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Peaceful Classroom, Peaceful Playground

October, 2015

One thing we sometimes forget to plan for is Peace education.

Promoting Peace was a large part of Dr. Montessori’s career – one of her most famous quotes is “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education.” She thought it was extremely important in her day; today it may be more important than ever.

The staff at Brookside has been consistently delivering the message of “Peaceful Classroom, Peaceful Playground”.  Among others, 10 ways we are including peace in our curriculum this year:

1. We talk about the word “peace” with our students – We ask the children what they think it means; their answers are very enlightening. They are often surprised to realize that peace can be found many places. It doesn’t just refer to “world peace”. They can have a hand in creating a peaceful environment wherever they are.

Peace may look a little different to everyone. It’s learning how to deal with conflict in a way that doesn’t put the rights, wants, or needs of one person over the other. It’s learning conflict resolution skills that stress respect for the individual and the group.

peace pic2. We’ve declared our classroom and playground a “peace zone” – Brookside does not tolerate any kind of bullying. We have laid down ground rules since the beginning of the year.  We reinforce this message regularly and seek agreement from the children on the concept.

3. We teach conflict resolution skills – One way (that children enjoy very much) is through role-playing. We try to choose a time when everyone is together and there are no unresolved conflicts. We role-play different situations that are noticed amongst the children. We talk about peaceful ways to resolve the conflict. We define and discuss compromise, taking turns, and listening skills.

4. We are choosing “Peace” as the theme every so often – We challenge the children to find stories, poems, and songs about peace. We will, throughout the year, seek opportunities to draw or paint pictures of “peace” and what it means to them. Again, much insight can be gained by looking into their responses.

5. We vary Peace education by age – Our older children will be able to get into the history of peace and conflict through our study of different countries and cultures in the kindergarten classroom. They can participate at a higher level by researching and writing about peace and peace education.

6. Our children participate in the care of their environment – showing respect for the materials, pets, plants, and other children.

7. When studying geography, history, and other cultures, we emphasize respect for the diversity of traditions and customs found around the world.

8. We have banned any representation of weapons or violent characters or stories at the school.  Period.

9. We try to set a good example – And you can, too. Don’t argue with parents, spouses, or other teachers in front of the children. Speak respectfully about other people. Don’t gossip. Show kindness. It can be easy to forget that children are watching your every move, and learn more from what you do than what you say.

10. We have established special holidays and rituals for our school – These include joyful celebrations as well as sad occasions (like the loss of a pet). Everyone shares in the planning, decorating, and celebrating. Ask yourself, is this something that we can (or do already) implement at home?

We will continue to work on Peace in our classroom and on our playground throughout the year.  In this day and age it is one of the most important messages we can deliver to our children.  Any assistance you as parents can provide in modeling and reinforcing peaceful behavior is greatly appreciated.

Susan Curley Owner and Directress

New to Montessori? What to expect.

September, 2015

backtoschool

Starting a new year in a Montessori environment is a very exciting time!  Here are some things you can expect at the start of the new school year.

  • The first few days (and weeks) of school can be nerve wracking. Talk to your child about how they feel about going to/going back to school and about how you felt on your first day of school.
  • Students are to be left just inside the front door, at the cubby area. Quick exits are actually best to help your child adjust to their classmates.
  • Upon returning to pick up your child, it is important to give them your undivided attention.  Remember, they haven’t seen you for several hours and after a full day at school are likely to have a lot to tell you.  If you would like to chat with other parents, please try to do this outside the school before coming in to greet your child.
  • For a child returning to the same environment, you might ask him or her to relate the things that are the same or different as compared to last year.
  • Expect at least a six-week adjustment period in their new environment (“normalization” period, please read my previous blog entry Summer 2015 – The Montessori Classroom for more on this topic).
  • Returning students become role models and leaders for new friends in the classroom
  • Expect to wait about six weeks before volunteering in the classroom.  This will allow us time to familiarize your children with Montessori materials and classroom rules, also known as the “normalization” period.
  • Likewise, expect to wait at least six weeks before any parent/teacher conferences will be scheduled.  See the “normalization” remarks in previous point.

As always, the entire staff at Brookside is looking forward to the start of a new year and to working with your children.

Susan Curley Owner and Directress

The Montessori Classroom

Summer, 2015

A major benefit of the Montessori Method is the normalized classroom. The normalized classroom provides a structure for:

  • Independent and small group work that is productive
  • Minimal discipline issues High level of independence A love of work
  • Signs of initiative
  • A high level of self-discipline
  • Work that is at just the right level of difficultly for the child

A normalized classroom refers to a room where children are working purposefully and cooperatively. Dr. Montessori described the normalized child as “… one who is precociously intelligent, who has learned to overcome himself and to live in peace, and who prefers a disciplined task to futile idleness.” (Secret of Childhood, p. 148) A child’s nature must be recognized and allowed to grow. This is the goal of any Montessori teacher.

Teachers in the classroom strive to assist the child in purposeful tasks. This is done through lessons and exercises that interest the child. The teacher may observe the child wandering around the room and then invite the child to choose a lesson.

By choosing a lesson, the teacher is providing an opportunity for purposeful and meaningful work. By choosing the lesson, the child is likely to repeat the work shown by the teacher.

Indications of a normalized classroom (and child) depend on the children and teacher involved. Normalized classrooms tend to have teachers that are highly observant. The teacher observes by watching what work the child chooses, how often the work is chosen, how long it takes the child to complete the exercise … and when the child is ready to move on to the next lesson.

The teacher provides an environment suited for optimal learning by providing material that is well prepared ensuring that concentration is possible.

At the beginning of the school year, the teacher may choose work for the children. Whole group activities may be more frequent than at any other time of the year. As small group and individual lessons are given, children are given more independent work time. Children earn the right to work independently and choose their work. As more and more children are able to work on appropriate activities, the work time is increased.

Normalization of a Montessori classroom allows the students to work and learn in a wonderful learning environment.

The Multi-aged Classroom

One of the differences between a Montessori environment and a traditional classroom is that of a multi-aged environment. These classrooms provide the following benefits:

  • Self-esteem boosting for children in the program for more than one year.
  • Confidence builder – the child knows the teacher and class expectations.
  • Each child has access to many “teachers,” not just the adults in the room to seek out help or guidance, but older children that know the material.
  • Easier transitions. Your child remains with the same teacher for multiple years so they have an easier time transitioning from grade to grade or year to year.
  • Maximizes curriculum options available to anyone child. If you have an advanced 6-year old, your child is able to move through the curriculum at his own pace.
  • Provides a family atmosphere where children develop sibling like relationships. Older children watch out for and nurture the younger children. The younger children learn from the older children and return the favor in the future years.

Children in a Montessori classroom rarely become bored. In a Montessori environment children use different materials at different times in different ways. For example, a child may sensorially explore the geometric solids. The child handles the solids and explores them, but may not be ready to learn their names. After a time, the child learns the name of each solid. The material stayed the same, but what the child was developmentally ready for changed. This happens with many materials in the Montessori environment. Montessori multi-aged classrooms offer opportunities for children to grow and learn over an extended period of time.

“What I have shown in the immense potentiality of the child is the existence of an energy which previously had not been taken into consideration.” – Maria Montessori, The Advanced Montessori Method (1961)

Susan Curley Owner and Directress