Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him." - Maria Montessori

"Only through freedom and environmental experience it is practically possible for human development to occur." - Maria Montessori in The Absorbent Mind

Dr. Maria Montessori considered the outdoor environment an extension of the indoor classroom. 

Every Wednesday we have been trying to take the children out for a walk in the park. Sometimes we have had to skip owing to the rains but other times, when we have gone out, our focus has been to spot the creepy creatures... with rains working as the vantage point.

The months of July, August and September at school have been focused on self and life cycles of various insects and trees. Spotting these creepy crawlies becomes good food for our conversations in the classroom. The life cycle cards used in the classroom come alive with a lot of questions after experiences with new leaves, caterpillars and earthworms.
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The ability to spot something interesting in the natural surroundings fills the children with excitement. On one day the children got a caterpillar in the classroom on a leaf. The caterpillar was the new pet that everyone wanted to take home. When a parent explained to the children the natural surroundings are the home of the caterpillar we all trooped back to the park and laid the caterpillar in the same place we had picked it up from.

The other day all the children wanted to carry yellow leaves and half eaten almond seeds to their houses as they wanted to share with their parents how squirrels like eating almonds,carry the seeds with them and make the trees grow in different places.

On yet another day when waiting for a parent the children were hunting for centipedes..... and were awed by how a centipede was able to crawl into a spiral....the number of legs it had.... how fast it moved...

Tuesday 29th August, when Mumbai was pouring, we had to close the school for safety concerns on the following Wednesday and Thursday. We had lost our regular day in the park...

What we received from a parent surprised us: pictures from the outdoor. She and the child had explored the outdoors after the rains and was blessed to find quiet a few friends, the crawlies, who had come out to enjoy the beautiful weather after continuous rain.

This was followed by another parent sending a picture of a chameleon laying eggs in the wild.....

We had no words... Montessori is a holistic education, which sometimes begins at home and does a full circle at the school and on other occasions begins at the school and does a full circle at home.

The Montessori Method stresses connect with nature because of its effects on the growth of the whole child. By increasing a child’s interactions with the natural world, Montessori guides and Montessori parents are promoting development of an environmentally responsible child and an adult, as well.

The pictures were a silver lining in an otherwise cloudy week....
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Settling Blues

In my meetings with the principals of many pre-schools, I have heard them voice one major concern, the initial days of the school - the settling blues.

Courtesy Peace Montessori
"I dread the first few weeks, the children just don't stop crying. I wish I can do something about it."

"You know it is not the children at all. It is the parents, they don't want to let go off their children. If they don't trust us how will the children."

"In so many years I haven't figured how to solve this issue, I just let it be... it solves itself in few weeks."

Last year even Peace Montessori had a few incidences of anxious settling days. Crying is not only traumatizing for the child, the parent but everyone involved: the teachers and the helping staff as well. Since we are a Montessori we have admissions year long and these incidences of settling blues though teach empathy and compassion to our existing children, they emotionally drain the staff and the parent involved.

This year we decided to do things a little differently. The journey began with first putting into perspective and respecting the fact that it is not easy for anybody to adjust in a new surrounding then how can it be easy for 2 to 3 year old, who in most probability have their first encounter of the unknown surrounding at a preschool... how can it be easy for a parent who in spite of knowing the fact that it is important for the child to go to school is leaving the child in care of complete strangers.

Our source of research was of course the google, conversations with parents and reflection in our own pasts when our children were small...

We knew, the first thing that we had to do was to build an open communication channel of trust with the parents where the parents and the staff were at ease with each other in a non judgmental way with only one goal: the benefit of the child. So we ensured we answered all their concerns tirelessly. We invited the new parents to come to school with the child and spend a few days prior to starting of the school. This we think helped the most, as it put the parents at ease since they had an opportunity to explore the philosophy of the school hands on. Also the child formed a relationship with the staff and the caretaker at the school, which diminished the factor of unknown. Moreover seeing the parent at ease with the school and staff helped the child build trust in the new surrounding.

Come the first day of the school we still didn't know what to expect. To our surprise the children and parents who had accepted our invite were much at ease than those who had not. Though the first day of the school is always filled with anxiety it was much easier as for the child it was now about just making new friends and learning the ropes of play and work....

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In our zealousness we tried to implement our strategy after the school had begun with not the same results as the presence of a parent in the classroom does impact the other children and the operations of the classroom as well. But allowing for the same during after school hours has sealed the verdict - "It truly works..."

Some other things that the experts say and we have seen them work are:

  • Model the process of going to school with the child multiple times prior  going to school
  • Talk to the child about your school days. Show them your pictures, tell them about your friends, what you liked at the school...
  • Make your goodbyes short
  • Be consistent, don't give into to any desires of the child of missing the school unless it is an emergency.
  • Do your best in your understanding and don't expect great things. Keeping yourself in check keeps it easy on both you and the child.

In spite of your best efforts of the parent and the school remember each child is different, while some may settle in and participate right away, some children may just take their own time.





  

Monday, June 19, 2017

New Academic Year - A new birth of the child

As I awaited the re-opening of the school I started preparing myself mentally to receive children. I had my own pre-conceived notions... my experience with the children in the past and especially with the older children told me that children forget what they have learnt, which has always bothered me and coaxed me to think that there is something about how we teach that does not engage the senses of the children as anything learnt with senses cannot be easily forgettable.

With a Montessori my expectations were a little different but I was still wary of the two month break that would have replaced the love for the school environment with a void that will have to be re-filled. My thoughts were working and reworking scenarios to engage the children continuing from the previous year and manage the new children who would be filled with
anxiety in the new environment. Though we had ensured the new children had visited the school few times in the holidays to feel comfortable we knew beginning school for the first timers is always hard.
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Come the first day of the school we all arrived early. The entire team went over all the possible scenarios for a smooth day. 

When the children arrived all our worries vanished... The smiles on the continuing children told us that they had missed us equally as we had missed them. The new children though a little cautious were at ease.

What surprised us the most was their comfort with which they took to the environment. 

For a long time my mind has seeked clarification for a quote of Maria Montessori: 

"We await the successsive births in the soul of the child. We give all possible material, that nothing may lack to the groping soul, and then we watch for the perfect faculty to come, safeguarding the child from interruption so that it may carry its efforts through."

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Courtesy Peace Montessori
The first day of the new academic year and the answer to my puzzle was being enacted live in front of me. The children that I had thought would need to be re-calibrated were in the classroom as if from yesterday and were graduated to the next level. To my surprise the youngest of them all who had spent the year before observing the older children working was exploring new material, working with them relentlessly and solving without any presentations required. What amazed us all was the longing in the children to be in the classroom and working with the material.


We were simply happy as we knew we were ready to satisfy their curiosity and open up new avenues of thought.

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As we came to the end of the first week what was clear to me was my team's role....

We are not only eager but look forward to an amazing year ahead.


Courtesy Peace Montessori





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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Happy New Beginnings

At the end of the 2016-17 academic year we were forced to move from our location of 8 years due to some unforeseen reasons. As always any change is difficult to accept… initially it broke our heart… but in a few days we reconciled positively and made it our mission to convert this situation in to an opportunity and fulfill our dream of building a Montessori home: a warm space that will provide for each child an individualized, creative, nurturing, diverse, joyful and challenging environment to develop a lifelong love of learning.

Montessori is based on the belief that children intuitively gravitate towards materials and activities that will help them learn at their own pace; children have an innate desire to learn and children find an immense amount of joy in “work”. The idea was to build a child friendly place which would engage children from the word “GO”.

The warmth of the place with natural light illuminating it, ventilation from three sides with windows opening up to interesting expanses of greens, blues and lot of curiosity; open work areas for children with green play spaces hop, skip and run away is truly a dream come true.

We are very excited with a place complementing the belief system of our team of passionate educationist and professionals that comfortable spaces enriched for exploration help build skills and a strong value system in the children. 

We are exhilarated with the new beginnings in this academic year of 2017-18 and believe our vision to cherish each child as an individual, who in the company of mindful and thoughtful mentors can polish oneself to radiate outwards and create positive influences, will bloom fully...


Monday, May 8, 2017

Conviction in the beliefs can be achieved only by freedom of execution of thoughts.



The journey began in January…. The desire that we teachers had was to introduce a story that would explore feelings… as connect with feelings is the first step of awareness towards oneself as well others.

Gatila” by Nisa and Anjora Noronha seemed a good choice as the book is very well illustrated with bright and attractive colours and evokes creativity. The story revolves around a black cow who does not think she is pretty and is unhappy. She tries to paint herself in different colours same as other animals around her and in the process discovers that one should be happy as they are. In the story the cow engages with various animals, which keeps the children interested. The repetition of the idea makes the point well with the children. The cow using the paints to paint herself adds the funny element to the story, which leaves the children amused.

As per our expectation the story was very well received by the children as we saw a lot of interest in them to read the story on a daily basis. The idea was to naturally ingrain the story in their thought processes and explore the possibility of it becoming a free form play where the children could perform from their understanding with minimal adult intervention. To our surprise this actually became possible. Though initially the practice began with a structure provided by the teachers there was a lot of free form expression in dialogue delivery of the children based on their own understanding of the story. Interestingly the dialogues kept changing till the final performance, providing tremendous satisfaction to the teachers as varying children's expression worked wonders while keeping the meaning/context intact.

Watching the children as young as 3 to 6 years perform the act in the comfort of their skin with happiness exuding in brilliance of their smiles was a pure delight. 

Our children affirmed in their small gestures that: "Conviction in the beliefs can be achieved only by freedom of execution of thoughts".

Monday, October 17, 2016

Happiness is what I need to experience - Learning will transcend!!



Dandiya is an annual event at our small school. The idea is to expose culture to our little ones and teach them a few steps so that they can enjoy the musical festival in their buildings and neighbourhoods.

Every year till date we have run this as a teaching or coaching regime and wondered why the children don't move themselves to the beat? ... Why is it so mechanical? ... Where is the soul and the heart? ...

This year the shift that we made was within us.... the change was in the attitude.... the idea was to thoroughly enjoy Dandiya in it's true essence and let the happiness reflect in it's purest and lightest form, without the hint of teaching resulting in judging the children or even ourselves....

What resulted was purely magical with every child not only dancing to the beat but experimenting... Like the children even we wished the music would not stop... what ran out was not the happiness but the energy...

That day what echoed inside me has left an impression:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.- Albert Schweitzer





Monday, August 15, 2016

A Priceless Expression!!!!



A priceless expression - A teacher's gift....

It was a thorough delight to see the little faces light up with smiles at the arrival of the snail in the classroom. The children had been colouring the rainy creatures through out the month, singing rhymes and talking about the snail but to meet one in person was a complete different experience. ....

Image result for image of a small snail"Oh! it carries it's home on it's back."
"Oh! it does not have any legs."
"It slithers."
"It is so slow."
"Teacher! It can climb out of the box."

The classroom was filled with a lot of excitement when one child commented " It is so small!". That's when my curiosity piqued as I had never seen a large snail myself... and the quest began.... Our expedition to the colony of snails where we had found the baby was disappointing but we spread the word that we were looking for a large snail. Our wish was granted when the security guard handed me a packet the next day that not only took me by surprise but the entire classroom of excited children....


"Oh! It is so big!"
"How did it's shell become so big?
"Can it move?"
"It has no eyes... How can it see?"
....

The questions did not stop ...



Some curious eyes did not want it out of sight....

And some watched it with skepticism not sure if it was real....

But everyone in the classroom was mesmerised by the snail that seemed to have come alive from the rhymes...

The fun was yet to come as the clay activity to follow took on a different turn... it became a personal journey of each child to make a snail which they called their own....




The magic is in the connection.... a connection which embraces learning with heart and soul... and everything that follows is simply magical....