Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What to look for when hiring a Montessori teacher!

Qualities of an authentic Montessori teacher... What to look for!!

Kathryn Miller and Shelli Caldwell
Two Authentic Montessori
Teachers at The Innovative School.

The role of a Montessori teacher is that of an observer, facilitator, nurturer, communicator, environmental engineer, role-model, team player, advisor, guide, and be a patient, approachable, organized, tolerant, knowledgeable, and professional human being who is strong in character and prepared in spirit at the same time.

As a head of school, how do you perceive what to look for when seeking an authentic Montessori teacher for your classrooms?

Dr. Montessori had strong opinions about the preparation of the teacher. It is the starting point in your search.
Dr. Montessori said:
” It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism.”

When interviewing a prospective teacher, the logical first inquiry is the level of their training, experience, and years in the field. After the initial points are covered, presenting a set of questions that can be answered in person will provide you with a sense of this person being a match for your philosophy and your school.

Here are some sample questions to determine the above qualities.

  1. How do you handle your frustrations when you get to the ‘end of your rope’ with a child?
  2. What kind of continuing education do you participate in each year?
  3. If you have a small classroom with very little storage, what is your strategy?
  4. What is the most difficult experience you have had with a parent? How did you handle it?
  5. When or how often do you think is necessary for a team meeting?
  6. How important are faculty meetings to you?
  7. What kind of support do you expect from a head of school?
  8. What do you use as a support for your spiritual development?
  9. Authentic Montessori teacher – how would you describe one?
  10. Describe the most challenging experience you have had with an assistant or co-worker.
  11. What is your vision for your ideal classroom?
  12. What would you be doing on Veteran’s Day, if it were a school holiday?
Kathryn Miller
Got Montessori?
After having a conversation over these topics or others that you create yourself, you will likely have a clearer picture of the person interviewing. You will be able to make a more comfortable choice for your school.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Enjoy your Child!

Munir Shivji and Dr. Jane Nelsen at
The Institute of Montessori Education - Houston.
June 12, 2011
The Institute of Montessori Education was pleased to sponsor a two-day workshop with Dr. Jane Nelsen, author of the many Positive Discipline Book series this weekend June 11th and 12th. Workshop participants spent hours brainstorming, role playing, discussing, documenting, writing and learning how to facilitate and teach parenting the positive discipline way workshops. Everyone laughed, networked, played, learned and experienced a well planned and organized session by Dr. Jane Nelsen. What a wonderful weekend.

Positive Discipline is based on the concept that children want to belong and contribute. When you think about it, no one behaves well by being shamed and made to feel guilty. We were taught better ways to help our children learn respect and responsibility. With the positive discipline approach, children participate in making decisions that affect them based on limited choices that show respect for all involved. Rules and good behavior are encouraged and enforced with both firmness and kindness.

Here are some questions Dr. Jane Nelsen asked us to think about when we were brainstorming ideas on creating long term, effective discipline plans:

Are you being respectful and encouraging?
Do your children feel as though they belong?
Is what you're doing effective long-term?
Does it teach children to be concerned about others, teach cooperation and accountability?

This course will help you realize:

- Positive Discipline gives you more time for fun,
- Parents enjoy their children more,
- You can parent without stress, anxiety and guilt,
- Positive Discipline avoids spanking and other forms of corporal punishment,
- You don’t have to bribe, nag and cajole children,
- Children learn from their mistakes,
- You find real, practical solutions for tough problems,
- You have the respect of your children.

Adults who use Positive Discipline respect, nurture, and support their children. Children feel free to share ideas, feelings, ask questions and make choices. When adults are willing to observe and respond in ways that encourage positive behavior, you help the child become responsible for their own behavior. Participants who took this weekend's training received a certificate as a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. Please contact TIME if you would like one of our newly certified participants to facilitate on-going parenting classes for you!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I am BORED! What to do this summer?

Summer is a time for relaxation and rest for a student, but for a parent, summer can be overwhelming. Before your family has a chance to say, "I'm bored!" plan a meaningful summer using some of these great ideas.  Here are a few suggestions that may assist you in having a peaceful, happy and safe summer.

Explore a Museum and Create a Family Newsletter,
Play in the Dirt, Dig for Worms, Look for Lizards, and Hunt for Frogs and Tadpoles,
Bring Books Alive and Start a Family Book Club,
Take a Stress-Free Road Trip and Start a Family Tradition,
Volunteer as a Family,
Practice the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle),
Pick Berries, Hike, Catch Bugs and Bird Watch,
Create a Nature Table,
Finger Paint, Sculpt with Clay, Dry Flowers, Make Jewelry or Playdough,
Create a Treasure Hunt,
Produce a Family Musical and Perform it,
Conduct a Family Talent Show and Host a Dance Party,
Make Mazes and Puzzles, Paint Rocks and Create a Rock Garden,
Explore the Neighborhood, Fly Kites and Feed the Ducks or Geese.

As with most things your kids will have more fun if you participate and join in the fun. Summer’s short so get out, get wet, grubby, laugh and enjoy it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Creating a Montessori Home Environment

Dr. Maria Montessori was a scientist and a medical doctor. Through her study, she created her first “prepared environment” by observing the needs of her children.  As parents, we must observe our children to create a proper home environment that is responsive to their needs of development.

One of the fundamental roles of a Montessori teacher is for him/her to create a prepared environment that allows children to be independent and successful. The environment is simple, beautiful and ordered. Children need this order. The child looks to us to help him/her understand the real world, therefore we emphasize reality. Because Montessori emphasizes on reality-based hands-on learning, Montessori classrooms are arranged with child-size furniture, open spaces to invite movement and exploration and Montessori materials available on shelves. “Prepared” environments allow the teacher to spend each day giving meaningful presentations or demonstrations of various academic and or life skills activities. This allows children to develop self-control, the love of learning and an internal set of guidelines that become part of their life-long personalities.

It is crucial for parents to also “prepare” their home environment. A prepared environment not only includes the physical materials, it also encompasses the atmosphere and the rules that govern the environment.  Just like school, the “prepared” home environment will allow your child to become more independent, responsible and contribute as a member of the home community.  The child's surroundings are important because from birth through age six, children undergo a special period of interest and receptivity, Dr. Montessori termed this the Absorbent Mind. This was the way Dr. Montessori described the minds of young children. Much of our daily learning is unconscious because the brains of young children have been wired to absorb information automatically and effortlessly, just like sponges. Dr. Montessori saw the absorbent mind in two phases. During the first initial phase, from birth to three years old, the young child unknowingly or unconsciously acquires his/her basic abilities. She called it the period of unconscious creation. The child's work during this period is to become independent from the adult for his basic human functions. He learns to speak, to walk, to gain control of his hands and to master his bodily functions. Once these basic skills are incorporated into his schema, by about age three, he moves into the next phase of the absorbent mind, which Montessori called the period of conscious work. During this period, the child's mind compels him to perfect in himself that which is now there. His fundamental task during this phase is freedom; freedom to move purposefully, freedom to choose and freedom to concentrate. His mantra is "Let Me Do It Myself!"

Preparing the Home Environment

The child from birth to six is being introduced to the world.  Montessorians do not believe in pushing the child, but strongly believe in providing an environment that is rich and that will develop the “whole” child. Young children show an amazing interest in a wide range of various subjects. A rich environment creates that interest and extends the child’s experience, widening his/her grasp of such things in many subject areas. Observations over the years prove the child’s built-in curiosity and interest. That has taught us to focus on the preparation of the early environment and allow the child to choose, use his/her senses and to teach him/herself.  The adult’s challenge is to be sure that the environment offers all of the key experiences necessary for the child’s success.  Rather than relying on traditional verbal lessons, computers, television, and videos rely on the same abilities developed in the areas of practical life and meaningful “work” and activities i.e. educational and intellectual toys.  At school, Montessorians create an environment rich in experiments, games, materials, and books which the child can select as the interest arises, providing experiences of hand and mind working together for an intelligent purpose. Parent’s can do the same at home.

Organizing the Home Environment
The environment is extremely important at any level of the development of the child.  To show respect for the developing sense of beauty, to aid the growing independence, and to inspire the child to activity, choose the best of everything for the environment. Children at this age often prefer to work on the floor on rugs instead of a table. Rugs mark the workspace just as would a table.  In the classroom, we use simple light colors and shades, plain in design so that the child can focus on his work.   
In the classroom, materials are attractively arranged on shelves according to subject – language, math, sensorial, practical life, cultural, music and art.  Each piece of material has a special permanent place so that children know where to find it and where to put it away for the next person when finished.  Materials are arranged from the most simple to the more complex. At home rather than keeping things in large toy chests or boxes, use trays and baskets for most things.  The child’s work can be sorted on shelves, into various categories; blocks, various mixed toys, puzzles, art materials, kitchen tools, etc.  This makes finding and putting materials away easier and enjoyable.   

The Kitchen

From the time a child learns to sit up, provide a small table and chair, sized so the child's feet touch the floor.  This is a place for eating, doing projects, and preparing
food.  A two-step stool will allow the child to reach the sink and counter.  At approximately 18 months of age, begin showing children simple food preparation skills:  slicing bananas and cheese, spreading peanut butter.  Choose tools that are safe and child-sized for both cooking and cleaning, and then carefully demonstrate their use. In the refrigerator, use the bottom shelf to store fruits and snacks. Also provide a small pitcher with juice or water so the child can pour their own drink.  In the pantry set aside the lower shelves for the children. At the very bottom, juice boxes, applesauce in cups, and raisin boxes can be neatly arranged in small baskets. A shelf higher can be used for crackers, dried fruit, cereal‚ neatly arranged in clear canisters with easy open lids. Your child should be free to wander in at any time, and choose a snack or juice from the shelves. When the child states they are hungry you can simply reply: "Please fix yourself a snack from the pantry." Also arrange in the pantry: napkins folded in a box, paper towels separated and stacked for easy clean up, child-size aprons on low hooks, and a small dust pan and hand broom for clean up. Children should be responsible to set their own table, clear the table, pushing in their chair and finally rinsing the dishes. Children enjoy sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, and polishing.  These activities give a child the opportunity to be responsible and contribute to family life.

The Bathroom
After 18 months, children can use the toilet with a stool.  During this sensitive period, if the child is in underpants most, if not all of the time, he will quickly learn to sense when his bladder is full and he needs to go to the bathroom. Underpants should be stored on a low shelf in a cubby, or in an easily accessible drawer so the child can get them for herself as needed. A hamper should be provided for wet underpants and towels used for clean up. Most children, who are put into underpants at this age, can use the toilet consistently within a few weeks or months. They learn this through their desire to be independent. It is a self-motivated process. The parent can be encouraging and can prepare the environment to support the child when he is ready: using the cotton training pants, allowing access to the bathroom, providing an appropriate way for the child to explore both the use of the toilet and to play with water, their patient explanation of body functions, the provision of old towels for cleaning up accidents, and their gentle understanding when accidents do occur. A two-step stool will allow hand-washing at the sink.

The Play Area

Put most of the toys, learning activities and materials into storage, leaving only current favorites.  Rotate toys every month, leaving those they use regularly and bringing some forgotten toys out of storage.  Each toy should have an attractive basket, box, or special place. The baskets can be labeled with words and or pictures for easy restoring. A small basket with rugs is ideal for the child to define their own work space. Low shelves, like those used in our Montessori classrooms, allow the child to see and organize their materials.

The Bedroom
From age two months to two years, we provide a low bed or mattress on the floor.  This allows movement and independence, and the room must be safe.  Low drawers and a low closet rod allow the child to choose and put away clothing.  Provide a low shelf for a small number of quiet toys and books. The bedroom should be decorated in a restful, rather than stimulating tone.

Take your child outdoors every day.  Go for walks at his/her pace, explore, notice the natural world.  Play in sand and water; find hills and equipment to climb.  As indoors, allow your child to help with work - raking, digging, shoveling snow.  Introduce the miracle of gardening.

Developmental Chart for Home Tasks and Chores  

Empower your child to becoming as independent as they can in their natural environment. Please see the compiled list of age appropriate tasks that you can expect your child to participate in as they grow into self-reliant and independent young people.

13 Months: Imitates housework
18 Months: Picks up toys and puts them away with parental reminders and initial assistance
2 Years: Copies parents domestic activities
3 Years: Carries things without dropping them, dusts, dries dishes, gardens, setting table, puts toys away and wipes spills.
4 Years: Prepares dry cereal and snacks, sorts laundry, feeding birds and pets, loading and unloading dishwasher, watering plants
5 Years: Puts things away neatly, makes a sandwich, takes out trash, picks up mail, makes the bed, puts clothes away and answers the phone correctly
6 Years: Does simple errands, does house chores without redoing them, cleans sink, washes dishes, cooks simple meals, hangs up clothes, car washing - have bucket, soap, etc. in certain place, weeding, taking out trash

Your child needs to be a contributor in the family and feel his contribution is important!