to walk barefoot so they can experience what it is like to feel the squishy mud between their toes and the slipperiness of the grass or the hardness of the rocks.
Children are fascinated by nature. We just have to make sure, as parents and educators that they have enough exposure to the wonderful greenery Northern Virginia has to offer.
Below are some links that you may find helpful.
|January 17, 2013|
Does your child see you as “The Boss?” Do you see yourself that way? Maybe your spouse is the boss. I’m not talking about the lovable Tony Danza type. I’m talking about the Donald Trump, King Henry type.
In generations past, the patriarch was exactly that. “The Boss.” “Coffee is for closers.” “My way or the highway.” “Because I said so.” Teachers were that way, too. Thankfully, things have changed since then, but in some homes (and many schools), perhaps not as much as they should.
What image does the word “boss” project in your mind? Assuming it’s not Tony Danza, it’s probably something pretty negative. The working world has come to realize that the stereotypical boss/employee relationship is not a productive one. Traditional school systems are slowly following along as teachers begin to realize they have much to learn from their students. But the best kept secret out there is that Montessorians have known this for more than 100 years!
The patriarch of old expected complete subjugation. The old school teacher sought compliance over understanding and the 20th century boss told everyone what to do. It was me versus you. Us versus them (which makes it all the more amazing that Dr. Montessori was able to accomplish what she did). If you have this situation in your home, it can be a recipe for disaster. You may not realize it, but because of this relationship, even in the best case scenario you’re entering into each parent-child interaction at a significant disadvantage.
At home, there should be no boss. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Certainly mom and dad have the authority and the final say, but the ideal parent child relationship is more of a partnership –and that is exactly the relationship that Montessori teachers work to cultivate with each student.
Consider the following scenarios.
Imagine you proudly bring a new idea to your boss at work who says “We can’t focus on that now. We have other more important work to do first.” That answer would very likely deflate your enthusiasm for your new idea (at least temporarily) and would turn the “more important work” into nothing more than a barrier to your plans. If the goal is simply getting past the work, there isn’t much hope that we will give our best effort . With a few simple words, your boss just created problems for both of you.
If instead, when your boss sees your new idea he/she says “Yes. I want to hear more about that, and we’ll take a look at your idea right after we finish this.” In this scenario, wouldn’t you be more interested in cooperating with the boss’s request? It’s a subtle difference but all we did was to change the phrase from negative to positive. With that simple change in language your boss became your partner.
Now read that again putting yourself in the boss’ position and your child in that of the employee. Which scenario is closest to the one that most often plays out in your home? Now, the comparison may need to move beyond the literal, since most children aren’t submitting power point presentations to their parents. So think of situations where your child needs your assistance or approval, or even situations where you want your child to do something that he/she may not especially want to do. How does that compare?
If you find that the first scenario hits closer to home, there are things you can do. First, but gradually, give your child as much responsibility as he/she can handle by physically making your home a place where he/she can be successful in simple everyday tasks without you. This can really help to reduce unnecessary interactions and arguments.
Second, when you do have these interactions, always try to enter the situation with a specific goal and a basic plan to achieve it (What does my child really need and how can I help him/her meet this need?) Say what you mean, phrase it positively and don’t repeat it unless absolutely necessary. For example; Don’t ask a child to clean up his room unless you are prepared for him/her to say “no.” If it’s not a question, don’t make it one. Instead simply say “clean up your room.”
These are just a few ideas. Contact your child’s teacher to learn techniques that will apply to your specific child. In any case, don’t expect to go from boss to partner overnight. Montessori teachers require years of training to successfully apply these techniques in the classroom. Some of these changes may yield immediate results. Others may work more behind the scenes. None of the above ideas are one-and-done solutions. Parenting is a marathon. Not a sprint. Consistent, pro-longed application of these concepts is the key to their success.
The fact of the matter is that whether it’s in the classroom, boardroom or living room, human beings respond better to cooperation than domination. Sorry for the alliteration. I had to do it. But don’t let that obfuscate the points, here, which are many. At the risk of oversimplifying I’m going to bullet point them below:
Remember, as a Montessori parent, you have access to a nearly limitless resource in child development. Give us a call. Send an email. We are here to help.
|December 5, 2012|
By Bart Theriot, Head of School, Administration MAB
I own an iPad, iPod, iPhone and a desktop computer. I also have two televisions, thousands of channels of cable and a Sony Playstation 3. I even have a record player. I am no stranger to electronics and technology and clearly I am in favor of their use –judiciously of course. However, it is also my job as a Montessorian and as a father of three boys to constantly analyze the manner in which children experience life. From my observations, I am convinced that our society is approaching a point where “boredom” no longer exists. Depending upon your view of boredom, that might sound like a good thing, but the implications of this for our children could be more drastic than you may realize.
I placed the word “boredom” in quotes because its definition changes depending upon whom you ask. As a child, I remember complaining to my parents that I was bored. My friends and I would even commiserate over our boredom when we were together. At the time, I don’t think we really knew what it meant to be bored. To some, the opera may be boring, and to others reading a book is a total snore. Various forms of boredom are used in prison and even as a means of psychological torture. For now, let’s agree on the following general definition for the word: “Boredom –the feeling that results from a lack of personally interesting/engaging stimulation.”
However you define it, boredom can be downright painful –especially if you aren’t mentally prepared for it. An increasing number of us aren’t, which is why we have invented so many external means of avoiding it. Filling our downtime with entertainment has become such a part of our lives that we unwittingly project this idea onto our children. Not to mention that we have extra reason to promote the concept since parenting becomes much easier when your children are entertained.
So what do we lose when we are so easily able to escape boredom? One thing we lose is patience. If you don’t believe me, leave your phone at home and then head over to the DMV. I’ve written about the importance of patience right here on this blog and I’m certain all parents agree that it is an important life skill. You can say goodbye to creativity, too, which is often borne from boredom. We also lose the ability to engage with our environment –especially the human beings around us. Here I’m speaking more in evolutionary terms since staring at your smartphone doesn’t immediately erase your social abilities. Over time, however, if the bulk of our society continues to walk around with eyes glued to smartphones and iPads, I promise there will be a widespread drop in the ability of humans to interact face-to-face. Raise your hand if you think in-person human interaction is something we can do without.
There is an important distinction if we apply the thoughts above to our children instead of ourselves. The difference is that we adults (most of us anyway) already have these important skills to lose. But children have not yet had the chance to develop these skills and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that they take advantage of the limited opportunities they will have to do so.
I remember when computers came equipped with the game solitaire as a standard program (now you get Youtube and who knows what else?) and businesses all over the country had to develop internal policies to prevent staff from spending more time playing cards than working. Clearly management wrote these policies because they knew that playing solitaire meant lower productivity, I also like to think that they recognized the value of boredom for their employees (and to their business).
What’s the value of boredom? Why is something that we consider an annoyance actually so good for us? For starters, boredom, and time spent “doing nothing” may be the birthplace of creativity (look at just about any sport out there from basketball to jai-alai and I guarantee it was invented by a creative and perhaps very bored individual). You could also say the same for many inventions, books, songs, paintings, plays, poems and other works of art not to mention some pretty important thoughts and discoveries. In point of fact, James Naismith, Isaac Newton, Leonardo DaVinci, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Martin Luther King, Jr. may not have considered themselves bored at all. However, they certainly had less options for “entertainment”, so when they had “nothing to do” they painted, wrote music, thought, spoke and invented amazing things. They discovered their own passions and abilities and used them to change the world. Watching a movie, playing a video game or reading what our “friends” had for lunch on Facebook is not creating anything. In fact, these things actually take away from the time where we could be discovering our own abilities and creating something uniquely wonderful.
Even if you aren’t creating a masterpiece, boredom is still a great time for your brain to take action. We all carry thoughts with us –especially children, who’s brains, because of their higher number of synapses, are literally jam-packed with ideas and questions waiting to be resolved. At times there may be so many ideas that they actually interfere with one another, making concentration difficult. A little boredom can be just the thing to allow the brain to catalog all those ideas and sort of reset itself to make room for new thoughts. Boredom is our brain’s opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
When a child says he is bored, often times it is not because there is nothing to do, it is more likely because there is nothing he wants to do, or that he may need to be creative in finding something to do. Now, children complaining of boredom is nothing new, but new technology allows parents to respond in a very different way than that of our parents. As a young child, when I told my parents that I was bored, nobody handed me a smartphone or even bothered to suggest options for my entertainment. Knowing my parents, I suspect they wouldn’t have reached for the iPad so quickly even if it was available. No, I remember hearing “Go outside and find something to do and don’t come back until dinner.” Thus, I was left to develop my own methods of handling boredom.
At the time, this was not the response I was looking for and I’m certain that I muttered a few things under my breath as I sulked my way into the back yard. Sometimes I made mistakes. Occasionally, I even got into trouble. Sometimes I learned more about myself and the world around me and even created some pretty amazing things. Other times I returned to my parents hours later just as bored as I was when I left. Still, no matter what I did during each of those times of boredom, I developed patience, self-reliance, character, honesty, creativity, problem solving, ingenuity and a host of other critical life skills that I use every day in my adult life. It was that downtime –that boredom, as much as anything else, that helped me to become the person I am today.
Children need to struggle. They need to fail and make mistakes and they need to experience times where they must rely on themselves and their own abilities to solve problems. This is where true character and grit come from and it is often where the greatest discoveries are made. Every time we save our children from “boredom” we stand in the way of their independent development. At the same time, we send them the message that not only is boredom something to be avoided, but that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide the tools to do so. So the next time your child starts showing signs of boredom, before you reach for the iPhone or step in to solve the problem, remember that message and realize that you may be taking away from your child the very skills you want him to develop.
|September 10, 2012|
By Bart Theriot, Head of School, Administration
The earliest lessons learned by students new to the Montessori environment are those of grace and courtesy. As discussed in Part I, these lessons form the backbone of the Montessori method. As the new year begins, it is always fun to see the children learning how to relate to one another as they begin to take responsibility for their own development. The wonderful thing about these lessons is that they continue through the child’s entire Montessori experience. They build the framework for the life ahead. We’re going to discuss as many as we can here on the MAB website. Today, let’s talk about patience –certainly, an essential human skill .
Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re having a conversation with your spouse –nothing time sensitive or important, just catching up on the day’s events. 45 seconds into your conversation, you hear “Mom.” Your beautiful child approaches and stands directly in between you and your spouse and says “MOM!” What happens next varies from house to house. Many parents will stop their conversation and direct their attention to the child. Some parents may attempt to continue their conversation and ignore the child –a tactic which is usually met with “Mom. Mom. Mooommmm. MOMMY!” until the parent has completely forgotten what she was talking about, thus ending the conversation all the same.
Patience comes in many forms. It is one thing to have patience when engaged in a preferred activity, but another thing entirely when waiting for a need to be met. Neither of the two options above provide the child with an opportunity to develop her patience. Simply ignoring the child may allow you to finish your conversation, but doing so does not send the proper message to the child, who may learn that ignoring is an acceptable method of human interaction. However, if the parent immediately gives her attention to the child, the message is sent that no matter what mom is doing, what the child wants is more important. In the grand scheme of things, our children’s needs must come first. The problem arises when neither the parent nor the child is able to treat wants differently than needs. After all, when you are accustomed to having all your wants and needs met immediately, who needs to know the difference between the two?
Dr. Montessori clearly recognized the need for patience in early life. As a result, nearly every material in the classroom and all of those in the practical life and sensorial sections teach patience. Here’s a lesson our teachers use from toddlers through elementary. Please try it at home and let us know how it goes (chances are your child has already heard it, but she will get a real kick out of doing it with you). It’s also a good way to show her that you are a part of her class.
The next time your child interrupts a conversation in this manner, use this as the opportunity to share this lesson with her. Pause your conversation, get down to her level and while making eye contact, say “I am talking to dad right now. I want to hear what you have to say, but I will listen to you when I am finished my conversation with dad. In the meantime, please put your hand on my shoulder/arm and wait patiently until I stop talking and look at you.”
This may take a few times to get it right. After a few attempts, it is helpful to remind the child simply by quietly motioning to her to wait without making eye contact and softly tapping your hand on your shoulder to remind her what she should do. When your child has mastered this technique, you can explain to her that she may simply wait nearby as the hand on your shoulder is no longer necessary.
There is also a nice little bonus lesson of independence attached to this. It happens without any extra effort on the part of the adult, but we see it very often in our elementary classroom. In addition to developing patience, your child will also begin to learn to find the answer to her own questions. Then all that is left is to learn to differentiate needs and wants, but that’s another lesson for another time.
|August 31, 2012|
I love the start of a new school year. Less than one full week in the books and already the classrooms are humming with that electric energy found only in the Montessori environment. New relationships are forming and old relationships are strengthening. For some of our students, even those we haven’t seen all Summer, it is as if they never left! In truth, if we have done our jobs, Montessori will remain with each child for the rest of his life.
I hope you are enjoying these early days of school as much as the children. Your children will be bringing home so many new ideas beyond the tangible work in their backpacks. Sometimes, the learning is subtle and takes a keen parenting eye just to notice it. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that you won’t miss a thing.
Thanks again for joining us. We look forward to sharing these amazing and important years with you and your child.
Head if School, Administration
|July 20, 2012|
Hello and welcome to our brand new website!
If you are new to MAB or Montessori, you’ll find an excellent introduction to both right here on this site. We also have a fairly expansive list of references and links to other sites concerning all things Montessori conveniently located in “The Cubby” . We are still updating some of the content on a few of the pages but that should all be taken care of soon. If you are considering enrollment for your child, please click on the “Visit Us” button at the top of the page and schedule a tour. Thank you for your interest. We look forward to speaking with you soon!
For our returning parents
Welcome back parents! And may I also add “how awesome is our new site?” There’s so much potential here we can’t wait to jump in! We are in the process of developing individual classroom pages which will give you even more access to your child’s daily experience with newsletters, pictures, video and other information. The site also holds a wealth of information both on the school and Montessori -there is always more to learn. We’ll be updating this blog with all sorts of interesting topics and we look forward to your comments and feedback. We’ve also taken a big step in trying our hand in the world of social media. Facebook and Twitter represent two excellent means of sharing information and reaching out to our community. We are also adding many of the student forms to the site -some of which can be completed online. The FAN page is also going to be updated, but we encourage you to join our Facebook group MAB FAN Officers & Volunteers to be sure you’re kept in the loop. In addition, we will be adding a paypal button both to the FAN page and the MAB home page shortly.
Please take some time and play around with the site. We would love to know what you think. Please send feedback and suggestions via email by clicking on the “Contact Us” button at the top of the screen.
Enjoy the rest of your Summer!
Head of School, Administration
|May 28, 2012|
By Bart Theriot, Head of School, Administration
Grace and courtesy are essential elements of life as a member of a society. If done properly, grace and courtesy should promote harmony in all areas of life. It is true that nearly everything we say and do whether alone or with others contains aspects of grace and courtesy. It is important to recognize that these are learned skills and must be taught.
In the coming months we are going to delve more deeply into grace and courtesy. Today we will discuss the concept of peace, which figures heavily into the practice of grace and courtesy. Montessori teachers know quite a bit about peace because we practice it every day, often in the smallest of ways. Other times, we demonstrate peace on a larger and tangible scale such as our peace day projects and charity drives.
Our school even works to build peace on a global scale. Each year MAB faculty builds a peace wall which is displayed at the annual AMS (American Montessori Society) conference. This conference is attended by more than 3,000 teachers each year. The wall contains cards on which teachers from all over the world have written definitions of peace. Over the past 6 years we have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of cards in dozens of languages. Not one of them has been the same as any other, yet they all represent the meaning of peace.
When you finish reading this, I encourage you to find a piece of paper and write your own definition or draw a picture of peace. Stick it on your refrigerator (ideally at eye-level for your child to see). This is a fun idea to practice with your entire family. It’s always fun to hear your child’s answer when asked What does peace mean to you?
Whatever your definition, it is important to realize that peace is something which is far easier to destroy than to create. Sometimes it takes considerable effort to make peace. Then there are times when it only takes a few words. Sometimes it can be done by yourself, but other times peace simply cannot be accomplished alone. Regardless of when or how, building peace requires thought and practice and it is always worth sharing with others.
As you will see in future discussions, acts of grace and courtesy form and strengthen the bonds between us. These connections are what we use to define what peace means to each of us. Do all you can to help your child establish connections with the world around him or her. Start simply. A child can always understand that which he can hold in his hand. Pick up trash when you see it. Show your child that it is our human responsibility to protect life. Before you swat that fly or step on that ant, consider if there might be another way. Hold the door for others. Greet strangers with eye contact and a cheerful hello or good morning. Donate food, clothes, money and if possible, your time to those in need. Help children understand and value the life they have by exposing them to other countries less fortunate than ours. These are just a few examples of peace-building experiences. We would love to hear your own!
In every case, the key is always to explain your actions to reinforce the concept and remember that peace begins with you. Before long, you may find your child spontaneously following in your footsteps. Mahatma Gandhi once said Be the change you wish to see in the world. If we are conscious of grace and courtesy, we can take this a step further by ensuring that our children will also be the change.