Dear Parents, The beginning of a new school year is my favorite time of the year. It is so full of hopes, dreams, and possibilities. It makes my heart so happy to reconnect with students and families, and hear about the adventures of childhood. As I read news articles over the summer, and tried to process the current state of the world, I kept bringing myself back to my classroom and this school year. I found myself feeling a deep sense of gratitude for the work that happens in our classrooms each and every day. Here at Arbor, our classrooms are communities; each rich with a variety of diversity, and each holding an opportunity for social conflict. Children at every level have an opportunity to practice and repeat doing hard things. We value the conflict and the congenial resolution at every level. Toddlers who are learning to share, primary students who spend lots of time with grace and courtesy lessons, elementary students who learn to engage and eventually mediate conflicts, and adolescents who go out into the world and put these skills to work. With each and every step students are reminded that we are more alike than we are different, and there is always the opportunity to choose to love, to help, and to contribute to a greater good. These children are our future. Each and every one of them will go out into the world and carry on the hopes and dreams of humanity. In the words of Dr. Maria Montessori, "We then become witnesses to the development of the human soul; the emergence of the New Man, who will no longer be the victim of events but, thanks to his clarity of vision, will [...]
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One of the things that we are most proud of at Arbor – aside from our students, families and staff – is that we have become a benchmark for Montessori in the world. Every year, we host Montessori student teachers from around the globe who come observe in our classrooms and learn from watching our students and our teachers. (In order to become a certified AMI Montessori teacher you must complete a mandatory number of observation and practice teaching hours.) Last year we had visitors from Haiti, Japan, Mexico and Israel. Another milestone for us was when the president of AMI came to Atlanta last year on a visit from AMI headquarters in Amsterdam. He asked to visit only one school in the metro Atlanta area: Arbor. I’d like to share the unique bond that we’ve forged with a Montessori school in Israel. The school is named Derech Hayeled, "The Way of the Child," and is in a suburb a Tel Aviv. It is the first Montessori elementary school in Israel. (School logo below.) It all started when AMI elementary teacher trainee Dmitry Ostrovsky observed once and student taught twice with our elementary teachers. He is a passionate teacher who is committed to bringing AMI standards to his school. Dmitry introduced me to his head of school, Nir Raveh. I then started consulting with Nir through email and the wonders of video conferencing in April. This resulted most recently in my taking a consultation trip to the school last month. (Here's a photo of Dmitry and his family.) During my week in Israel I observed in all five classes, worked with lead teachers on classroom management and their prepared environments, consulted with English teachers (who must teach [...]
Each day, the children spend their days actively engaged in many activities. They sing songs, have conversations, help roll rugs, prepare snack, set up for lunch, observe the work of others, and (of course) explore with the Montessori materials. The materials are beautiful, purposeful, enticing means for your child to learn in the classroom. Practice, repetition, and exploration with the materials help them to make new connections and master of a variety of skills- from baking to auditory discrimination to reading. The children’s work with the materials and their engagement in community life are equally important aspects of your children’s education. At the end of the day, we often observe enthusiastic parents greet their child with a smile and the age-old question, “Did you have a *new* lesson today?” Your child may look perplexed or even sad because he did not get a *new* lesson. In fact, children only get a few *new* lessons each week. New lessons are a way to introduce a new concept in one of the four areas of the classroom- Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, and Math. After the initial presentation, it is important for a child to practice with the material, refine techniques, explore new ways to engage with the material, ask questions (to teachers and friends), and ultimately master this new concept. Some lessons have several extensions that are introduced at a later time and may not be perceived as a *new* lesson. Some concepts come easily, while others take a good deal of work for the child to master. The art of being a Montessori teacher comes from the guide’s ability to balance offering *new* lessons and encouraging the children to work independently. We know that the child’s [...]
Oftentimes, when I get off of work, my husband Nate will ask "How was your day?" Sometimes, I particularly enjoy sharing how things went: an anecdote from the classroom, new work that I've introduced. There can be particular joy in offering insight into the way I spend 1/3 of each day. Still, other times I see him, and when he asks, I say "Fine," and then move the conversation on to other things. Maybe how his day went, or how we will spend our evening. Sometimes about what good articles he's read that day, or if there were any good stories on NPR. Sometimes we just cherish a quiet car ride together, listening to our baby, William, babble in the backseat. I have already had my day at work, and now I just want to enjoy my family. It is the same for children. When they see their parents at the end of a busy day, sometimes they may have things to share--something that happened with a friend, a new lesson. But many times, having had a long morning, often filled with a variety of activities, they don't want to talk about it. They have had that part of their day, and now it is over. They may even not remember large parts of their day. What happened in the past is the past. They are so excited to be reunited that what happened during the day seems unimportant. When pressured for information, sometimes the children will make things up, seeking to fulfill what is being requested of them easily so they can move on to the next step. Sometimes, they will clam up, not wanting to speak at all. They may [...]
The Zen of Toilet Training I recently had coffee with a friend and watched as she was near tears in describing her frustration with potty training her toddler. “My friends give me advice, I’ve watched YouTube videos, read books and Mommy blogs. I’ve been told to start him early, start him late; to praise; to punish…I’m just so confused!” With so much information available to new parents, it can be very overwhelming to distinguish between fact and fiction. Potty training can be especially stressful when you’re trying to get a child ready to start preschool, go on a vacation or have another baby on the way. The first secret it to flip your idea of this process. You will not be potty training. Your child will be potty learning. This is not an adult-directed activity; this is your child learning independence. Your child’s body (with the help of her mind) will be learning how to control this bodily function. The good news is that this is something innate and natural. Use the following seven guidelines for a (mostly) stress-free way to get your child out of diapers and into big boy and girl pants! Let your child wet her pants! Yes, I mean it. A diaper or pull-up is designed to wick away the moisture from your child’s skin. But your child needs to feel the difference between wet and dry. Watch your child. The first time he wets his pants you will see a look of surprise cross his face as he experiences the sensation of wetness. Then immediately, he will use his muscles to stop the flow. He has made the connection between those muscles and control of his bodily functions. He has [...]
Going Out is an activity that involves going outside of the four walls of the classroom to the outside world. It is certainly not the same as a Field Trip. Children choose where to go based on their own interests. The children research information about where they want to go and who they want to interview. They prepare questions and figure out who will chaperone them and how they will get there. The human being is a united whole, but this unity has to be built up and formed by active experiences in the real world, to which it is led by the laws of nature. -Maria Montessori Going Out helps to prepare children to live in society. They find out how to approach people in the world and inquire about an area of interest. They practice social skills needed in different situations. They have opportunities to communicate with people other than their peers and teacher. They experience the necessity for clear and precise communication. If they make plans, they need to be able to communicate those plans to their teacher, peers and anyone else involved in the process. Going Out provides opportunities for Elementary-aged children to think critically, make choices, and further develop their self-control given the responsibility. Going Out provides mental independence in that it gives children opportunities to reason and reflect on what they know and ask an 'expert' about what they do not know. Some of a child's first Going Out experiences may include traveling to the store with the assistant to purchase supplies needed for baking or an experiment or taking a trip to the library to checkout books for a research project. By his second or third year, a child may arrange to visit a science or history center, a vet clinic or do community [...]
Read how Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin both assert that "the educational method of Maria Montessori as the major influence in how they designed Google’s work systems," in a July 2014 article in The Guardian newspaper.
On May 1st, the children and I spent our morning circle time discussing all of the things we celebrate in May. We chatted about Mother's day, May Day, Memorial Day, (Star Wars Day) etc... The children were curious about May Day and asked what people do to celebrate on that day. I explained that May Day is a spring holiday full of festivities including food and dancing. I also told them about a tradition that involves tying ribbons onto a pole and having children dance around the pole to celebrate May. This discussion about the Maypole sparked the following conversation between Henry (my three year old friend) and me while the other children listened intently.Henry (H): We have ribbons at my house. We can make a Maypole!Mrs. Myesha (M): Well, we would also need a pole.H: What about a flag pole?M: Flag poles are for flags, so we are not invited to use the flag pole for making a Maypole.H: Well, we can buy a pole!M: Where can we buy a pole?H: From the pole store!M: Really? What pole store will you go to?H: Michael's pole store!M: Oh! I see. So are you going to make a May pole at your house?H: Yes. You'll see. At the time, I remember smiling at his insistence and determination as I sent the children off to have lunch and playtime. I even shared the story with my husband later that evening. We both smiled at the thought of Henry asking his parents to buy him a pole from the pole store. Imagine my surprise when I received the following email from Henry’s mom two weeks later: “Don't laugh… But any chance you would like to do a maypole [...]
Alison was observing the class this morning when Mark Warren arrived to take a small group of students outdoors for a lesson. Whenever Mark arrives there is a general flurry of activity: students grabbing jackets, rushing over to tell him about their latest finding in the creek or the woods near their house, or digging through their cubbies to find a botany booklet they created that Mark “just has to see”. Watching the scene, Alison remarked, “Still a rock star.” A moment later she continued, “Now, that’s the kind of hero worship we need.” Maria Montessori noticed many years ago that elementary-aged children have a strong tendency towards hero worship. The tendency is so strong, in fact, that she insisted we take it into account in our teaching. I overhear the kids’ conversations about baseball players, singers, authors, television personalities, characters in books, and coaches. Unfortunately, some of the celebrities who achieve hero status in our culture aren’t exactly the people we would choose for our children to emulate. As parents and teachers, we need to make an effort to put a different sort of hero in front of our kids. If you have stopped by the classroom recently, you may have noticed a large poster of Albert Einstein propped up on a shelf. Becky found us a wonderful book called On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne. The story is whimsical and inspiring, but the best part is the author’s dedication. I read it aloud to the children at the end of the story. “To the next Einstein, who is probably a child now.” The very next day, a student walked in with the poster and put it on display. Hero worship. In [...]
I come from a HUGE extended family. Growing up, my Mom, Brother Kevin, and I lived with my grandparents. There were thirteen of us in a house with one bathroom. On Sundays, all of my aunts and uncles who didn’t live at the house would come over with their kids, too. The place was full to bursting. There was never an empty room. I loved it. There was an end table in the living room with a base that opened. The table held crayons and paper, a few puzzles, board games, and some play food. We’d sit with the adults and listen and sometimes participate in their conversation, and if we got bored, we’d go get a toy, put it on the floor or on the coffee table, and play-- not with the adults, but near them. If we got too loud, and they needed to ask us to quiet down, we’d either lower our voices, or we’d go outside and play on the front porch. When we wanted a snack, the bottom cabinet closest to the fridge was free game, as was anything in the bottom half of the refrigerator (I was a huge fan of pickles, and the jar was right at the bottom of the door). There were cups and bowls in the bottom cabinet to the left of the sink, and we always used those to eat--unless it was dinner, in which case, we ate off of my great-grandmother’s china. All of us did. Even the children. It was a rule--the dishes were there to be used. We understood that they were special, and that part of our responsibility as members of the family was to treat them carefully; it didn’t [...]