Page 1

JUNE 2011


Announcing 3 NEW titles for our popular parent education pamphlet series

Ever wish for something to hand out at community events or open houses that easily explained or visually showed some aspect of Montessori that didn’t overwhelm the reader? Who better than the people who wrote the book, The Montessori Way, to introduce such a product! NINE Montessori pamphlets now available. Use the form below to order.

Each pamphlet bundle contains 50 of the same title and is incredibly affordable at $15 USD per bundle plus postage. The items are in stock and ready to ship. They may be purchased the following ways: 1. Through our online publication center located at the Foundation’s website: www.montessori.org (go right into the ‘bookstore’ tab) 2. By calling Margot at 800 632 4121 (IMC school members receive a discount on this item and will need to call with credit card. Should your IMC school membership need to be renewed, we will do that at the same time.) 3. Use this order form and either mail or fax your order. Make checks payable to: The Montessori Foundation and mail to 19600 E State Road 64, Bradenton, FL 34212 USA. Fax number is 941 359 8166. Please select: USPS Flat Rate Priority or expedited courier service, such as FEDEX/UPS, which can be substantially more expensive (price is determined by weight and location by the courier). We will estimate this for you before charging out). Couriers cannot deliver to a PO BOX. 1. What is Montessori?

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $_______

2. Why would you start your three-year-old in school?

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $_______

3. Montessori Nurtures Curiosity, Creativity &Imagination

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $_______

4. What can Montessori offer our infants & toddlers?

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $_______

5. Creating a Culture of Partnership, Kindness, Respect & Peace

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $_______

6. The Importance of Montessori for the Kindergarten Year

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $______

7. Joyful Scholars: Montessori for the Elementary Years

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $______

8. Research & Montessori

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $______

9. Montessori in the Home

_____#of bundles @$15

Total due $______

Shipping Method: ❑ USPS FLAT RATE PRIORITY ❑ COURIER (FedEx/UPS) ❑ 1 - 3 bundles $5.95 ❑ 4 - 12 bundles $10.95 ❑ 13+ bundles $12.95

Shipping Amount TOTAL DUE

$______

$______

IMC membership number ___________ for discounted pricing of $12.50 per bundle. To obtain shipping-cost information for orders outside US, call 941-309-3961 or email: margot@montessori.org. (Note: We do not accept Discover cards.) Credit card#___________________________ Name on Card____________________________________Exp. date_________ EMAIL address where receipt should be sent___________________________________________________ (please print clearly) Mailing address and name of contact person___________________________________________________ (please print clearly) Phone number in case we have a question(_____) ______________________________________________ SAMPLES ARE $1.00 EACH PLUS $1.44 S&H (US) ($2.44 CANADA) (S&H APPLIES FOR UP TO NINE BROCHURES). CIRCLE: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Montessori Leadership is the official magazine of the International Montessori Council, a non-profit organization. The opinions expressed in Montessori Leadership editorials, columns, and features are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the magazine or the IMC. Acceptance of advertising does not represent endorsement of any product or service. The International Montessori Council does NOT grant permission to reprint material from Montessori Leadership in any other form (e.g., book, newsletter, journal). Copies of this issue or back issues are available for purchase online at www.montessori.org Copyright 2011 by The International Montessori Council. . All rights reserved.

Chair Tim Seldin, M.Ed

Montessori Leadership Features | June 2011 4

Traveling Abraod with Students

by Margot Garfield-Anderson

8

Give Your Parents the School Tour They Deserve

by Warren McPherson

EDITORIAL REVIEW COMMITTEE Sharon Caldwell Editor, East London, South Africa John Moncure Ph.D., Chair, Camden, SC, USA Joao Barosso Beijing, China Paul Epstein Ph.D., Rochester, MN, USA Murielle Lefevbre Mouxy Savoie, France Pete Juds Tokyo, Japan Eva Nislev Brisbane, Australia Liz Webster Dunedin, New Zealand Margaret Whitley London, Ontario, Canada

10 Follow the Leader

by Laurie Moreno

13 The Inevitable Cycles of Life

by Dane Peters

15 The I-Words: Indoctrination Vs. Influence Editorial Sharon Caldwell email: sharoncaldwell@montessori.org Conferences & Workshops, Membership Margot Garfield-Anderson Phone: 941-309-3961/Toll Free: 800-632-4121 Fax: 941-359-8166 email: margot@montessori.org Tomorrow’s Child Online: The Montessori Family Connection Lorna McGrath Phone: 941-729-9565/1-800-655-5843 Fax: 941-745-3111 email: lornamcgrath@montessori.org For immediate service, use our secure online bookstore at www.montessori.org. For questions regarding an order, email: margot@montessori.org Subscriptions & Bookkeeping Don Dinsmore Phone: 941-729-9565/1-800-655-5843 Fax: 941-745-3111 email: dondinsmore@montessori.org

by Dale McGowan

18 An Aspect of Performance Based Learning

by Hillary Drinkell

20 The Organizational Magnet

by John Moncure, Ph.D.

26 Stop and Smell the Roses:

Handy Hints for the Busy Administrator

by Margot Garfield-Anderson

28 Risk in Perspective

by Tim Gill

31 What Message Is Your Playground

Giving Your Children

by Ron King

33 Introducing Children to the Concepts

Classified & Display Advertising Chelsea Howe Phone: 410-504-3872 Fax: 941-745-3111 tcmag@montessori.org

of Art Appreciation and Aesthetics

by Eva Nislev

Layout & Design Katrina Costedio katrina@katrinacostedio.com

Culture or Dinosaurs?

by Tracy Crawford

35 Montessori Themes: Reflections on

Cover photo provided by Margot Garfield-Anderson

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | Š MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

3


by Margot Garfield-Anderson

T

his past March I was fortunate enough to be one of two chaperones accompanying the high school students from the NewGate-Field School on their class trip to Spain.

Traveling with students is a very different experience than taking a vacation with a spouse or life partner. While you get to see the sights and hear the sounds, the chaperone must be ever vigilant of the health, safety and well-being of the students in their charge. And because the planning and costing of this trip was done by the lead teacher who was with us and the school, the main focus of this article will deal with what the chaperone needs to be aware of while traveling with the group. If you don’t remember anything other than this, remember to always count heads everywhere you go. Ideally, at least one of the chaperones will be someone closely connected with the school and the students. This level of familiarity is very useful when teenagers may try to play “mom against dad” with a stranger. However, sometimes it’s easier for teenagers to talk more freely with someone they know they might not see too often so a blend of both is a good mix. That was the case with our group, the teacher from the school being male and then me, the “Jewish grandmother” to the community as the other. I was able to help with personal questions and situations with health and other issues related to girls that might not have been freely discussed with the male chaperone. In addition, sometimes a student who is not feeling quite 100% needs a mother’s touch (or aspirin as the case may be!).

4

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


1.Are the actual venues you want Planning an to see open and what are their hours In our case we made our evening in advance ofwayoperation? to the Royal Palace only to see that there was a private function scheduled of leaving to and the site was closed to the public. As had left some latitude in our plans we introduce parents, we were able to go back the next day and get in, which was a worthwhile experience. guardians and 2.Do they have student rates and students to one if so, what proof might a student have to show? When our costing was another is also a planned, several of the venues carried entrance fees but when we arrived we good idea. were able to get discounted or free ad-

Madrid as their destination. Seeing museums all day every day or even historical sites is not going to appeal to teenagers so you will need to mix it up. Jeff planned two or three sites per day and then some shopping time along with meals. We didn’t stay at any museum or historical site for more than two hours and we did let the students have some free time to explore on their own. We established planned meeting times and places along the way. This let the students know that we trusted them and expected them not to leave the venue for any reason but at the same time giving them a tiny bit of freedom while

missions because the students had IDs or

there. As one of the chaperone’s I did

Planning an evening in advance of leav-

the day we planned on going was a free

try to keep either in front of or in back

ing to introduce parents, guardians and

entrance day. Don’t be afraid to change

of the splinter groups but didn’t hover.

students to one another is also a good

your schedule if you find out something

Just staying in the background is usually

idea. This helps start everyone off on the

is free on one day and not the other. This

enough.

same footing and for those who don’t

saved us money to use on other things.

know either the teacher or other chaper-

3.Is there public transportation

Jeff also arranged to have us go to ven-

one, gives you the opportunity to just get to know one and other. In our case, we

available and if so, how do you pay?

cool and they were. One day we went

had a parent night because the students

In Madrid, the buses and Metro are

were very familiar with the teacher and

very well planned, extremely clean and

had seen me on campus in the context

service the entire city. After our week

of being at all of our community meet-

there we were pretty familiar with both.

ings and school events during the year.

Having coinage is key here because bus

Jeff Allen, our lead teacher, reviewed the

drivers do not like to take paper bills and

itinerary with the parents and outlined

don’t take credit cards. The Metro had

what he had hoped we would get to see

machines where we could buy passes

while there. Since we weren’t using a

and that was done on the fly. We did

regular travel agent and we weren’t trav-

do a tremendous amount of walking to

eling with a group that would have a do-

places but at the end of the day when

cent, we were relying on Jeff’s planning

students (and yes, the chaperone’s as

and our Spanish, from Madrid, foreign

well) are weary of walking public trans-

exchange student’s mother to help us

portation is the way to go.

with our planning.

4.How to make everyone happy?

When you are planning what you will be

The students in our group were all tak-

seeing keep these questions in mind:

ing Spanish as their second language, which is the main reason they chose

ues that the students would find very to one of the major bullfighting rings in the city and another day we went to the main soccer stadium of Real Madrid. Here we were pleasantly surprised when we realized the scope and breathe of the museum contained in the building, which was enormous; best of all the students were allowed to go to the dugout where the players sit in their chairs. When you are able to mix and match venues so that students are getting some of the historical and contemporary flavors of a city such as Madrid, everyone is happy. Pair that with shopping time in a district of clothing and the like and you have an even happier group. An interesting assignment that Jeff gave each student was to pick one of the ven-

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

5


ues we were going to and research it so

was visually the most beautiful place on

should be made keenly aware of food al-

that when we were in route, that student

our tour even though the weather had

lergies and know how to administer any

did a short presentation on what we

turned cold, wet and windy. It was a

medication for such if it should become

would be seeing. This helps to keep the

walking tour as well and when plan-

necessary. The chaperone should be the

students interest levels up as well.

ning something of this nature it’s best

one to keep all medications and have

to know how far you will be walking to

doses available whenever leaving the ho-

Do plan at least one guided tour. Some-

make sure it’s an appropriate venue for

tel. If necessary, and if allergies are se-

time around the middle of your trip

the age group you are accompanying.

vere enough, the school may require the

chaperones need a break from being

family to have a medical alert bracelet on

tour guide so arrange a day trip. This

On our final night in Madrid, Jeff had

the child with their history on file.

gives everyone the opportunity to sit

arranged for us to go to a local restaurant

back and relax while site seeing. We

that had an authentic Flamenco Show in

Traditional foods and eating experiences

did an all day trip to Toledo, the former

a cabaret setting. This made the teenag-

can be most enjoyable and can also be

ancient capital of Spain, about 90 min-

ers feel most grown up and they truly

the cause of great distress to picky eaters. We did have students who were mostly vegetarian with us and thankfully, many countries these days are more sensitive to health conscious diets and this was not usually a problem. Even when we did eat pizza, non-meat varieties and salads were on the menus. When push comes to shove, there are generally McDonalds and Burger Kings, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts! Thankfully, our group was satisfied with just the coffees and not the food at any of these places and we enjoyed some lovely traditional Spanish cuisine as well as a special treat, one night at The Hard Rock Café of Madrid.

6.Staying utes by bus outside the city. We were

enjoyed getting dressed up one time

ents. Many of our students are experi-

required to be at our predetermined

while there.

enced overseas travelers, some traveling

This was perhaps one of the mornings

5.Eating. Oh, eating! This can be a

out of the country on several occasions

we were skeptical about since we were

real challenge on so many levels. Many

While we didn’t encourage them to have

dealing with teenagers but even the stu-

students today are either vegetarians or

phones with them it did come in handy

dent usually the most difficult to awaken

have severe food allergies or won’t eat

on our trip. Both Jeff and I had comput-

by 9:00am was up and ready on time.

anything other than basic American

ers with Internet availability at the hotel

Children will always surprise and amaze

foods like pizza! And we did have a mix

so we were able to email whomever we

you! The trip included stopping at a gift

of all of that while there. It is very im-

needed. In addition, both Jeff and I had

rest stop on each end so shopping time is

portant to know any of this information

purchased Global phones. Mine was a

included in most of these tours. Toledo

before planning the trip. Any chaperone

rental through Verizon’s global phone

pick-up spot by 8:00am in the morning.

6

connected with par-

so they possessed global cell phones.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


service. For a small fee, a regular no frills phone, charger and

student’s behavior warrant sending them home? These are all

adapter was sent to my home prior to the departure date and a

judgment calls that you might need to make while away so

set of instructions on how to activate the phone was provided.

establish a set of perimeters, guidelines of acceptable behav-

You did need a second phone to accomplish this because ba-

iors and consequences before you leave so everyone, parents,

sically, your calls are forwarded to this device while you are

students, staff and chaperones, understand the ground rules.

away. The fees were most reasonable and as soon as you return

This will not come as a shock or surprise to a parent if a situa-

to the states you deactivate the phone and send it back in the

tion arises that will carry an extra cost if a student is sent home

prepaid box in which it arrives. Of course you had better let

sooner than anticipated. Sometimes, a student may possibly

folks know you’ll be out of the country so that you aren’t re-

even act out on purpose to get sent home signaling that they’ve

ceiving a host of calls that you are paying extra for or getting

been away long enough and want the security of home. Chap-

them in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep!

erones need to be both empathetic and strong enough to fig-

7.How to handle difficult situations. These are going

ure out what the situation may be about, what action needs to

to come up from time to time. Chaperones are charged with

ruining the experience for the entire group.

keeping children safe, as we mentioned earlier. Thankfully, Montessori students, by the time they reach teenage years are

8.Finally, the return trip. Parents or guardians need to

quite better behaved in many situations than other children

also be very clear that once you have returned to your home

I’ve come across. The level of caring and kindness the chil-

destination, they are once again responsible for their child(ren)

dren had for one another was joyous to behold. There were

and need to arrive at the predetermined location in a timely

no cliques, there was no infighting, there were no exclusions;

manner. By this time everyone is tired and anxious to get home

the boys were gentle and caring with the girls and each other.

to their own families so emphasize this last part or a chaperone

Many of them have been together for most of their school

might find themselves waiting at an airport for hours before a

years and are the true living definition of community. But if

parent comes to claim his child. In this age of technology and

this is not the case, chaperones need to know how to best get

the availability of cell phones don’t be afraid to contact a par-

through these situations. Should a Head of School be called

ent not there on time so everyone’s end of trip experience is as

or emailed, should a parent or guardian be informed, does a

great as the moment it began. 

be taken and how to deal with that particular student without

Thank you for your continued support. Please remember to renew early and recommend Montessori Leadership to a friend or colleague. Use our bookstore at www.montessori.org and go through our online bookstore or call our membership office at 1 (800) 632-4121

FE B R

U A RY

20 11

Individual Membership ($45 US/year) School Membership ($250 US/year) Business Membership ($250 US/year) Teacher Education Center Membership ($250 US/year) Montessori Organization Member ($250 US/year) J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

7


by Warren McPherson

W

ith the emerging consensus within current brain-based research, developmental theorists and constructivists’ educational paradigms, it is time for Montessorians to stand

up and be counted since both the wisdom and the applications of their 100 years of worldwide practice align consistently with the “new” discoveries and recommendations emanating from this consensus. Directors must proclaim the validity of their authentic Montessori practices to all prospective parents in a

tion, I have striven over the thirty years of Athens Montessori

way that they can immediately identify with and feel reassured

School history to refine my tours for prospective parents so

that Montessori is neither outdated, cultish, foreign, experi-

there are no challenges or questions unanswered as we conduct

mental or a ‘fringe’ element in education. Montessori educa-

our tour. I call my presentation the Seven Pillars of Montes-

tion stands at the forefront of the reform that is called for from

sori Education. Before I launch my Seven Pillars talk, I begin

all corners of the globe and Montessori is the most historically

by asking each parent how they heard about Montessori and

validated of any major educational paradigm. “Traditional

establish how much they know so far. When all the scheduled

education” is not a developmentally cohesive or consistent

prospects have arrived, I explain that Montessori education

model with identifiable professional standards. As Lee Shul-

is a natural method of education that follows the unfolding

man, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advance-

development of the individual child. Further, I add that they

ment of Teaching points out in the Stanford Educator (Fall,

have already been practicing Montessori education at home

2005, p.7): “The claims that there are “traditional programs”

by intently observing their child and responding to their cues.

that can be contrasted with alternative routes are a myth.” He

These cues are driven from within and displayed at sensitive

goes on to say: “Compared to any other learned profession…

periods for the critical formation of speech and walking. Then

teacher education is nothing but multiple pathways. It should

I point out how they have “prepared” their home environ-

not surprise us that critics respond to the apparent cacophony

ment so their child can exercise their powers during the criti-

of pathways and conclude that it doesn’t matter how teachers

cal period for walking by removing sharp objects and blocking

are prepared.” So our competition for leadership in the race to

stairways. Having thus connected parents to sensitive periods,

reform our national education is a ‘myth.’ Might I add that the

the importance of observation and of the Prepared Environ-

Montessori Method is equally successful worldwide and across

ment, I then go on to explain how Montessori teachers are

the full spectrum of cultural and economic divides.

trained to observe the emerging sensitive periods of their children and equipped with a scientifically prepared environment

8

With the basic confidence of the current validity, distin-

to allow each child to exercise his or her powers during these

guished history, and proven practicality of Montessori educa-

critical periods of formation.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


I find prospects genuinely impressed, grounded in a developmental perspective and generally thankful for my having taken the time for a

other subjects but weaves artistic expression into the fabric of

full explanation with classes and

their timeline, cultural and arts studies. Most importantly of

students’ work to illustrate each of

tion of her model and they have been tested worldwide and

my points.

all, Montessori has anticipated these reforms from the incepexist in a fully integrated fashion within authentic Montessori practice. Along the way it is important to explain portfolio assessment as preferred to grading systems based on competition

The stage is set. So I outline the Five Avenues of Exploration and whisk them into the first Primary (3 to 6) classroom. Needless to say the order, richness and beauty of the environment and focus, calm and joy of the children drive the message home as we move from class to class. I only conduct these tours on Tuesday mornings and a teacher may request to be omitted from the tour if they are observing a birthday or some other atypical event or if they already have visitors. As we transition to Elementary, I ask parents to reflect on the calls for reform in education today: Interdisciplinary study founded on brain-based research. Big Picture thinking, which is taught by the Cosmic Curriculum and Great Lessons. Visual-sensorial foundation for Mathematics. Montessori weaves a continuous strand of visual sensorial presentations with manipulatives that have been refined for going on 100 years. Adaptation to today’s world requires global or geo-political awareness and cultural sensitivity. Beginning with the geography map puzzles at age 3, Montessori spirals into larger and larger circles of deeper and more inclusive understandings of geography, history and cultural diversity. Citizens of today’s world need to be aware of their environment and understand ecosystems. Montessori provides a richly textured biological and zoological curriculum and an intense focus on ecosystems and interdependence in nature. You often read about values education today. Values education cannot be taught in fourth period of sixth grade out of a textbook. Montessori teachers respect the child by focusing on the unfolding development of each individual student every day. I personally believe that “respect is what you get when you give it” and at our school we give our children total respect. Creative thinking is a critical faculty in today’s fast paced society. Montessori does not isolate creativity from the

and narrow measures of a few of the multiple intelligences. I explain that test taking is a life skill. At Athens Montessori School we administer the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills to provide the children with practice in expressing their knowledge in that format. However, I add that the teachers do not use the test as a measure of the child’s progress. Teachers already know each child’s mastery through the rigors and sequence of the Montessori curriculum. My tours last approximately one and one-half hours and include 3 primary classes, 2 lower elementary (6 to 9) classes, a double upper elementary (9 to 12) and the Middle School (7th and 8th grade). As a consequence of this tour shaped by years of constructing answers before questions surface, I find prospects genuinely impressed, grounded in a developmental perspective and generally thankful for my having taken the time for a full explanation with classes and students’ work to illustrate each of my points. If a special group such as music, creative movement, Spanish or circle time is in session, I explain ahead of time that we will scan the material environment silently and discuss it outside or between classes. Please feel free to construct your own ‘pillars’ or emphasis according to your school’s strengths. Parents are entitled to unequivocal reassurance that Montessori education is a fully integrated, developmentally sound, and pragmatic solution to preparing children for life in the 21st century. Good luck in all your parent education and recruitment efforts.  Warren McPherson is the Director of Athens Montessori School in Athens, Georgia. Warren will be a presenter at the 16th Annual International conference October 20th weekend in Sarasota, FL, USA. He will be spekaing further on this topic.

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

9


KICKING OFF POSITIVE INTERACTIONS WITH A NEW HEAD of SCHOOL

A

new Head of School arrives in the midst of anticipa-

optimistic that the relationship will be fruitful, that there will

tion and trepidation. The relationship between the

be an atmosphere of mutual commitment, common purpose,

new Head and the school community has just begun

honesty, and respect. On the other hand, others may harbor

and hope for a positive outcome abounds. Community mem-

resentment or feel disenfranchised because they were not able

bers, faculty, and students wonder if

to play a desired role in the selection

he will be the right person to lead the

of the new Head. They may view him

organization forward. Will he under-

or her as one might view a prospective

stand and embrace our culture? Has

in-law, being asked to care for a ‘given’

the search committee done enough to

rather than a ‘chosen.’ To build a fruit-

ensure that he will be a good fit for our

ful relationship, the community needs

school? Will there finally be the kind

to initiate trust, offer respect, and de-

of changes we need to take us to the

velop commitment with an individual

next level?

who may be an outsider, someone about which very little may be known.

These kinds of questions lurk in the

School members can look for the best

hearts of stakeholders, yet it will take

in this person, cheer heartily as they

a bit of time for them to be answered.

arrive, and establish an atmosphere of

The Head’s process of introduction

caring, interest, and hope.

into a new school can be both delicate and arduous. These days, a number of Montessori schools find themselves seek-

Most school community members do not get to choose who is

ing the right individual to grasp the torch and forge a new

named the Head of School; a search committee and the Board

mutual relationship that is built both for the success of a new

of Directors usually decide this. Members do, however, help

Heads’ tenure and for the success of the school. Over the first

set the tone that largely determines whether this will be a suc-

year, new Heads hope to build relationships that happily grow,

cessful relationship.

flourish, and mature, although some will sadly fail to thrive, or even end explosively. Relationships between a new Head of

One way to think about setting this attitude is to make a dis-

School and the school community can be emotionally compli-

tinction between a Head’s function and role. Function is the

cated. No one person – not even the Head of School – is able

collection of tasks from the job description: meeting with

to predict the outcome, but some basic practices intrinsic to

prospective families, managing the budget, working with the

Montessori principles may enhance opportunities for success

Board, evaluating teachers, and so on. While these prioritized

as these relationships play out. Chief among them is the shared

responsibilities are important, they are tangible and somewhat

gift of proactive, healthy ‘following,’ inspired by Montessori’s

straightforward. The Head’s role is of a different nature, and

vision of mutual respect.

can sometimes be the very thing that trips up a new administrator. The job description may not precisely define this elusive

When a new Head is hired, most in the school community are

10

quality, but it has to do with this person’s chemistry within

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


the community’s life and work together.

collaborative approach, which naturally

humans until such a time as the envi-

This chemistry is influenced by feelings

emerges out of Montessori philosophy.

ronment forcefully informs them other-

such as fond memories of the previous

wise.” 1

Head, from the hope for a better future

Whatever the new Head’s style of in-

at the school, and from the concerns

teraction is, he or she presumably

This concept of following seems to

about current reality. A new Head ar-

comes with a talent for leading others.

imply the proactive offering of respect

rives with his or her own set of memo-

Conversely, a particularly constructive

and acceptance, seeking those character-

ries, expectations, and realities. Each

skill within a school community is the

istics that will naturally unfold. The role

school community has a unique person-

ability to ‘follow.’ Experts have written

of followers in a Montessori school com-

ality of dislikes and likes, strengths and

volumes about leadership but have ne-

munity includes empowering leaders of

weaknesses, interests and enthusiasms.

glected its companion art of following.

the organization by freely offering them

These may not be alike, and are some-

The practice of supportive following, in

the essential gifts of trust and authority. No community can function without

No community can function without those who practice the role of follower.

those who practice the role of follower. In any new relationship, this may be seen as taking a leap of faith, but an essential one. At the outset the community should grant those in leadership

times incompatible. The task is to help

which parents, teachers, children, com-

the opportunity to exhibit trustwor-

create a vibrant school community from

munity members, and school leaders

thiness, gifting an atmosphere of trust

these variables, and the manner in which

actively work toward positive relation-

– somewhat in the same manner that a

that task is carried out defines respective

ships, is one element of that collabora-

Montessori teacher would offer a stu-

roles. It is not just something the Head

tive work, and may be viewed as a cousin

dent the chance to test the waters of

does; it is what the Head, teachers, staff,

to “following the child” in a Montessori

classroom leadership. Followers in this

children, Board of Directors, and par-

environment. Each involves offering

context are not blind or subservient, but

ents all do together in partnership.

a respectful approach and is based on

show trust in the Board of Directors and

observation.

display confidence in the person selected

Within Montessori schools, it is gen-

to lead the organization. (This role of

erally understood that Montessori cul-

Dr. Montessori asked of teachers to

empowering leaders is rather like parents

ture involves personal investment and

make observations of students and offer

and children extending the same kind of

responsibility. Montessori culture asks

opportunities that allow and encourage

trust in new teachers as they begin new

leadership to come not just from the

children to follow their own interests

relationships.)

Head of School, but also from the col-

and capabilities. Following the child in

lective whole of the community, in a

this context provides for the true in-

Following also means taking respon-

collaborative fashion. Traditional cor-

dividual to develop within each child.

sibility for one’s own role in the life of

porate-style top-down leadership can be

Children benefit from this approach,

the school, recognizing that most roles

a lopsided orientation in a Montessori

but adults can learn as much or more

are played out in a wider context. That

community. Even the traditional ex-

from the child who is allowed this mea-

is, the ‘marketing’ committee and the

pression, ‘Head of School,’ implies a

sure of respect. Montessori’s youngest

‘playground’ committee are not indi-

top-down approach. Many of the ten-

grandchild, Renilde Montessori, stated

vidual fiefdoms at war with competing

sions in Montessori schools stem from

that “one of the sweetest lessons we shall

interests but organizations that are part

the attempt to achieve balance between

learn if we follow the child is that chil-

of a larger, more significant whole.

traditional leadership style and a more

dren unconditionally accept their fellow

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

11


As a mutual endeavor, valuable Heads of Schools return the favor of following by following the followers. As a matter of course, leadership is required to make observations, mirror respect, and to pay careful attention to process. In the symbiotic relationship between a Montessori community and its leadership, how decisions are made is almost more important than what is decided, just as it is within families. Attention to process means: working to ensure that the people who need to be included are included. It means that those with a right to speak have a chance to do so, and that listening is elevated from a search for flaws in another’s thinking to a basic way of respecting. It is important to remember that accountability is an essential ingredient in community. People have to do what they say they will do, be affirmed when they do it,

SAVE THE DATES

OCTOBER 20-23, 2011 Join us at the lovely Hyatt Regency on Sarasota Bay for a transforming weekend of Community, Partnership, Education and Council.

and be respectfully confronted when they do not. All this is included in leadership’s work of supportive following, returned to the school community.

This year’s Montessori Foundation’s International Conference is so rich in content we are giving just a sampling of what we have planned.

So much following may sound taxing and requiring of patience, even Dr. Montessori herself was a firm, autocratic

The full schedule will be posted to our website over

leader. However, she introduced to children and to adults a

the summer and, along with your September issue of

way of working with each other that inspires global under-

Tomorrow’s Child magazine a full conference brochure

standing and peace. Her legacy is the illumination of the need

will give you all the details. Keynotes by: Timothy

to follow each other into a trustful way of living, which can be

Seldin, ME, Paul Epstein, Ph D Cindy Acker, Ph D and

embraced in one’s own life, family, and school community.

Dr. Kirstina Ordetx will cover a great range of topics

This work is not accomplished alone; it is carried out together

including Public Policy and why each of us in Education

in partnership, and new Heads of School deserve a commu-

should be most aware of what this means.

nity’s joyful participation and the best chance for relationships to flourish and mature. 

Workshops run straight through Sunday afternoon. We’ve made our Sunday schedule so rich in content you will not

1

Montessori, Renilde. (2005). Our Essential

Mandate. Retrieved from www.montessoriami.org/ congress/2005Sydney/paperrm.htm

want to miss this day, especially! There are workshops for administrators and heads of schools, primary, elementary and middle school guides as well as our middle school student workshops on Saturday. Please

Laurie Stockton-Moreno is a parent, teacher, and Curriculum Coordinator at Brookview School in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She has been involved in Montessori education since 1998.

note that we don’t charge a registration fee for our middle school students who attend so send at least two delegates from your school. And, our exhibit area has been increased in size so that means more shopping! The airlines are all running summer sales that extend to cover this weekend so make your reservations soon and join us for this year’s conference. We’ll see you there!

12

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


by Dane L. Peters

A

s I reach an age where I can retire

me that there would be work involved along the

from education—if I want to—I

way and the amount invested would be di-

am drawn to books like En-

rectly related to my life in the cycle.

core: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life by Mark Freed-

Not always rigidly defined with a be-

man and The Third Chapter: Passion,

ginning and an end, cycles in life are

Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years

unique to each individual. Some re-

After 50 by Sara Lawrence-Light-

fer to shorter cycles as phases, es-

foot. They give me a sense of what

pecially

this baby boomer can expect. I am

know,

also inspired by the likes of news analyst

with like

two-year

those

olds—you

terrible

two’s.

Here are some of the life cycles I experienced be-

Daniel Shore, who worked until he was

fore and after my military cycle, many of which we

92 years of age.

all experience in a life time:

All of this got me thinking about the different stages we all

-Crawling to walking

go through in our lives, and how they relate to the three-year

-The magnificent acquisition of reading skills

cycles that are uniquely inherent to Montessori schools. Pre-

-Childhood to adolescence

schoolers from the age of three to six are in the same classroom

-Adolescence to adulthood (Excellent NYTimes

for three years and so are six- to nine-year olds and nine- to

article “What is it About 20-somethings?” by Robin

twelve-year olds, three years with the same teachers in the

Marantz Henig – August 18, 2010)

same classroom.

-High school -College (See the NYTimes OpEd piece “Ditch Your

Getting used to these cycles early on is good training for the

Laptop, Dump Your Boyfriend” – September 26, 2010)

cyclical cycles in life. For example, here is one cycle I bumped

-Single life to married life

into a few years ago. I was on a plane heading for Quantico,

-A life as just husband and wife to one with

Virginia; it was the summer of 1969, the end of my third year

children (That was a big one!)

in the college cycle. With some trepidation and a sprinkle of

-Military life to my first year as civilian,

excitement, I was about to begin another new cycle. I was

teacher, and coach

on my way to boot camp. This was a whole new experience.

-Eleven years as a boarding school teacher,

From some six-foot-two drill instructor screaming at me, to

coach, and dormitory master to a day school

getting my head shaved, to sleeping in a bunk in a room with

teacher and coach

50 other recruits, there was no way that I could conceive that

-From renter to home owner

five years later I would be a Captain and swagger past that same

-Classroom teacher to administration

DI who would say, “Good morning, sir.” simultaneously with

-Administration to being a head of school

a snappy hand salute.

-Teaching and working in traditional schools to heading a Montessori school

It was a cycle I knew from the beginning that would have a

-Loss of a parent

beginning and an end. Previous, more predictable and gentle

-Living in rural and suburban communities to

cycle experiences in my life helped me understand that there

living in urban Brooklyn, NY

would be an end to that military cycle. Also, experience taught J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

13


Teaching our students the inevitability of life cycles is an im-

I believe that just how much control we have over the direc-

portant lesson for them in their own lives. Knowing when to

tion of a cycle is a mystery; it is part of what makes life interest-

leave one stage and being able to anticipate what the next stage

ing. Nevertheless, understanding life cycles helps us prepare

will be like can help alleviate anxiety, uncertainty, and give

for the inevitable cycles ahead, and with good books and good

young people a head start on preparing for what’s ahead. But

mentors, we can go into the next cycle with reasonable expec-

how do you prepare anyone for adolescence, the most chal-

tations and excitement.

lenging time in a human being’s development? I may not know exactly what I am going to do when, and if, I Cycles often progress from newbie to veteran, i.e. freshman

finally retire from education, but I know that cycle in my life

to senior, pregnancy to motherhood, novice to expert—take

will eventually come, as it comes to all of us, and I am excited

your pick: athletic team, parenting, teaching, head of school,

as I dream up and prepare for that next phase. 

etc.

Dane Peters is the head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori School (New York). You can visit him at his blog: http://danesedblog.blogspot.com/.

We’re Here to Help! The Montessori Foundation consultants have invaluable experience, insight, and expertise in every aspect of Montessori school leadership and programming, and we can work with you to translate your most pressing concerns and needs into achievable goals. Together, we represent over 100 years of Montessori experience.  Call us now at 941-729-9565 or toll

The Montessori Foundation Introduces Our Newest Consultant: Hillary Drinkell Because Now is the time to take your school to the next level. Now is the time to consider starting an elemenprogram at your school. Now is the time to let the Montessori Foundation help you accomplish this. 

Why is this the time? Parents are more invested in your primary programs if they know their children have a place to go after their Kindergarten year. This is a double bonus; you will keep students returning for their third year in your primary programs while providing a fabulous experience for your families. 

free 1-800-655-5843 to find out how we can help strengthen your school. The initial call is FREE!  And, no matter how large or small services!       

Hillary Drinkell, an elementary Montessori specialist has joined our team of school consultants and has already successfuly consulted with a number schools in need of elementary program assistance. She is available to help you start an elementary program, or assist with taking your existing program to the next level.

CONSULTATION TEAM Our team

of senior Montessori school

Now is the time

consultants includes: Tim Seldin,

To make this a reality for your school. To make the call and discuss your school’s needs. To ask for Hillary Drinkell: hillarydrinkell@montessori.org  

your school - you can afford our

Hillary Drinkell, Sharon Caldwell and Lorna McGrath

14

We realize that the Elementary program is becoming the next logical step in Montessori schools. At the Montessori Foundation we get daily calls from both parents and school administrators asking about Elementary Montessori programs.

   

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


Editorial introduction by Sharon Caldwell: We asked Dale McGowan, Editor and Co-author of Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers to write this short article for Montessori Leadership simply because the question of religion seems to be, in a sense, the “elephant in the room” that most people are uncomfortable discussing.

A

round the time my book Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion was published, there was a smart and

funny parenting blog attached to the Sydney

I found a link to McGowan’s work while researching different approaches to Cosmic Education. Many Montessori schools affiliated to one or another religious perspective are uncomfortable with the evolutionary aspects of the classical Great Lessons. Other schools which want to avoid the religious aspect find the biblical references and overtly spiritual content of the traditional version of these stories problematic. In my search for an alternative I stumbled onto Connie Barlow’s site (www.thegreatstory.org) where the Great Lessons, and by implication, evolution are presented from a spiritual but not overtly religious perspective. This approach offers an alternative for those schools wanting a blended spiritual and scientific approach to Cosmic Education, but find the original Great Lessons outdated or inadequate, and the purely scientific approach as lacking in an essential element of Dr. Montessori’s vision. Stumbling across McGowan’s work, and subsequently reading the many articles in his book, got me thinking that the question of indoctrination vs. influence is indeed a pertinent one in Montessori schools and Montessori-influenced homes. How do we honor Dr. Montessori’s commitment to supporting freedom of thought without abandoning the children to make their own sense in a world beset with apparent dichotomies of religious fanaticism on one hand and proselytizing atheism on the other. McGowan offers a sensible option for those schools and families who are searching for a middle road.

Morning Herald called “Who’s Your Daddy?” Among other things, author Sacha Molitorisz wrote about parenting and religious issues. How religious Sacha is himself I do not know — but with advice this good, I don’t really care: Both Jo and I want to give [our daughter] Edie the best education possible, and both of us want her to learn about religion and spirituality. Ultimately, we want her to make up her own mind about her beliefs, but we want her to do so from a position of knowledge, not ignorance. Ideally, we’d love her to know a little about Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and more. The question is: Which school is going to give Edie a balanced education about the world’s religions? In fact, is there such a school? Jo went to a Catholic high school, where she learnt, predictably enough, about Catholicism. I went to a secular public school, where I learnt nothing at all about religion. Perhaps the best Jo and I can hope for, rather than

“—Not in the service of any political or social creed should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear.”Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential, 2.

By Dale McGowan

a school with a comprehensive spiritual syllabus, is a school that teaches some religion, and is unbiased in its lessons.

Edie’s a lucky girl. She’s growing up with a far-

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

15


better-than-average chance to think for herself when it comes to religion, since she has parents who know that broadbased religious literacy without indoctrination is an indispensible part of that. But Sacha made me a bit tetchy with this passage: The child of an atheist is being just as indoctrinated as the child of a devoutly religious person…. One dad’s atheism will probably influence his child as profoundly as another dad’s Greek Orthodoxy – and a child will ultimately either absorb that spirituality or

kids positively by what I do and say, and

influence at its best: Teach a man to fish,

react against it.

I wince in recognition of the dark side of

and all that.

influence when my less attractive manProbably without realizing it, Sacha

nerisms, words, opinions, and attitudes

My kids know my religious views and

slipped from “indoctrination” to “in-

begin surfacing in the kids. Nothing

are surely influenced by them. But I go

fluence” without a blink, as if they are

is quite as horrifying as seeing your-

to great lengths to counter that undue

one and the same. They are not. The

self through the glass of your children,

influence, keeping them open while

first sentence is unintentionally cyni-

darkly.

they are young so they won’t be ossi-

cal. It implies that there is simply no way

fied before they can make up their adult

to raise a child without indoctrination,

Likewise, there’s little as thrilling as

which is defined as teaching that de-

seeing positive seeds you’ve planted —

mands uncritical acceptance.

patience, empathy, gratitude, honesty

“Dad?” my then daughter asked when

— bearing lovely fruit in a moment that

she was nine. “Did Jesus really come

could have gone either way.

alive after he was dead?”

remarkably free of indoctrination. His

Influence is sometimes passive and

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I think that’s

plans also sound remarkably similar to

sometimes a matter of intentional teach-

just a story to make us feel better about

mine.

ing. In those moments of active instruc-

death. But talk to Grandma Barbara.

tion (“Don’t throw your gum wrapper

I know she thinks it really happened.

What Sacha is recognizing in the pas-

out the window!”), we try to follow up

And then you can make up your own

sage is the inevitability of influencing our

with reasons (“What if everybody did

mind and even change your mind back

children—to have an effect on them, to

that?”) to help the kids develop inde-

and forth about a hundred times if you

offer guidance and counsel without us-

pendent moral judgment. The first sen-

want.”

ing force. There is no use denying the

tence only proscribed a single act. The

fact of our considerable influence, nor

second invoked a universal principle that

would I want to. I hope to influence my

can be applied again and again. That’s

Yet Sacha’s description of his own plans

minds.

for Edie’s religious instruction sounds

16

That’s influence without indoctrination.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


At the heart of indoctrination is the dis-

eyes and say, “I know, Dad” whenever

trust of reason. The indoctrinator sim-

I start in on one of my caveats. That’s

ply can’t entrust a given cherished idea

when I know the message has been re-

to the process of independent reasoning.

ceived. Once children hear that message

But free-thought parenting should have

loud and clear, a parent is freed up to

confidence in reason right at its foun-

express his/her perspective and welcome

dation. We ought to know that either

theirs without the burden of an added

At the heart of indoctrination is the distrust of reason. The indoctrinator simply can’t entrust a given cherished idea to the process of independent reasoning. reason leads to our conclusions or those

paragraph of disclaimer appended to ev-

conclusions are not worth the neurons

ery conversation.

they’re written on. We should teach kids to think independently and well, then

When influence exists in the context

trust them to do so. And part of that

of direct encouragements to decide for

education is encouraging them to resist

one’s self and to seek out other points of

indoctrination of all kinds — even if it’s

view, it stops well short of that other I-

coming from Mom and Dad.

word. That’s all I would ask of religious parents as well — not that they present

Because freedom of thought, not re-

themselves as neutral, but that they in-

ligious disbelief, is at the center of my

vite their kids to differ and ensure them

parenting, the avoidance of indoctrina-

that they will be loved no less if they do.

tion is my prime directive. My kids have

heard from me, repeatedly, that different people believe different things, that

The author can be contacted at dale@Parent-

they are free to form their own opinions,

ingBeyondBelief.com, or visit his website at

that my own statements are just expres-

www.ParentingBeyondBelief.com.

sions of my (hopefully well-grounded)

opinion, that I would rather have them

disagree with me than adopt my point of view only because it is mine, and so on. These are the foundational concepts in our family’s approach to knowledge. In fact, my children have heard these

Membership pays for itself when you use the benefits. The IMC has its own area on the www.montessori.org website. Once you enter the IMC tab you will be required to put in your user name and password. Find many valuable documents and resources only available to current members. If you are having problems with your login information contact membership director, Margot Garfield-Anderson, at margot@montessori.org. Once the status of your membership is confirmed Sharon Caldwell will email you a new set of login ids.

things so often now that they roll their

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

17


By Hillary Drinkell

P

erformance-based learning comes in many forms and

discuss their findings with their peers. Traditionally when I’ve

is considered an authentic form of assessing students’

been in the classroom, this experience is the first of many re-

knowledge in many subjects. This may take the for-

search presentations the students undertake during the year.

mat of oral discussions or oral defenses regarding a particular

There are two activities, however, that are considered to be the

subject, a portfolio of art or writing works, projects in which

highlights of the classroom experience even for students who

objective outcomes are reached according to the level of the

don’t enjoy oral or play performance-based outcomes.

student, or performances which can reflect an understanding of material previously presented to the students. I have an un-

Years ago a few colleagues and I designed a performance-based

dergraduate in Speech & Drama and therefore get very excited

experience around an animal research study in science. This

about student performances and presentations, but that does

experience eventually developed into five theme-based sci-

not mean that all the students with whom I’ve worked over the past couple of decades share my enthusiasm for this kind of learning experience.

In fact, many

I also strongly believe that performance-based experiences develop confidence and a certain kind of courage that for the most part can’t be acquired through other class experiences.

have looked at me sideways when I’ve invited them to do a presentation or perform in front of

ence units of study, which culminate in outdoor performanc-

an audience.

es. Because the students design and make their own costumes and because the location of the final performance is outdoors,

No matter how much anecdotal evidence there is that says

the students find the experience less intimidating and very en-

students benefit from standing up in front of people and ei-

joyable. These performances have been held on walking trails

ther delivering a speech, acting as a particular character in a

in public park areas, the back woods and trails of a school and

play, or performing poetry, there will be students who find

on the white sands of a beautiful beach in Florida. The entire

this experience terrifying. Knowing that this expectation

final performance takes a day to complete and it is done in a

will be required of them one day, either in higher level learn-

festive atmosphere. This also allows parents to see what work

ing situations or in the workplace, is my motivating factor in

children have been doing in the classroom and helps to give

encouraging all students to participate in play performance-

them a reference point for what a research project can look like

based activities. I also strongly believe that performance-based

in an Upper Elementary setting. These performance-based

experiences develop confidence and a certain kind of courage

experiences have been amazing at helping set the tone for the

that for the most part can’t be acquired through other class

children’s experience in the classroom each year.

experiences. A performance-based play immersion in an Upper Elementary

18

I usually start the school year out with a mini research project

classroom can be a daunting task for teacher guides to under-

that not only allows me to assess where the students are in their

take, but this is such a meaningful experience for students that

research skills, but also allows the students the opportunity to

it really shouldn’t be overlooked. I like to conduct this experi-

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


In this photo: Rogers Knopik

sible for all props and staging during the play; he agreed. He is now a lighting designer for bands, and theater productions as his career! Once all students know their roles rehearsals begin. As an immersion experience, this is done in the classroom while other students are working. This requires self-control on the part of the students who are not rehearsing at the time, as they will be required to continue with their assignments while other students are rehearsing in the same space. I suggest that the two teachers in the environment take on very specific roles during this time. One will work with the rehearsals and the other with the group of students working on their assignments. Two weeks before the performance date, I conduct full morning rehearsals and afternoons are set aside for assignments; the final ence as the final part of a novel study, or a related study to a particular history theme. Having already conducted a performance around a science theme at the beginning of the year, my planning focus will be on another area of the curriculum or a result of a student or students’ passion. In some instances the plays I’ve used require a license fee for a performance, but the fee is nominal and well worth the cost. I usually like to give students six weeks to work on this kind of experience. The first part of this is to cast the play and then once this has been done, the costume and prop lists should be shared with the art teacher and parents. I like the students to design and create as many of the props and costumes as possible. In fact, students should control all the lighting, sound effects and music as much as is possible. You will find that some students prefer not to perform on stage, but love to help as backstage assistants. One student I taught was mortified that he was expected to participate in a play immersion. I suggested that he have a walk-on part only and that he be respon-

week before the performance is dedicated to full play immersion with the entire classroom being transformed into a theater. The students assist in transforming the classroom and we make sure that certain works are accessible so that some work assignments can be done as needed. I also like to have the students break down the set and rearrange the classroom after the performance. We usually make this into a cast party when cookies and punch are served. This also allows you to enlist the help of parents so that it becomes a community event. This particular immersion experience allows students to get a behind-the-scenes look at a play production; it also encourages them to participate on many different levels. In my experience, these activities, and the knowledge that students glean from them, provide a value to students that remain with them for years to come.  Hillary works for The Montessori Foundation and does consultancy work for schools. She is available to give a detailed workshop to schools about play or oral performance-based learning.

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

19


T

he title of this essay is a simile: a magnet is, of course, a substance in which the component molecules have been aligned, either naturally in, for example, a lode-

stone, or by manufacture, such as electromagnets or iron boron magnets. An organization can be compared to a piece of iron—the bar representing the institution and its molecules its employees. If they are working at crossed purposes they resemble an inert iron bar because they cancel each other out like a balanced molecule, however strong the metal. But if they are properly aligned the organization can have the power of a magnet as well. This essay describes a way to help an organization behave more like a magnet than inert iron using a most unpredictable of tools: the ubiquitous and dreaded an-

system is, I believe, the origin of the dread we all feel viscerally

nual evaluation.

when evaluation time draws near. It is arbitrary. The boss de-

1

fines on a given day what performance equals a “1” and what An evaluation should tell a reader—first, the employee, and

performance equals a “5”. Even if the numbers are refined by

second, anyone else who needs to know, three things about

definitions, at some point the decision is a matter of subjective

how the employee performed during a defined period of time:

fiat. The employee is powerless to affect the three components of the evaluation. Basically, if the boss is happy the employee

• whether the employee performed tasks required of him

does well, and if the boss is unhappy the employee does less

• the conditions under which the work was to be done

well, so the evaluation becomes an unpleasant annual ritual

• the measure of performance in comparison to expected

having little or no substance serving only as an excuse to prune

standards for excellence

undesirable employees.

I have seen a number of evaluation instruments in my life,

In a Montessori school environment such a system is also

from the sublime to the ridiculous. The latter consist of easy-

culturally incompatible: the evaluation is an instrument of

to-complete forms with multiple choice answers:

power between the evaluator and evaluated, between the boss and the subordinate. It is not a respectful discussion of goals

Circle the appropriate response with 5 being the

accomplishments and challenges between professional col-

best and 1 being the worst. 1. The employee met

leagues. It does not mirror the behaviors we see every day in

organizational goals: 1 2 3 4 5,” and so on.

the classroom between directress and child or between older and younger child.

The primary purpose of such a document is to allow the em-

20

ployer to claim he has an evaluation program, and to dispatch

On the other end of the spectrum of evaluations, more sophis-

with it as soon and as painlessly as possible. But in reality this

ticated systems allow for employee input at the beginning of

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


the evaluation period. This input often

cate or diploma, achieving an expected

plete only ten percent. As a result, she

takes the form of Goals and Objectives.

financial return, percentage of growth,

would have been more than satisfied

The difference between the two is of-

or making scores by universally recog-

when in May she realized that she had

ten blurred, but for the purposes of this

nized measures of performance such as

completed fifteen percent while I might

discussion we should agree that goals

governmental inspections or visits from

have remarked in her evaluation that

are desired outcomes that are broad and

private credentialing agencies. Third, it

she failed to meet her objective.2 Nei-

difficult to measure while objectives are

should list the date by which these re-

ther employer nor employee would have

more precise, tangible and, therefore,

sults should be expected. The function

been happy with the outcome. By con-

measurable. I will develop concepts

of the employee is to assess accurately

trast, whatever percentage completion

about both below.

her needs and capacity for improve-

the two negotiate in advance is a clearly

ment. The role of the employer is to

fixed point.

Having the employee as the start point

help the employee through the process

for development of Goals and Objectives

by asking probing questions, ensuring

Example II:

has enormous positive benefits if ex-

that objectives are achievable during

library by May 30th.

ecuted properly. The employee may feel

the upcoming evaluation period. When

a.Enter all books in data base,

included in the decision-making process

both parties—employer and employ-

b.Order books as funds allow,

because his opinion about the tasks is

ee—have understood what is expected

c.Tape spines on all paperbacks.”

taken into account. While this device

for the year, this part of the evaluation

clearly has the potential to involve the

effectively becomes a contract between

Each included a completion date (the

employee in the process, it fails too often

the two. Throughout the year, the em-

form we use includes a block for the

in execution because some supervisors

ployee knows what he should do, up to

date).

treat it the same way they treated older,

what level of quality it is to be done, and

three precise objectives with standards

less sophisticated systems of evaluation.

when it should be finished.

for measure:

“Reorganize existing

This goal also lists or implies

Full realization of the potential of this tool requires a thorough understanding

Here are some examples of actual objec-

1. all the books in the database

by the entire chain of leadership of the

tives prepared by members of the teach-

2. spending 100 percent of

organization, and active collaboration

ing staff at my school in South Carolina:

the budgetary allocation—already

at each level to align the thoughts that should be conveyed in the evaluation.

THE EVALUATION AS A POSITIVE TOOL

a precise number in the annual Example I: “Begin Elementary

classroom budget—for new books

assignments, to be completed by

3. repairing all paperbacks

30 May.”

The list also goes a step beyond the genThe author is a teacher working on an

eral intent (the goal) by defining several

Seen with a more enlightened perspec-

additional qualification and she has stat-

strategies (the objectives) to refine the

tive, an evaluation is not simply a means

ed the task she wants to complete and

library’s holdings. The author under-

of telling an employee how good or bad

the date by which it should be com-

stood the importance of precision in the

he has been. It should first be a collabo-

pleted. Had I not questioned this objec-

contract to mutual understanding of ex-

ration between employer and employee

tive—actually part of a goal to become

pectations.

to set, define, and make as precise as

certified at the Elementary level—as

possible the objectives for the coming

it stood, I might have estimated that

The key is the precision of the defini-

year. Second, it should establish clear

she would have completed twenty-five

tion. Creating such precision can take a

measures of outcomes, including such

percent of her Elementary assignments,

great deal of time. I would argue, how-

precise definitions as earning a certifi-

while in fact she had intended to com-

ever, that the investment in establishing

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

21


the ground rules at the beginning of the evaluation period not only reduces the disappointment at its end; it also allows the employee—from the beginning—to plan the entire year how to reach such a precise spot. In addition, it allows her to measure her own progress at any time during the period, and to speed up if necessary to meet the objective she established, or to know she if can redirect her energies to other tasks because she is ahead of her target. This kind of accuracy places most of the variables that could interfere with completion of objectives under the control of the employee. An evaluation system that allows the employee to participate as a partner in

view) / I (employee’s view) will research

subject in her certification process really

developing the Goals and Objectives

more economical providers of materials

needs to develop Language extensions

is likely to result in the employee em-

of a similar quality to save not less than

for children she knows will return to her

bracing them as well. Much in the same

ten percent of purchasing costs from

class and aren’t responding to the lessons

way a child told what to do may follow

last year, beginning with the 2nd Term

she knows? Developing 6 new exten-

instructions reluctantly, but when in-

this year.” During the year, the teacher

sions may move in the right direction,

volved in the process actually leads with

checks her numbers and makes whatever

but the child having that “Aha!” mo-

enthusiasm, Goals and Objectives im-

refinements necessary. At the end of the

ment is the real objective—and how can

posed from above which the employee

evaluation year, she writes, “During last

we measure the “Aha’s!” in the class.

never really accepted run the risk of

fiscal year I found lowest cost provider

Essentially it is impossible. But several

becoming Goals and Objectives un-

of quality materials allowing me to save

measurable sub-tasks are possible: first,

fulfilled. In their development the em-

8.1% in the first Term, and an average

the six extensions can be developed.

ployer must take into account the em-

of 15.7% each term thereafter.” The

Second, the child may actually master

ployee’s assessment of his own ability to

employer, in his assessment, then has

specific lessons.

meet them. The details of a “Goals and

two options: to affirm the calculations

Objectives” block should be the result of

of the employee and recognize his ac-

Reacting to an employee who has ex-

honest negotiations between employer

complishment, or to contradict it (after

ceeded objective targets is easy. The real

and employee.

confirming beyond a doubt the numbers

trick is taking the right steps when she

were wrong) and evaluate whether the

falls short. Failure to meet a precise ob-

THE EVALUATION AS DIALOGUE

employee is dishonest or simply can’t

jective is hardly grounds for dismissal.

count.

After all, both Goals and Objectives are

The evaluation is a long-term, intermit-

What happens when the objective defies

did it unerringly and no one listened

tent conversation. At the beginning of

easy measure—often the case in Mon-

to her! For an unmet objective both

the evaluation year it should begin like

tessori classrooms. Suppose a directress,

employer and employee were perhaps

this: “We agree that you (employer’s

recognizing language was her weakest

overly optimistic about the possibilities

predictions of the future—only Cassandra

22

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


for improvement. Had they set more

include a section for projecting into the

important. His first bullet point allows

reasonable goals at the beginning, the

future. I had a very accomplished em-

me to allocate resources—time and tu-

discussion at the end would be much

ployee who was very skilled at Microsoft

ition—for him to take the course. The

different, with exactly the same effort in

Word and Excel, but could not manipu-

second allows me to say, I don’t expect

between. This is not to imply that un-

late a database. Of greater concern was

you to become perfect overnight, but

met objectives are necessarily a result of

his tendency to become very short with

I think you have come up with a great

too high goals—far from it. But setting

some parents and other members of the

way to measure your progress.” He took

Goals and Objectives is an art that both

staff. In his evaluation block dedicated

the initiative to propose the method for

employer and employee need to master

to “Recommendations” I wrote, “He

improvement. This kind of interaction

to prosper both in their relationship and

should add MS Access to his repertoire

can take place worked together for sev-

their work.

of skills. He should also make greater ef-

eral years; he understood the evaluation

forts to suffer fools gladly.” This narra-

system and was not fearful of it because

That failure should be seen as a learn-

tive serves as advice from the evaluator,

he recognized we were discussing ways

ing exercise is axiomatic. Danish physi-

based on the performance of the previ-

for him to be a more effective employee

cist Neils Bohr long ago humorously

ous year, for the employee to improve.

and a better person. Nowhere in that

observed that, “An expert is a person

Over the course of the year a need had

understanding was his job in jeopardy.

who has made all the mistakes that can

arisen for him to be able to use Access,

be made in a very narrow field.” While

and I had received several complaints

the average employee has not won a

from tweaked employees and parents.

Nobel Prize in physics, if even so lofty

My phraseology was designed specifi-

a perch is attained by a succession of er-

cally to imply that he was provoked—

The goals of each employee should exist

rors and, we must suppose, the resulting

whether it was true or not was moot. As

primarily in the context of the goals of his

increased understanding one gains from

a result he accepted both counsels gra-

organization. For example, if the goal of

them, a certain error rate from an em-

ciously and with humor. His appropri-

the organization is to make automobiles,

ployee could be taken with advantage

ate response was to translate the critique

then every action by every employee

as a sign that learning has occurred. If

into goals for the following year.

must be directed at the production of

we dismissed employees simply be-

AN INTERLOCKING NETWORK OF EVALUATIONS

automobiles. This does not mean every-

cause they made mistakes we would

For the example in the previous para-

one actually makes automobiles. Some

almost certainly replace them with

graph, in keeping with the desirable for-

people work on the assembly line, but

employees who were unaware that a

mat for goals, the employee wrote:

other people ensure the quality of the

particular course of action resulted

product or design new models, while

in a particular failure. The function

“Enroll in and pass a course to

still others clean the factory at night, re-

of the employer during the discussion at

learn MS Access, to be completed

pair machinery, prepare pay statements,

the end of the evaluation is to determine

by 15 March.

interview prospective employees, and

what caused the failure, and to build the

Improve my demeanor with parents

perform the dizzying array of functions

learning into the future.

and other staff immediately, so that

of any large organization. But every per-

no adverse criticisms are registered

son not working on the assembly line

about me during the school year.”

needs to understand his job in the con-

CONTINUITY OF EVALUATION

text of the overall mission, in this case, An evaluation instrument should, in

Thus, the evaluation has come full circle.

to make cars. The Goals and Objectives

addition to the Goals and Objectives

The importance of the employee trans-

section of the evaluation is an exquisite

predicting the course of the year and an

lating the observations of the employer

tool to ensure that understanding.

assessment of the quality of work done,

into a positive action is exceptionally

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

23


The process begins at the top. The leader of the entire organization needs to be the most assiduous in the development of her Goals and Objectives for two reasons. First, only in this was can she assure the method will be taken seriously. Second, her Goals and Objectives will serve as the source from which the entire river of supporting objectives shall flow. Taken seriously, these Goals and Objectives establish (switching metaphors again) a magnetic field that aligns members of the organization to a level of harmony and productivity impossible to achieve in any other administrative way.3 The leader’s Goals and Objectives should be functionally organized; that is, according to the major components any organization will have. In smaller organizations these functions may dovetail into fewer people’s responsibilities, while larger organizations may have them subdivided into ever more precise specialties. Every organization has a human resources function, an operational function, and a logistics function. The head of school must address each as (at least) a separate goal. For example: 1. Academic Program. a. Ensure the classroom staff

is adequate to accomplish the educational mission by: b. Ensure classroom staff have adequate resources by: 2. Administration. a. Increase enrollment by ten percent by: b. Reduce utility costs by:

I have deliberately avoided listing the strategies that would follow the word

24

No hard rules exist here. The author of the Goals and Objectives—the employer—needs to be as precise as he can, including strategy, measurable element, and completion date. “by:” at the end of each phrase (another

Objectives have their own language

essay). My objective here is show how

pattern. They begin with a gerund to

goals should be written. Each has the

initiate the “how” begged by the goal,

same pattern: (“I will” subject omitted)

and are followed by their own predicate,

verb, predicate which should include a

measurable element, and a date. Objec-

measurable element, “by:” (methods to

tive (3) has an event rather than a date.

achieve the objective). In this case the

This is acceptable in many instances be-

leader is passing responsibility for de-

cause a change is required normally as a

veloping specific strategies to his logisti-

response to other events. If the date of

cian, and he would list a date by which

the other event is vague, to place a spe-

he wants it completed (as shown in 2.b.).

cific date on the objective reduces pre-

If a predicate does not include the mea-

cision to silliness. Listing events allows

surable element it will appear in the ver-

the subordinate, when he takes up that

biage of the objective instead, but the

task, to adapt to circumstances as they

objectives may have even more precise

change.

measurable elements of their own. For example, the subordinate objectives of

No hard rules exist here. The author

goal 2.a. might read:

of the Goals and Objectives—the employer—needs to be as precise as he

(1) Designing and publishing

can, including strategy, measurable el-

advertising in TV, radio, and print

ement, and completion date. But as I

media, at a cost of $2,500 by

have shown in the examples above, he

August 31st.

can vary the degree of prescription—be-

(2) Adding a hot line to the

ing as concrete as he must or as vague as

telephone system with 24/7

he can—according to the degree of flex-

access to admissions officer, to be

ibility open to him and the trust he has

operational by September 15th.

in his direct reports. The more trust he

(3) Designing and implementing a

has, the vaguer he should be: tell them

rewards system for parents who

what to do and let them astonish you

recommend the school to others

with their inventiveness.

(resulting in a newly-enrolled child), to be in place and announced

Once the Goals and Objectives of the

before next school year enrollment

head of the organization have been

contracts are distributed.

completed and approved, the “magne-

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


tization” process begins. Each “direct

Second, she acts as mentor, asking prob-

of a human resources play. It serves as a

report”—classroom directress, adminis-

ing questions to stimulate the think-

precise plan, played out at every echelon

trative department head, etc.—receives

ing of a direct report who has not re-

of the organization, to accomplish the

a copy of the Goals and Objectives that

ally though through the objective to its

mission. In doing so it aligns the think-

the head of school had previously nego-

logical conclusion. Third, she negotiates

ing of every member and allows each

tiated with the Board chair (or propri-

with the direct report to ensure he has

one to take ownership of his piece of

etor), along with instructions to prepare

neither taken too ambitious an approach

the action, however great or small. Like

a similar document at his level, being

nor given himself too much slack. Done

a precision watch—back when watches

sure to include each goal and objective

well, at the conclusion of the one-on-

had gears and springs—each piece works

that pertains to him. The direct report

one session both the leader and the di-

in concert with the others and yet with

evaluates the Goals and Objectives of

rect report have a crystal clear under-

independent motivation. In the greatest

his boss and re-words those portions

standing of what the subordinate will

irony of all, by this dreaded evaluation

that fall under his responsibility. He will

do, to what standard, and by what date.

employees are both subsumed to the

frequently add new objectives, and may

Both of them must accept the document

whole and liberated to their talents. 

even add new goals as long as they do

as fair and do-able before the meeting

not conflict with those of his superior.

adjourns.

The Goals and Objectives of each direct

1

Colonel William Causey, my immediate

report will obviously be quite different,

This cycle repeats itself as many times as

superior officer when I was Professor

since each holds overall responsibility for

there are echelons in the organization,

of Military Studies at Davidson College,

a completely different functional activity

with each iteration becoming not only

North Carolina, introduced me to the

of the organization.

more precise but also probably shorter

basic concept that serves as the basis

and less complex. By the time it ends,

for this essay. While I do not know

Most of the Goals and Objectives of the

with the worker who actually builds,

whether he is the original author of it,

Classroom Directresses will address the

drives, types, sweeps, teaches, or applies

I can authoritatively state that it took

head of school’s goal 1. and its objec-

a tourniquet, every member of the orga-

several years for me to appreciate fully

tives. But she would address the others

nization will have experienced the same

the power of the mechanism, by which

as she can anticipate a role to play there

phenomenon. He will have learned the

time it was too late to thank him properly.

as well; for instance, she may be able to

imperatives that motivate his boss. He

My reflections date from discussions I

support the increased enrollment goal

will have developed his own Goals and

had with Cai Qingquan, Chief Nursing

with strategies to increase retention in

Objectives to support his boss’s impera-

Officer of Shanghai United Family

her classroom. The head of administra-

tives. He will have entered negotiations

Hospitals.

tion could similarly react to objectives

with his boss to ensure that both sides

not listed in her specific domain.

understood the implications, and that

2

both sides agree on his approach. With

remark, as I explain below.

In fact, I would not have made such a

The third step in the alignment process

the exception of the ranks of workers,

is the joint refinement and solidification

the leader will have coached those who

3

of the Goals and Objectives of the di-

work directly for him to think strategi-

to galvanize a group. But I also view with

rect reports. The leader of the organiza-

cally, at long range, and precisely, and

great distrust the perhaps unintended

tion fills several roles. First, as the person

will have accepted in writing their plan

consequences that a charismatic leader

responsible, she must ensure that every

of action.

can have on his organization, with acting

objective has made its way to someone’s

I allow here for the effects of charisma

in blind faith, top-down information flow

list—after all, the leader does not actu-

Thus employed, the Goals and Objec-

and decision-making, and the difficulties

ally do much (if any) of the real work, so

tives section of an evaluation ceases to be

of creating a succession plan springing

it must devolve to someone else’s plate.

an insignificant part of a stylized scene

easily to mind.

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

25


Handy Hints for the Busy Administrator By Margot Garfield-Anderson

S

omeone once told me, “You can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself, first.” This person, obviously, was not the administrator of a Montessori school! How in the world are you to get it all done and take

care of yourself? By reversing the order of that last sentence and yes, taking care of yourself first, you will get it all done. We live in a world gone mad most days. Juggling, managing, micromanaging and balancing the needs of staff, children, parents, spouses and our own families is 24/7 for many of us. When you tell people to take care of themselves first the most common reaction is, “That’s pretty selfish, don’t you think?” I’m here to tell you, it is not. Flat out, it is not. All the leading medical research I’ve come across now says that people who are deprived of a good night’s sleep suffer the consequences. So let’s just take a fast look at some of the things in our day that stall us can be turned around so that we might all rest a bit easier at night. We’re going to use a few analogies here to help some of us take the focus off of ourselves if this helps you not think you are being selfish so bear with me.

1. EAT A HEALTHY BREAKFAST

A. Do a few wall push-ups against the

3. SIT COMFORTABLY at your

Could you drive your car to work with-

shower while waiting for the hot water

desk. OK, no car analogy here but this

out gas in the tank? A healthy breakfast

to start.

is a huge one. Have you ever said to that

does not take a long time to prepare or

B. As you are putting on your make-up

voice in your head, I only need to send off

eat. Not that I recommend any pro-

do a few deep knee bends.

this quick email so I don’t need to sit at

stant oatmeal, a slice of whole wheat

C. While driving to work pull in your

realize an hour later you are twisted into

or multi grain bread with some natu-

stomach muscles to the count of 10. Re-

a pretzel and unable to extricate yourself

ral peanut or cashew or almond butter

peat several times.

from that position you managed to hold

and some banana slices along with your

D. Don’t take the closest parking spot,

for so long? Well, those positions can

cessed foods and refined sugar but, in-

morning cup of Joe will fuel you for

anywhere! Those few extra steps add up.

do you a lot of harm if you stay in them

a solid mix of protein, fat and carbs you

E. Before sit down at your desk for the

time you sit down, that you will be there

equalize your blood sugar so that you

day do a few stretches and bends first.

for a while. Position yourself at your

don’t tend to speed and crash as easily.

Just a few but do this each time you get

desk in an ergonomically correct posi-

up and then come back to the desk. Or

tion (no more sitting on the very edge of

2. EXERCISE instead of making the

make extra trips for yourself down the

the chair with your legs folded and then

argument, I don’t have time to exercise.

hall, up and down the steps throughout

folded again!). By sitting with your back

Going back to our car analogy, if you

the day. You burn off 9 calories going

and head against the chair and your feet

don’t drive the car once in a while the

up a flight of stairs!

either flat on the ground or better yet,

battery will corrode and die. Any exer-

F. Go for a walk after dinner with the

on a small foot rest, your body will stay

most of the morning. Plus, when you eat

cise is better than no exercise. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.

26

my desk for more than a second, only to

entire family. It’s a great way to digest your meal and spend some good family time together.

consistently. Make the assumption, each

in better alignment and you will not be cramping your muscles fatiguing them before you’ve ever done any exercises.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


4. AVOID EYE STRAIN We’ve been

about water was circulating the internet.

instructed to look away from our moni-

My boss sent it to me. Most people feel

10. END THE DAY ON A GOOD NOTE Hug, hug, hug your family,

tors every 20 minutes to avoid eye strain.

hungry or tired during the day because

your pet or yourself before going to bed.

I don’t know about you but I forget this

they have not hydrated enough. Here’s

Let your last thoughts of the day help

one all the time so here’s my suggestion;

the car analogy for this one. Could your

transition yourself from the always on

set a timer until you break that habit.

radiator operate and not overheat with-

position to Park and engines off. Yup,

Every 20 minutes, look away from your

out water? Neither can you.

another car analogy.

over or stretch it out a few times. It will

7. LAUGH. Life is filled with funny

None of these little tips takes time away

help your focus and your eyes and your

moments. Embrace them, celebrate

from bigger, “more important” tasks

whole body will thank you.

them, and encourage them. People that

but when you are faithful about doing

laugh live better lives. Plus, it’s good for

them they will let you take care of your-

5. EAT RIGHT We don’t encour-

your lungs. Yes, it really is and is highly

self first so that you can go about the

age our parents to provide lunches that

contagious, but in the good way. There

business of taking care of everyone else

contain processed foods or sugary foods;

are now laugh coaches out there who

in your circle.

don’t allow yourself to indulge in them

teach you how to laugh up a storm.

terminal screen and stand up and bend

either. Throw out the left over Hallow-

PS. I recently had a health scare of my

een or Valentine’s Day stuff that is al-

8. REMEMBER TO BREATHE

ways hiding in a secret draw somewhere.

Yes, breathe. I know, it’s supposed to be

that something was not quite right but

We tend to eat mindlessly most times

automatic, or something you don’t think

I kept telling myself, it’s your allergies,

and can’t ever remember what possibly

about and just do, but have you ever re-

or you’ve just been on 15 planes in 24

could have happened to that 1 pound

alized that you didn’t? I’m an incredibly

days on 2 continents and through 4 time

bag of M&Ms or Mrs. XYZ’s left over

shallow breather as are many people so

zone changes and you’re acclimating to

birthday cake that was in the commu-

I really don’t get enough oxygen into

being back in Florida, don’t be a hypo-

nity fridge only to remember that was

my system. It makes me feel groggy and

chondriac. So I took some Aleve and

dinner one night while working late.

tired. Yoga taught me to breathe. In

went to bed. Thankfully, I emailed our

You can’t really fool yourself too long

and out, in and out, in and out. When

executive director Saturday morning to

with that one. Besides, eating a lunch

I get really stressed I do stop and remind

tell her the weird thing I was feeling and

that is heavy on the carbs (you know, the

myself, breathing in and out, good, not

to say I was going to go to the doctor on

pizza or spaghetti or subs you ordered

breathing, bad! It also helps bring me

Monday when they opened. She directed

in this week) leave you feeling slug-

back into a focused stage. Combine this

me to go immediately, “without passing

gish and sleepy. Instead, have a nice big

one with your timer so when you look

go and collecting $200” to get immedi-

green salad with a lean protein on top.

away from the computer, get up and

ate medical attention. Long story short,

Fish, chicken or sliced left over steak on

stretch, breath as well.

I’m fine because I did go and seek the

a salad with lots of greens and reds and

own. My body sent me definite signals

attention. Our busy selves know we can’t

meal. Keep cut up fruit or small bags of

9. END THE DAY IN A LUXURIOUS BUBBLE BATH Light some

1 ounce of nuts in the draw instead. A

candles, and indulge in a 20 minute

attention. Our bodies, however, are finely

cup of grapes is incredibly satisfying and

soak. Put some nice lotion on yourself

tuned machines specifically designed to

filling and great for you.

when done. You probably have a ton

send out signals when there is a malfunc-

from gifts received for holidays and such,

tion. Therefore, start listening to what

6. REMEMBER TO DRINK WATER

go ahead and use it. Try one of those at

your body is telling you because it knows

throughout the day. Recently, an article

home facial masks as well.

what it’s talking about!

orange colors make for a very satisfying

afford downtime so we tend to be in denial when it comes to needing rest or medical

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

27


By Tim Gill

A

mma is climbing a weeping willow tree in her nursery

Of course, it is absolutely right to be concerned about children’s

garden. The trunk of the tree curves gracefully, almost

safety. But this concern has to be tempered by a recognition that

parallel to the ground, a couple of feet above the bare

exploration, adventure and uncertainty are at the heart of the

earth – the perfect height for the four-year-old to test her nerves.

process by which children get to grips with the objects, people and places around them. As theorists from Dewey, through

She doesn’t realise it, but some adult eyes are keeping a watch

Piaget and Vygotsky to Bruner have shown, learning comes first

on her. One of the nursery staff has spotted her going under the

and foremost from within: it is the child’s impulse to go from

canopy, and is monitoring her progress from a discreet distance.

‘this is what I can do already’ to ‘this is what I cannot do but want to do’ that underpins so much of their development. The

Amma presses on. She is a keen and competent climber, and

emphasis in the Early Years Foundation Stage on play has placed

is now higher than ever before. Although she is about four or

the issue of risk centre-stage, because for children, play is all

five feet off the ground, she shows no signs of stopping. Imagine you are that worker watching Amma. What would you do? How and when would you step in? And more importantly, on what basis would you make these decisions? Now imagine that, instead of climbing a tree, Amma was working on a jigsaw puzzle. The contrast between these two scenarios is revealing. With

As theorists from Dewey, through power and control. Piaget and Vygotsky to Bruner While there are some major disagreehave shown, learning comes first and ments about the state of childhood foremost from within: it is the child’s in the UK, the one thing everyone accepts is that children have fewer impulse to go from ‘this is what I can opportunities to encounter risks. do already’ to ‘this is what I cannot Daily experiences like spending time with friends and family in the street, do but want to do’ that underpins so and playing in local parks and green much of their development. spaces are in long-term decline. As

the puzzle, educators find it easy to accept that the child’s play

28

about exploring ideas of competence,

Helen Tovey, lecturer in Early Child-

hood Studies at Roehampton University, argues in her 2007

should be respected. Even if she is struggling, or using a method

book Playing Outdoors: Spaces and places, risk and challenge, this

that doesn’t make sense to adults, her own efforts are valued and

loss of childhood experience has to be the starting point for a

we think before intervening, because we recognise the value of

thoughtful appreciation of the role of outdoor play in children’s

nurturing Amma’s sense of agency and autonomy.

learning and growth.

With climbing, we are tempted right from the outset to give

So what does a thoughtful approach to risk look like? The

warnings – “take care, Amma!” – that express doubts about a

essential first step is to recognise that risk cannot be eliminated.

child’s competence. All too often, any interest we might have

The zero-risk childhood is a myth, and so is the zero-risk setting.

in what she might be getting out of the experience – and she

Children can and do have accidents, fight, get hurt or upset,

might be getting a great deal - is crowded out by our anxieties

feel sad or frustrated, in any situation or setting. Indeed as my

about what might happen to us if things go wrong.

co-authors and I argue in the United Kingdom, Government-

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


And there is emotional risk: experiencing, and learning to overcome, a whole range of fears and anxieties. I agree with UK playwork academics Wendy Russell and Stuart Lester. In their report Play for a Change they argue that risk – in the sense of actively seeking out uncertainty – is a deep theme in a great deal of children’s self-directed play. In all these domains of risk, the goal for educators should be the same: to help children learn how to cope with the everyday challenges that life might throw at them. This is what, in my book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society, I call adopting a philosophy funded publication Managing Risk in Play

concern the child. Yet as I noted above,

Provision: Implementation Guide, in many

it is the risks to adults – blame, loss of

cases these outcomes are best understood

reputation, liability – that too often crowd

If a philosophy of resilience is to be suc-

not as adverse at all, but as key ingredients

our minds, and cloud our judgements. We

cessfully developed, it needs support at

in a rich diet of learning experiences.

become preoccupied by back-covering,

all levels of the ‘chain of command.’ A

Hence we adults are in the business not of minimising or eliminating risk, but of managing it. A sound approach to risk is one that balances risks against benefits.

of resilience.

A sound approach to risk is one that balances risks against benefits.

Remember Amma climbing the weeping

and devote far more time to managing

shared understanding of risks and ben-

willow. Let us start by asking: what is she

this – through policies, guidelines and

efits should run from face-to-face staff

gaining from her experience? It is not

paper trails – than we do to looking after

through managers to inspectors, regula-

hard to come up with some impressive

children. Weighing up risks and benefits

tors and ultimately politicians, and also

answers to this question: physical activity,

is not always easy - it certainly cannot be

parents and the wider public.

body awareness, self-confidence, sense of

reduced to a set of checklists or guidelines

achievement, real-time risk management

- but it is absolutely at the heart of good

At first blush this may seem a tall order.

and emotional awareness - not forgetting

pedagogy.

The threat of litigation and the fear of

the intrinsic thrill of being off the ground.

being blamed are powerful forces. But When we think about risk in early years

it is clear that we cannot carry on the

Next we can ask: what are the risks? The

contexts, our mind typically turns first

way we are without undermining chil-

most obvious of course is the risk of injury.

to physical challenges like Amma and her

dren’s growth and development. If ulti-

As to how great that risk is, practitioners

tree climbing, or children’s use of play

mately, that means a change in the law,

who know the children they work with

equipment or tools. When Helen Tovey

then so be it.

should have a pretty good idea of their

talks of ‘risky play’ in Playing Outdoors,

strengths and weaknesses, their personali-

this is what she has in mind. But of course

When talking to professionals about risk,

ties and how they might respond to chal-

there are many dimensions to risk. For

I am often told that it is parents who are

lenges in different situations. There’s an

instance, there is social risk: the chal-

the biggest barrier to a more balanced

important point here: the risks that should

lenges children face in learning how to

approach. This needs unpicking. While

be our prime focus are surely those that

get along and resolve their differences.

it is true that there are some anxious par-

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

29


ents out there, it is also true that many

more freedom.

parents are fed up with the way that their

help the children we work with to develop

children’s sense of adventure and appetite

The truth is that parents, like the rest of

their confidence and resilience. Perhaps

for experience is being stifled. For every

us, are on a continuum when it comes to

most important of all, we need to reflect

parent who wants to buy knee pads for

attitudes to risk. The mistake so many

on our own childhoods, and remind

their crawling baby, there is a mom like

settings make is to think they have to

ourselves of what it might have felt like

Lenore Skenazy, the New York journalist

set their benchmark at the level of the

for Amma, when she climbed the tree in

who found herself at the centre of a media

most anxious parent. Too often, a single

her nursery higher than ever before. 

storm letting her nine-year-old son travel

complaint about a piece of equipment

home on his own on the subway. Her

leads to the removal of that offer. In the

subsequent book Free Range Kids makes a

nicest possible way, providers need to help

witty, intelligent case for giving children

some of their parents understand why giving children a taste of adventure is so important. One way to do this is to revisit

MOVING TO A MORE BALANCED APPROACH: QUESTIONS TO ASK

one’s mission statement. It is striking to note how many mission statements talk of creating ‘a safe and secure environment for children.’ Given that opening gambit, is it any wonder that some parents feel

How clear and consistent is the setting’s philosophy around risks, benefits, responsibility and resilience?

confused if their child comes home with a sprained ankle or a bruised ego?

Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and is an effective advocate for change. His work focuses on children’s play and free time. Tim’s book No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society was published in 2007, and he is co-author of the Government-sponsored publication Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide. He has advised political parties, leading NGOs, and public bodies, and appears regularly in the media. For more about Tim Gill’s work visit his website www. rethinkingchildhood.com A version of this article was published in Early

In the UK, the climate around risk in

Years Update by Optimus Education. www.

How consistent is staff practice, and what

childhood has begun to improve, as edu-

early-years-update.com

scope is there for reflection and open

cators become more aware of the impor-

debate?

tance of fostering children’s appetite for

To what extent do outdoor spaces, activity programmes and trips and outings allow children to encounter and manage risk?

adventure and discovery, and as public and political opinion swings away from an overzealous approach to child safety. Meanwhile on the front line, initiatives

What messages are being given to parents

such as Forest School and outdoor kin-

about risk, safety and the implications of

dergartens have spread dramatically over

minor injuries and upsets?

the last few years, as has a more creative

Do risk assessment forms and other procedures allow staff to record information about benefits?

approach to thinking about outdoor space. These improvements show that the demand for absolute safety can be resisted, and the tide can turn.

What support is there from key agencies beyond the setting for a more balanced

The time is right to build on this shift

approach? If not, what could be done to

and move beyond the blame culture. We

build that support?

need to reject the zero risk mindset, and

[Adapted from Nothing Ventured: Balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors]

recognise and promote the value of mistakes and setbacks in children’s learning. We need to support sound professional judgement that is less about checklists and

30

back-covering, and more about what will

REFERENCES Ball D, Gill T and Spiegal B (2008) Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide. London: Department for Culture, Media & Sport/ Play England/Big Lottery Fund; available online from http://publications.education. gov.uk. Gill T (2007) No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society. London: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; available online from www.gulbenkian.org.uk. Gill T (2010) Nothing Ventured: Balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors. English Outdoor Council; available online from www.englishoutdoorcouncil.org. Russell W and Lester S (2007) Play for a Change. London: Play England. Tovey H (2007) Playing Outdoors: Spaces and Places, Risk and Challenge. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


By Ron King

I

f your playground is all metal, plas-

optimization, ease of construction, cost-

If you’re seeking professional help, there

tic, and wood chips, how can your

effectiveness, maintenance, and so on.

are questions you should be asking the

children learn about nature or how

to care for it? Children just accept the messages we send

consultants before you choose one. Make All of these considerations are part of a

sure their answers are ones that make you

good design process, so let’s talk about

comfortable with their depth of apprecia-

good design and what it means:

tion for your particular site and needs,

them, so make sure your playground is giving them the right ones!

their understanding of the land, and their Good playground design reflects

grasp of the curriculum requirements that

purpose, planning, and intention

will satisfy you and your children. For a

If you’re reading this, you’re probably

behind the decision-making, functions

list of these questions, not in priority or-

wondering how to transition toward

efficiently, is aesthetic, understandable,

der, please see the pull-out section on the

a more natural play environment (and

and long lasting, is thorough down

next page.

there are several ways to make this hap-

to the last detail, is environmentally

pen), but please understand that because

friendly, and is minimal.

almost anything is going to be better than

These are some of the more important questions that should be asked.

what you now have, you should set up a

Good design is sustainable,

checklist that ensures you get what you

accessible, functional, well-made,

Your Natural Playground will around for

and your children deserve.

emotionally resonant, enduring,

many, many years, so you want to make

socially beneficial, beautiful, affordable,

sure that the person to whom you’ll be

We have often been asked to redesign

simple, timeless, solves the right

entrusting the future of your center and

“natural playgrounds” that didn’t work

problem, looks easy, and resembles

your children is the right one. 

for many reasons: Several features turned

nature.

out to be unsafe or didn’t meet licensing

Ron King is a Natural Playgrounds

standards; they were not appropriate for

Good design is all these things and

Architect and President of the

the age level; there were too few things

more, which means that developing

Natural Playgrounds Company

offering interest and challenge; landscap-

a good plan requires someone with

www.natural playgrounds.com

ing around the equipment was the only

sensitivity to and appreciation of the

landscaping in the area; the designer’s

natural world, a depth of landscaping

drawing didn’t fit the land.

and construction experience, specific expertise in Natural Playground design,

So even though the promise of something

and a process in place that generates

different sounds good, and the colored

a design meeting curriculum needs,

drawing looks good, it may be way off

challenges the children, addresses

the mark in terms of safety, licensing re-

water issues, blocks unsightly views,

quirements, risk assessment for insurance,

provides fire access, meets all safety

supervision, curriculum integration, age

and licensing standards, and so on.

appropriateness, learning challenges, site J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

31


QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN SELECTING A NATURAL PLAYGROUND DESIGN CONSULTANT

 What is the mission of your company?  What is the primary focus of your organization?  What is your formal design education?  Have you taken the National Playground Safety Institute course on playground safety?  Do you use a comprehensive design contract?  Do you have the capability to generate an accurate land survey so the final plan will

be accurate, and what survey equipment (such as a Sokkia Total Station) do you use?

 What do you accomplish during your site visit?  How do you make sure your clients are versed in Natural Playgrounds

so they can knowledgeably participate in the design process?

 How do teachers from each age group let you know what they want?  How do administrators let you know what they want and what concerns they have?  What process ensures that you meet our expectations?  Does your design follow principles of sustainability?  Do your designs meet ADA accessibility standards?  Do your designs meet all ASTM, CPSC, and Licensing safety standards?  Do you know how to apply the ASTM/CPSC safety guidelines to Natural Playgrounds?  How many Natural Playgrounds have you designed?

(view portfolio for range and depth of projects)

 How many Natural Playgrounds have you designed for children and adults with special needs?  Is the final product (the deliverable) a colored sketch/drawing or a photorealistic

print good for fundraising, and is everything accurate and in scale?

 Can you explain how your planning process manages water on the

site (from rain, snow melt, parking lot and roof drainage, etc.)

 Is the final product (the deliverable) accurate enough so a contractor

can use it to build the Natural Playground exactly as shown?

 Do you provide construction details for each built element shown in the plan?

(so someone else can build it to meet all licensing and safety standards)

 Do you provide a complete list of all materials needed to build your design?  Do you provide an accurate, line item detail of the total cost of your design so we can

choose elements to meet a budget?

 Do you have the capability to build the Natural Playground if we need you to?  Have you ever worked with city/town engineering departments about handling drainage?  How many natural playgrounds have you built? (view portfolio for range and depth of projects)  Do you have a shop that can make the natural play elements we can’t find or make?  Do you provide a maintenance guideline?


By Eva Nislev

I

f we accept the notion that children

aesthetic experience. An understanding

construct themselves, then individ-

of aesthetics provides us with knowledge

ual freedom must be paramount. By

of others, in addition to enriching our

providing children with experiences that

imaginations and experiences – it gives

allow awakening, expression and creative

us an identity (Aguirre, 2004).

development and the tools for symbolizing or communicating their knowledge,

When planning programs, teachers need

we are able to provide a means for teach-

to be mindful of many things. When

ing the fundamentals of art appreciation

planning with an awareness of aesthet-

For the classroom teacher the importance

and aesthetics.

ics and a wish to foster it we need to be

of sharing the different styles and tech-

even more vigilant. Curriculums are of-

niques from different cultures becomes

As classroom arts have shifted from ex-

ten seen as segregated disciplines, the arts

a valuable tool in developing aesthetic

ercises in representation to those of free

just another subject area. They need to

awareness in children. Looking at dif-

expression, children have become less ex-

reflect a given community’s values and

ferent ways primitive cultures have used

posed to the work or foundations neces-

culture rather than be a reconstruction

natural resources in creating their art-

sary for articulation e.g. the correct us-

of it. Children need to be exposed to

works e.g. aboriginal bark painting and

age of implements, practicing scales etc.

different genres, traditional and contem-

African rock painting could give children

The other downside affecting teachers has

porary as well as various forms of aesthetic

the opportunity to not only use natural

been the democratic necessity to avoid

response (Dorn, 1996).

products but also gain an insight into different societies.

any but favorable comparisons; objective criticism is skillfully avoided as we all live

Assisting the development of perception

in fear of ‘damaging’ the child (Foster,

is supported from birth in our Montes-

A collection of postcards representing

2001).

sori environments. As ‘Montessorians’ we

famous works of art and children’s art

prepare our environments to be places of

books (readily obtained from galleries and

Creativity is now seen as a goal and art is

growth, development, learning and beau-

museums) should be freely available to

seen as a means of achieving it. We eas-

ty, indeed Dr. Montessori entreats even

children in the classroom. Where actual

ily forget how creative the child is when

the teacher to be aesthetically pleasing in

visits to art galleries and museums are not

carrying out science and math experi-

dress and voice. Through development

possible online visits to museums and art

ments, dancing and playing instruments.

and refinement of the senses and the at-

galleries offer another dimension.

Foster (2001) maintains that as long as art

tachments and feelings we make through

is tied to self-expression, aesthetic values

these interactions our perceptions become

There is a plethora of art books readily

are denied. We know from the many phi-

the key to appreciating the beauty and

available for teachers to use in the class-

losophers that an ability to interpret, judge

nuances in our world.

room. There are also specific materials

and critically comprehend is a factor in the

that have been designed to aid the teacher

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

33


in presenting young children the foun-

gested that teachers should be responsible

a variety of capacities ranging from Montessori

dations of art appreciation and aesthet-

for providing access to the exposure to

centre director to workshop presenter, tutor and

ics. Aline D. Wolf designed a set of art

‘aesthetic value’ (Smith, 2005). Teachers

lecturer. She holds a Masters Degree in Edu-

postcards “Mommy it’s a Renoir.” The

can take from Beardsley the idea that we

cation with a concentration in early childhood

set provides a systematic and interesting

can teach children to observe closely and

education, a certificate in special education and is

approach to art appreciation starting with

consider what makes an object beautiful

Montessori certified for ages Infant through El-

matching identical paintings that have dif-

or worthy of our appreciation. We do

ementary 6-9 years. Eva has worked in a wide

ferent subjects, colors and style. The sec-

this by exposing them to different types

variety of environments and she currently serves

ond set compares companion paintings of

of artworks and then provoke dialogues

as Chair of the Montessori Australia Council

either the same subject matter or the same

about these works that begin with scruti-

(MAC), a non-profit, national organisation

artist. The third set groups four paintings

nizing and describing the visible qualities

which represents and promotes Montessori edu-

by one artist, which have either similar

e.g. the type of line, balance (Isenberg &

cation in Australia.

subjects or styles. As the series continues

Jalongo, 2001).

it offers children the opportunity to learn

REFERENCES.

the names of artists, paintings and schools

Our attitudes, values and beliefs as teach-

Aguirre, I. (2004). Beyond the Understanding

of art. This is always a popular activity

ers and how we define our roles will re-

of Visual Culture: A Pragmatist Approach to

and one that invites discussion, observa-

flect on our relationships with children

Aesthetic Education. International Journal

tion, language and judgment in addition

and our subsequent practice. Hertzog

of Art and Design, 23(3), 256-268.

to cognition.

(1948) reminds us that by assuming stu-

Danko-McGhee, K. (2006). Nurturing

dents are capable and unique and by ac-

aesthetic awareness in young children:

Being introduced to and using accurate

cepting our role is to facilitate interests,

developmentally appropriate art viewing

and appropriate words, encouraging in-

passions and talents we will better be able

experiences. Art Education, 59(3), 20-28.

telligent criticism, looking at art history,

to give the freedom necessary to develop

DiSibio, R. A. (2001). There’s more to

famous works of art, various mediums,

an aesthetic understanding.

Teaching than Teaching. Education, 101(3),

other cultures work and lifestyles aids the

210-213.

child in gaining experiences which allow

Through daily opportunities in the arts

Dorn, C. M. (1996). Culture/Self as subject,

him to start articulating specific concepts

which challenge and motivate, children

object, and Process. Education Policy

like beauty, space etc. The adult serves

learn to see more, hear more, touch more,

Review, 98(2), 1-9.

as a role model in using language that is

recall more and become more aware of

Foster, M. G. (2001). Art Education and

rich in descriptive values. When viewing

their ever-changing and growing envi-

the Functional Revolution: Toward a

artworks, “... adults play a vital role in

ronment. As these skills develop so does

Reassessment of Goals. Education, 96(2),

determining what children notice about

an increasing confidence in their ability to

142-148.

a particular work and how children feel

express themselves as their imaginations

Hertzog, N. B. (2001). Reflection and

about the very process of encountering

and inventiveness strengthen (DiSibio,

Impressions from Reggio Emilia: “It’s Not

works of art” (Dietrich & Hunnicut, as

2001). Once the teacher is prepared and

about Art!”. Early Childhood Research and

cited in Danko-McGhee, 2006, p.20).

the environment is prepared the young

Practice, 3(1), 1-11.

child has little choice but to revel in and

Isenberg, J. P. & Jalongo, M. R. (2001).

Beardsley, a contemporary American

absorb the foundations of art appreciation

Creative Expression and Play in Early

philosopher who put forward the view

and aesthetics, which he takes with him

Childhood. (3rd ed.). New Jersey, USA:

that a democratic society should reflect

and further develops and refines into old

Merrill Prentice, Hall.

aesthetic justice which, in turn, would

age. 

Smith, R. A. (2005) Aesthetic education:

make it necessary to provide through the

34

Questions and Issues. Arts Education

education system an easy access to art op-

During her lengthy teaching career, Eva has

portunities for all students to participate in

worked with many different age groups, from

their life culture. Beardsley further sug-

children as young as 2½ to adults in their 70s in

Policy Review, 106(3), 19-34.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


MONTESSORI THEMES:

REFLECTIONS on CULTURE or DINOSAURS

By Tracy Crawford

A

s an educator or teacher, you’ve probably heard about

ditional, teacher directed program but do not work well in a

the concept of organizing material around themes or

Montessori preschool include “apples, rainforests, snow, plan-

integrated thematic units. Everybody learns more

ets, letter of the week, nutrition, dinosaurs, and oceans.”

and retains a greater amount of information when information is connected to prior knowledge or related facts. Material and

If you want to teach “dinosaurs” in a manner consistent with

resources are available to supplement your classroom that is

Montessori education, you will need to create or buy materials

organized around themes. The Montessori method is already

that allow the child to work independently and maintain their

an integrated education system. The materials are presented

ability to be self-correcting. There is a strong need to verify

in a logical sequence of increasing complexity and building on

all materials for accuracy and quality. For example, many

each individual child’s accumulated knowledge.  Children are

adults grew up learning about a “Brontosaurus,” yet that di-

initially presented with an entire concept or the “big picture,”

nosaur technically doesn’t exist any longer as the terminology

such as the world map, and then begin to explore in detail. The

has been updated. Language materials for types of dinosaurs

materials are related to prior materials and allow for increas-

are easy, but how many preschool children are actually read-

ingly complex work and exploration of knowledge in depth. ing the names of dinosaurs? They might be working on their For example, the world map will lead a child to individual con-

visual matching skills. Dinosaurs don’t make any sense as a

tinent maps. Exploration of the sensorial materials will even-

material for practicing spooning! Many classrooms that have

tually lead a child to discover the relationships between size,

used dinosaurs as a supplemental math material, but there is

length, height and diameter. The use of the sandpaper letters

nothing that allows the child to learn from their own mistakes

is the foundation of the moveable alphabet and the formation

and often it is merely a toy. Frequently, the only learning that

of words. When the Montessori materials are already so well

occurs is what young children absorb from stories and their

integrated how do themes work in a Montessori classroom?

teacher during circle time. The “dinosaur” theme increases the teacher workload and the children are less likely to work

Directors, assistant teachers, parent volunteers and others that

with Montessori materials. This type of theme is essentially a

influence the school may have various ideas about Montes-

dual curriculum - Montessori and traditional preschool.

sori philosophy. These days there is often a greater academic pressure to ensure that children are learning, even at a very

The themes that work well in a Montessori classroom will in-

young age. Schools face competition in enrollment and ques-

clude the Montessori philosophy and materials. How about

tions about their practices. There is a focus on curriculum and

“Grace and Courtesy” or “Friendship” in the fall when the

lesson plans that comes from traditional education. It may be

routines may need gentle reminders? Many themes are truly

much easier to indicate, “We will be studying the rainforest

year round, but can be introduced or emphasized at a point in

next month” than planning individual lessons for children.

the year -”trying new foods, art, cooking, gardening, music.” Cultural themes are a natural extension of the Montessori en-

Theme based education is a component of a variety of educa-

vironment and can be used to help manage the cultural materi-

tion systems. It is often used in “traditional” preschools so that

als. The study of continents can extend to the people, animals,

a teacher directed program has a method of organization for

foods, music, holidays, etc. A child interested in water or sail

her classroom. In a play-based environment, it can provide an

boats might love to explore the Caribbean islands with their

academic structure. Some themes will support a Montessori

bright colors, banana, coconut, breadfruit and mango trees In

classroom, but many will create substantial additional work

doing so, they might learn more about volcanoes or the local

and undermine the fundamentals of a Montessori education.

music. Don’t forget to consider “Local Plants and Animals”

Some examples of traditional themes that work well in a tra-

as part of your local culture. The children love to learn what

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

35


WEEK 1 Classroom A, Monday There is a group discussion about dinosaurs. The directress wants to convey that dinosaurs were real, but that they lived a long time ago. Some children insist that there really are dinosaurs and mentions “Scrat” and “Sid” from the movie the Ice Age. The discussion turns to if movies are real, but it’s clear the children are not convinced that dinosaurs don’t exist now. Classroom B, Monday A presentation on the world map. At circle there is discussion of land and water, the names of the continents and where the children live. Later during the day, a child is working on the world map and notices all of the orange dots near the edge of North America The directress tells him that it is the islands of the Caribbean. She shows him the map of North America and sees if she can locate a book showing pictures of the Caribbean Islands. WEEK 2 Classroom A, Tuesday At circle, there is a presentation on five different dinosaurs using three part cards and nomenclature. One of these is a “Brontosaurus.” Monday there was a demonstration using plastic dinosaurs for an addition job. Later, during the work period several children were observed to be playing with and fighting with the dinosaurs The directress gives additional individual lessons on addition, and helps the children, but the work is often put away. The plastic dinosaurs used as counters don’t match the pictures from the three part cards. Classroom B, Tuesday Presentations of local foods, with pictures, that grow in the Caribbean. These include coconuts, breadfruit, mangos, cashews, and pineapples. Several children receive individual lessons in cutting pineapple rings for snack. Some children ask a friend if they would like to have a piece of pineapple with them for snack. WEEK 3 Classroom A, Wednesday One of the classroom teachers is working at the art table. She’s helping a group of children cut out a dinosaur, decorate it with craft materials and glue onto construction paper. Very few of the children have the skills to cut out the dinosaur pattern that was chosen. The project takes a great deal of time for each child and requires constant adult support to ensure even a limited level of success. Classroom B, Wednesday After looking at pictures of the Caribbean, one of the children says the mountains are very tall. Conversations about the formations of islands from volcanoes ensue. Some of the Caribbean islands are currently active volcanoes. A child’s painting reflects mountains, volcanoes and trees. Some Calypso music is playing in the background. WEEK 4 Classroom A, Friday One child is working in practical life. She is sorting the colored dinosaur beads Another child is in the math area making a line with the dinosaurs in the addition work. Two children are looking at a dinosaur book. Two other children are working with play dough. One of them is indicating verbally that he is making a tyrannosaur. There are plastic dinosaur beads in a tonging work. In the sensorial area there is a shadow and dinosaur shape matching activity. Classroom B, Thursday The class had decided to make a traditional Caribbean black bean soup and cornbread that would be available as a choice at lunchtime. Two children were sorting through a bowl of black beans and removing debris. One child was spooning black beans in practical life. A recording of steel drums was playing. Several pinprick maps of either the world maps or North America were on the wall. Some children were exploring books on fish and sharks. There is a child looking at pictures of people and places from the Caribbean.

36

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


they saw on a walk. The materials can then be made available

related pictures of people, places, and food or animals that

for children to return to whenever they are interested.

existed. Practical life skills were expanded with the cooking of a simple meal. Additional teacher preparation or storage is

Other themes can work well in a Montessori environment

minimized.

too. Take “Sink and float” to a new levels by exploration with foods. Do you know that a pineapple floats? What about some

Think about how you are using themes in your classroom or

experiments with shapes? What materials and shapes can you

school. Are they themes that reflect an approach to traditional

use to make a boat float? Take advantage of the passions and

education or one that blends with and complements Montes-

hobbies of your teachers. Quilters teach sewing skills at all

sori philosophy and education? Are you using themes rather

different levels all year long using individual lessons in practi-

than addressing a need to explore issues with parent communi-

cal life. These are natural themes that expand practical life

cation or individualized lesson planning? If you take advantage

or science. The natural cycle of the holidays offers additional

of the materials in the Montessori environment, you might

opportunity for celebration within the work period. As Susan

find a new appreciation for simply natural themes. 

Stephenson said, “The practical life connected with the holiday, such as cleaning and baking pumpkin seeds and baking

Tracy Crawford has been a trained Montessori teacher for eight years.

pumpkin pie can be introduced as a 1:1 lesson. Orange and

Her first career was that of a certified public accountant. She has been

black paper can be added to the art shelves at Halloween with-

actively involved in setting up the Montessori book club and is interested

out distracting from the main goal of the regular Montessori

in educational reform. She is working on plans for opening up a Mon-

activities.”

tessori preschool in the San Francisco Bay area where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

In our two example classrooms, the theme with dinosaurs was generated in advance and planned in advance. Additional materials and lesson plans had to be created. This involves additional preparation outside of the preparation of the Montessori classroom.  It involves storage of materials. It should involve accuracy of information. In creating materials, the materials should be self-correcting and meet a developmentally appropriate goal for the children. All of the “dinosaur” relevant material that is brought into the classroom may or may not be beneficial to the children in some way, but will almost certainly be a distraction from the Montessori materials. The second classroom illustrates how a cultural theme developed from the use of Montessori maps. It could easily come from books or other materials on the shelves. The only additional materials used were culturally J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | © MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

37


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop, The Lion and the Mouse Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war. — Dr. Maria Montessori

Leave a Legacy

Life is a challenge. Most of us need help at some point along the way. Maybe we received a college scholarship from an “angel” benefactor. Maybe a nurse held our hand in the emergency room when we were afraid. Maybe a kind word from a stranger gave us the strength to forgive an injustice. Maybe a teacher recognized our value when we couldn’t see it ourselves. It’s during the hard times that we are reminded that we must continue to demonstrate to children the value in positive acts of human kindness.

Montessori schools, teachers, and children since 1992. Through our leadership workshops, conferences, books, and journals (including Tomorrow’s Child, one copy of which is provided free of Montessori schools do this every day in charge to all Montessori schools in the their classrooms around the world. In US and Canada ), we help bring the benlarge cities and undeveloped countries, efits of Montessori education to schools for more than one hundred years, the big and small. Through our national work of Dr. Maria Montessori has inmodel school, we share everything that spired many thousands of children to we learn and develop with all Montessori live lives of purpose and integrity, know- schools, in order to enhance the proing that each one of them is a member of grams that they offer for their children. a global community and each one of them has the ability to change the world. Charitable 501(c)3 organizations, like The Montessori Foundation, need finanThe Montessori Foundation has helped cial assistance from people like you to continue our work. These gifts can be

The Montessori Foundation

Montessori THE

FOUNDATION

38

19600 E State Road 64 • Bradenton, FL 34212 941-729-9565/800-655-5843 • 941-745-3111 (fax) www.montessori.org

Dr. Maria Montessori 1870-1952 Italy’s First Female Medical Doctor Creater of the “Montessori Method” Educational Activist Child Advocate Nobel Peace Prize Nominee

donated as gifts of cash, negotiable securities, and charitable bequests. By making bequests and other “planned gifts,” you continue to make an important difference in the world. What better way to thank the people or organizations that have had an impact on your life, or the life of your child or grandchild, than to make a contribution from your estate through a bequest? Gifts large and small are important. It is a way to demonstrate your values and beliefs to your family. It reinforces what you have done during your life and sets an example of kindness to people you wish to help. By donating, you become an immortal philanthropist. If you would like to help The Montessori Foundation continue our work, please visit our website at www.montessori.org or call our office: 800-655-5843/941729-9565.

THE MONTESSORI FOUNDATION IS A 501(C)3 NON-PROFIT CHARITABLE INTERNATIONAL NGO ORGANIZATION. YOUR DONATION WILL BE TAX DEDUCTIBLE TO THE FULL EXTENT PROVIDED BY THE LAW IN YOUR NATION.

© MO N T E SSO R I L E A DE R SH I P | W W W. MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | JUNE 2011


2011 MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE ONLINE!

Distance learning is fast becoming the easiest way for busy administrators and administration personnel at your school to keep up with new information or gain valuable insights. This is an excellent way for first time administrators to learn from the bottom up.

HERE IS A LIST OF THE PROGRAMS WE RUN: Finding the Perfect Match: Recruit & Retain Your Ideal Enrollment

LOCATION Your office or home, on your computer!

Building a World-Class Montessori School.

INSTRUCTORS Tim Seldin and Sharon Caldwell of the Montessori Foundation

An Overview of Montessori Principles & Curriculum from Infant/Toddler through High School.

Special discount for IMC members and multiple attendees from the same IMC school.

and coming soon... Certification Program for Montessori School Leadership.

For complete information visit the Montessori Leadership wing on our website: www.montessori.org

While Term 1 is underway check our website www.montessori.org for when our next cohort starts.

J U N E 2 0 1 1 | WWW.MONTESSORI.ORG/IMC | Š MONTESSORI LEADERSHIP

39


The International Montessori Council 19600 E SR 64 • Bradenton, FL 34212

Why Wait?

Non-Profit Org U.S. Postage PAID St. Petersburg, FL PERMIT # 597

high quality... highly convenient

You don’t need to wait until next June to get a start on your future as a Montessori teacher. Start training at home with The Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS). Join us this February when our next classes begin for either Primary or Elementary certification. CGMS students learn in collaborative online cohorts, spending an average of 10-15 hours a week working under the guidance of experienced trainers. In your internship phase, you will receive continuous support while gaining practical experience. Come participate in an historic and unique program that allows you to meet other like-minded and enthusiastic students using the latest distance technology.

I had high expectations, and all were met. I loved the pace... It just felt like a normal part of my day. — Mike Horan, Graduate South Carolina

Our program allows you to study when you choose, where you choose. Learn and retain more without abandoning jobs, families, and friends! Please visit our website today for course information, samples and application materials.

www.guidedstudies.com

Graduates from CGMS teacher training programs receive a certificate from the International Montessori Council.

Montessori Leadership June, 2011  

This is the June, 2011 issue of Montessori Leadership, the j...