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Welcome to the Montessori blog! 

This weblog is my online journal. You'll find my thoughts on a variety of Montessori topics as well as links to other things on the web that I find interesting and may be of help to you. When the spirit moves me, I may also include longer essays about the Montessori method of education. Welcome.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cursive
I’ve been reading lately about the overall benefits of learning cursive. We Montessori teachers have know that for a long time. I must say that it is a delight to see the beautiful cursive writing of our students. They start out with cursive in the early childhood class. It is a much more natural way to write than sticks and balls.

It is harder for students who transfer in from traditional schools after years of practicing manuscript to make the switch to cursive, though. Today I had the privilege of hearing from one of these transfer students about that process.

He stopped me mid-stride as I was getting the room prepared for the students who would be arriving later. “I can’t believe it has only been a year!” he exclaimed. When I asked what he was referring to, he answered with exuberance, “Since I started cursive!” He went on. “I write everything in cursive now. It’s easy and it’s faster. You don’t have to stop after every letter. I love it!”

Indeed. I love it, too.
6:45 pm edt

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank You!
I think I realize that even before sharing this simple interaction, that there is really no good way to impart how special it was. I’ll try, though. It was a busy morning and I had just finished working with two students on long division when I noticed another child motioning me to join him with greatly animated gestures.

When I arrived where he was working, he said, “Aleta, is this a paragraph or what?” Indeed, he was quite excited about the finished product of his work. After agreeing with him I said, “But the real question is…how do you feel about it?” He looked confused for a minute, trying to find that question in the prompt he was using (while I hid a smile). Then he realized that I was asking him about his feelings. He launched into eager accolades about the work, including that he had worked hard and done lots of thinking.

Then he got a wry look on his face and stopped. Slowly he turned to look at the white board where this Carl Sagan quote was written: “The brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good.” He turned back to me beaming. Now here is the part where I choke up, and my team teacher choked up when I shared this with her.

He reached out and patted me on the back. “Good one, Aleta,” he said. Then, “Thank you.”

No, I thought. THANK YOU!
7:44 pm edt

Monday, August 29, 2011

Conversations
Nothing reveals how children feel about learning better than the random comments they make in the classroom. I am going to share some of the today's conversations.

The first is from a second grade student. As he was turning in some work to his finished folder he looked up at me and said, “I like this because it gives me challenges!” Challenges! What a wonderful attitude at any age!

A little later a third grade student said, “I’m going to take a break from math. I’ll do some punctuation. I like punctuation.” He wasn’t going to simply rest by doing nothing or having a chat. He was going to rest from one task by doing a different task. Montessori frequently observed that when left to their own devices, children preferred working.

We often counsel children on how solve their conflicts in a peaceful and respectful way. Today a student told me that he was “worried about gossip.” I asked him what he had observed that caused him to feel that way and he said that he had heard his name used by two other people while they were having a conversation. I wondered to him why he thought they were gossiping and he answered that they looked at him when they said his name. I then asked him what he thought would be the best way to handle this and whether he needed my help. He realized that he needed to talk with the classmates whom he had heard. It turned out that it wasn't a case of gossiping. More importantly, he learned that he able to take his concerns directly to those who had caused his “worry.” That is probably the best way to circumvent gossip!

A final conversation from today happened toward the end of the afternoon. One of the students will be gone for the rest of this week. He was working on some math and said to me, “I’m almost finished. Can I keep working on this while you read?” Well, of course. As it turned out, he decided to take it with him to finish on his trip, along with LOTS of other work that he wanted to do. Homework is chosen, not assigned! Interestingly, he also wanted to borrow a crochet hook to take. Good choice!

4:24 pm edt

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Humming
I looked up this morning and realized that the classroom had that distinctive hum of children working at learning. That sound is a balm to my soul. A conversation with a student from yesterday really tells the story better than anything else.

This student, in his second year of Montessori experience, came to me with great excitement. He was doing some multiplication work and realized how much better he was at it than last year. He was astounded and delighted at this new knowledge, and was making plans for doing a great quantity of math work before moving on to something else that he was interested in doing.

Earlier this week, the same student had commented to me that I was “weird” because I enjoyed teaching, something that was outside his experience before coming to Montessori. I pointed out to him that people really should enjoy what they they do, including students. He found this concept difficult to grasp at the time. Yesterday, though, it came home to him. “I love school!” he said. And then went on to name every teacher in the building, even the ones from another class, and reflected that we all love to teach. “That’s what I love about Montessori!” he concluded.

Me, too. The classroom is humming and so is my heart.
10:53 am edt

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Disappointments
We had our first field trip of the year planned for today. It takes much behind-the-scenes organization to prepare for field trips. In addition to sending out the permission slips and verifying that everything is in order, we have to decide on the partners, print out the name badges, arrange for the bus, review the protocols, etc.

So this morning the children were ready and waiting for the arrival of the bus. And waiting, and waiting. Calls to the bus company and the person in charge of scheduling only connected with voice mail. I called our destination to give them a heads-up that we would be running late….

Finally, I called our destination to re-schedule. At about that time our bus person called and apologized for writing down the wrong date (I double checked my e-mail, fearing that perhaps I had made the boo-boo, but no, I clearly stated September 8).

There was some grumbling among the children, but I pointed out that the weather today was pretty yucky and some of our community had not come prepared for that contingency.

The students went on with a “normal” day. In some ways I’m really glad that things turned out this way. Disappointment is a fact of life and should not be crippling. Grumbling really doesn’t help the situation and can actually make things worse.

I had to remind myself of that lesson tonight when I had a personal disappointment. It is time for me to get over it and move on.

7:29 pm edt

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