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Help! What parent ed topics should I address with my Elementary students?

Dear Ask a Montessorian,

I’ve been teaching Children’s House for quite some time and am excited to be entering my first year as an Elementary teacher next year. What parent education topics would you suggest for our Elementary families, especially when it comes to the home environment, screen time and academic expectations?

Sharita, Des Moines, Iowa

 

Dear Sharita, welcome to the Elementary community! With a background in the Children’s House, you will have wonderful contributions, knowledge and experience, especially with the first year students. Your question poses an important discussion that all schools and guides should consider. Creating a relationship based on an open communication between parents and the school serves to benefit our main goal in education: the spiritual, emotional and academic development of children.

Sending out a survey is one way to get an idea of what parents are concerned or have questions about. Parents of first years may not know what to ask besides logistical questions, but parents of second and third years will be able to express what they’d like more information on. This will also give you an idea of the interest level of the parents, and if you are to hold a parent evening focusing on a specific topic.

One topic I would suggest starting the year off is a “Montessori 101.” This would answer questions, such as: What is Montessori? Why is it important? What are the differences between Montessori education and a traditional setting? This is where you WOW your parents. The parents should feel your excitement, and no one will misunderstand why you’re there!

Many schools hold “Back to School” nights during the first month of school where classroom guides introduce themselves and review procedures and routines for the school and individual classrooms. Topics such as homework, projects, field trips, volunteering and expectations should be reviewed. You can go over the curriculum, or you can have a special experience such as “The Montessori Journey” or “The Silent Journey.” This is a wonderful whole school education event that exposes parents to the curriculum and the unique Montessori materials and lessons that demonstrate and support.  I’ve experienced a wonderful afternoon where the focus was one academic subject, in this case, math. In each classroom, they highlighted the journey of mathematical knowledge and skills for the three-year cycle.  At the end of the event, parents walked away with a sense of how a child would experience math from a toddler classroom all the way through high school (depending on how far your school goes through). It’s wonderful to bring to attention how some materials resurface at different levels, for example, the binomial cube at the primary, lower elementary and upper elementary classrooms. An alternative approach to The Montessori Journey may be to focus on main topics in each curriculum area instead of one topic.

Most likely your students’ parents did not attend a Montessori elementary school. Be conscious and empathetic that parents often struggle with building the bridge between a Montessori classroom and home environment. Often times, parents are unaware or just need reminders on how independent and capable their children are at school and how this can translate to home activities. A workshop giving specific suggestions is highly recommended. This may include incorporating a responsibilities routine and setting up a prepared environment in a child’s room, playroom or kitchen. For example, elementary children are capable of preparing their lunches, help with meal preparations and simple cleaning jobs, such as washing dishes, laundry, wiping tables and sweeping floors. You may want to discuss allowances and how to use  intrinsic motivation without rewards. Depending on your school policy regarding homework, you can give suggestions on incorporating real-world experiences without using textbooks and worksheets. Kids can cook, create reports and presentations on family vacations, go on walks with field guide books, do mindfulness activities or have your child plan out your next weekend with a focus on where to go, expenses (parking, entrance fees) and travel notes using a map (such as travel time, distance, fitting it into the schedule for the day).

Screen time can be a tricky topic since parents have their own opinions on how much, when and why. I would suggest backing up your suggestions with current research and your school’s policy and recommendations.  Companies have convinced parents there are “educational” apps or games. They market more screen time, or even convince parents their child will be “behind” the norm unless they purchase their app or product.  Give alternatives to how parents can encourage academic growth without increasing screen time. This may include family board game night, walking outside after dinner, practical life activities, or just reading books. Encourage reasonable screen time limits that are enforced. A brief reminder of the downfall and dangers of unsupervised screen time might be necessary.

In addition to those above, I would suggest additional parent education topics, such as:

  • Sensitive periods
  • Freedom within limits
  • Curriculum (Cosmic, Language, etc.)
  • Practical life in elementary
  • What does “Follow the child” mean?
  • Why Montessori works
  • Summer parenting the Montessori way

Thank you for you questions. Educating our parents is a crucial component in keeping a strong, positive school community.  I would suggest planning a parent education class once a month. I understand it can be exhausting for classroom guides to prepare and present parent workshops. An alternative would be to search your Montessori community for consultants, like myself, who can present these topics in person or online. There are also online courses for parents or guides. Good luck and have a wonderful school year!

 

Jacqueline Grundberg has spent 20 years in the field of education with 16 as a Montessori classroom teacher.  She is currently an Instructional Guide with The Center for Guided Montessori Studies and an independent consultant to families and schools.  Learn more about Jacqueline here.

CGMS Secondary and new standalone Elementary programs receive MACTE accreditation

On September 28th, the MACTE Board of Directors met to review several CGMS applications for accreditation and residency changes. We are pleased to announce that all applications were approved with no issues or exceptions. MACTE President, Rebecca Pelton, reported that the MACTE Board applauded our hard work, efforts and commitment to the process.

The programs approved for accreditation include the renewal of our Elementary I-II program and approval of our new standalone Elementary I (6-9) and our Elementary II (9-12) programs.

All of our new residency sites were also approved: Oakland, California (EC and EL), Lakeland, Florida (EC and EL), Beijing, China (EC), Amman, Jordan (EC), and Istanbul, Turkey (EC).

Several other new programs were approved at the June MACTE Board meeting; Plaquemine, Louisiana (EC and EL), Alexandria, Louisiana (EC), Wesley Chapel, Florida (IT), and our new Secondary I-II program with residential locations in New Albany, Indiana, and Washington, NC.

With this news, CGMS has completed our years-long goal of offering fully accredited training solutions for every level of the Montessori journey. We are now developing a School Administrator’s program and training in other languages.

We want to thank all CGMS Level Directors, faculty, and administrative staff who contributed to the preparation of MACTE accreditation documents and welcomed the MACTE onsite visit teams at the new residential sessions. We also thank the host schools for working with us to provide a positive environment for our budding Montessori guides. Most importantly, we thank our wonderful adult learners who shared with MACTE much positive feedback about their experience with CGMS and also provided some great suggestions for improvement. We do all of this for you and for the children and families you will serve throughout your career!

Regional Workshop Series Comes to Tulsa October 27

CGMS is proud to announce a regional workshop series that begins this fall.  Participation is open to current CGMS Adult Learners as well as Montessori teachers and community members not currently in training.  Please see below information on upcoming workshops in your area, and registration information.

 

Observation: The Keystone Skill for Montessori Educators

Saturday, October 27, 2018

9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Undercroft Montessori School

site of 2019 CGMS residential session for our MACTE accredited, Blended Teacher Certification Courses; the next online cohorts begin October 22, 2018.

3745 S. Hudson Avenue, Tulsa, OK  74135
with open house and reception Friday, October 26

Observation: The Keystone Skill for Montessori Educators

presented by

Tammy Oesting

$45 individuals, $35 for two or more from same school

Register today!

What is the number one strategy, or keystone skill, that you could improve to enhance your Montessori practice?  It’s the same tool Dr. Montessori used to develop her scientific pedagogy: observation. Join seasoned Montessori guide and teacher educator Tammy Oesting in harnessing your “scientist in the field” skill set to deepen your understanding of the child and bolster your classroom performance.

Renew your resolve to meet your students needs optimally by learning about the science behind why observation works.  Acquire new and strengthen known observation techniques that empower you to adapt your environment to improve student engagement and to better understand when to intervene with a student.  Find out how simple mindfulness training increases your ability to see the child and respond accordingly.

About the Presenter:  Tammy Oesting exemplifies lifelong learning.  As a Montessori teacher and trainer, her focus on answering “Why does this work?” has led her to adapt instructional strategies from current research into her Montessori practices.  This focus lead to the creation and global delivery of a training program for support staff in Montessori and a constant curiosity about how to optimize classroom performance with fidelity to Montessori pedagogy.

Although originally from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and Alaska), her deep curiosity about just about everything has inspired her inner explorations and lifestyle as a nomadic world traveler.  American Montessori Society 3-6 and E1-2 certified, she loved her 17 years in the classroom; however, it was her years working with adults that lead her to serve the global Montessori community with professional development opportunities by founding ClassrooMechanics.  Her passions include issues of social justice, educating support staff, art education, neuroscience as applied to educational practices, and exploring the magnificence of the world.

Space is limited!

Please click to access  workshop registration.

and join us for

a CGMS Meet & Greet, light reception and tour of Undercroft Montessori

with

CGMS Director of Early Childhood Lori Karmazin

Friday, October 26

7:00 to 8:30 pm

Please pre-register at Workshops@GuidedStudies.com

Stay tuned:

Next online cohorts for MACTE accredited, Blended Teacher Certification courses begin October 22, 2018

Next online Professional Development courses begin October 15 & 29, 2018.   

More regional workshops coming soon.

Help! How can I encourage parents of toddlers with the morning transition?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, I teach in an Infant/Toddler classroom and I am struggling with how to help parents and their children with the morning transition.  Some parents want to come in and spend time with their children, others want to bolt out the door, while others want to talk to the teachers about the morning routine that day.  What would you suggest as a better transition routine, and how we might communicate that with the parents?

Lamar D, Columbus, Ohio

Lamar, it is so important to contemplate how children and families arrive each school day, so all involved can know what to expect, and get their needs met in that moment. There are several concepts you can think through to get things running efficiently in the morning.

In Italy, this first encounter at school in the morning is referred to as “l’inserimento-”   “the entering into,” or “the welcoming.” Remember that at the Infant/Toddler level, the most important thing is to build high-quality relationships with children and families, so how we welcome them into the community and make them feel a part of it matters. Constructing positive relationships with families creates trust that the child can see and rely on every day while they are in school.

So, how do we accomplish this? Three things – Routine, Communication, and Flexibility – are key to comfortable families and well-functioning classrooms. Our primary goals are to give adults the information they need and want, and for children to be ready and excited to step away from their parent and into the classroom. Take time to consider what else parents need in the morning- do they need to leave quickly? Would it benefit the children if they did? Do they have something pertinent to tell you? What do you need in the morning as the teacher? Of course, children have basic developmental needs that must be at the forefront of our planning.

Consider the ages of your students. For infants, they need a gentle entrance, and it is probably best for their grown-up to come into the classroom and be able to speak to the teacher. For toddlers who are much more ready to move from oneness with a parent to separateness as an individual, it may be best for parents to remain outside the classroom or right at the entrance, and keep adult conversations and goodbyes brief. There should always be a clear goodbye!       

Keeping all this in mind, come up with a standard routine for all families to practice in the morning. One example is for a family of a toddler to arrive, enter the building together, and the child to place their things in their cubby. A teacher can be standing at the entrance of the classroom so parent and child can say hellos. The child then gets a kiss or a high-five from their parent and enters the classroom on their own. Any vital information the parent needs to share can be in a written note handed to the teacher during arrival.

Something that is successful in many schools is for each child to have a morning ritual they complete with their parent. (This ritual would have something to do with the arrival procedures, not be a classroom activity/lesson.) A parent could do the first diaper change before heading off to work, or they could sit together with their child and assist with putting on indoor slippers. A few minutes to connect with their parent without rushing can work wonders for a child being ready to start their day at school. You can set up a beautiful classroom entryway with enough space for this sort of thing to happen.

Whatever routine you decide, communicate the plan to all families.  Just like young children, most adults like to have solid routines- they make things feel efficient and safe. If you are establishing a new method for the classroom arrival, write a clear letter to all the families in your community spelling out the steps of the morning routine, and explaining the benefits of it. Also, put a clear description of the routine in the parent handbook or school policy document.

Some extra points about communication- if you are going to make it part of your routine that teachers are not generally available for conversation during drop off, give your families another way to access information. Having a whiteboard or chalkboard outside the classroom door, for example, is an excellent way to let families know what is on the agenda for the day.  If anything unique or exciting happens during the day, this information can be written on the whiteboard for parents to see when they pick up their child. Having a regular way to be in touch with the families in your class is essential. Send a class email regularly, and make sure parents know how to contact you (text, email, phone messages), and always have a timely response. If parents trust you will be communicative and responsive, they will have less need overall to speak with teachers during morning arrival.

Being flexible about families’ needs is part of being a welcoming, nurturing environment. All families won’t need the same things, and their needs can change from day to day. Once a routine is established, and families make the general morning plan a habit, it is far less disruptive when a day comes where a family has to deviate a bit from it, to accommodate an extraordinary circumstance. This could be anything from one parent being ill, to a child not getting sleep the night before, or any number of things that happen in our complex lives. Remember to give compassion to your students and their families, while keeping the well-being of the group in mind. Think through what is needed regarding routine, communication, and flexibility, and come up with an organized written plan of action to make mornings run more smoothly for everyone.

Laura LeClair

Laura is an instructor, educational consultant, and postpartum doula. She spent over two decades in Montessori classrooms, guiding children from Birth through Kindergarten. She has a passion for tending to classrooms and the adults who bring them to life, with a special interest in creating successful, inclusive environments for children of all abilities.

Laura has a B.A. in English from Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. She holds American Montessori Society credentials in Infant and Toddler (CME|NY) and Early Childhood (MTTP). She received her M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies of Preschool Education & Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also studies the science of compassion and contemplative practice. Laura sees this work as key in the spiritual preparation of the adult, as educators and families develop their capacity for personal transformation and well-being.

Laura is a presenter and field consultant for the CME|NY Infant and Toddler Course and an Instructional Guide at The Center for Guided Montessori Studies.  Learn more about Laura LeClair.  

 

 

 

Help! Sometimes I prefer not to discuss holidays in the classroom because I don’t want to exclude any students. What do you suggest?

Dear Ask a Montessorian, many parents that I have had over the years have varying expectations on holiday celebrations at school.  Sometimes I would prefer to not discuss any at school because I don’t want to exclude anyone in particular. What would you advise?

–Don’t Want to Exclude, Newark, New Jersey

Dear Don’t Want to Exclude,

Good for you for questioning your approach to holidays and your drive to include all your community members.  Your question is one that many Montessori guides and communities are faced with, so you’re in good company!

Holiday traditions are an expression of our self and group identities and as such, convey what we value.  Our students come to us with a family culture and holidays that may or not may not be recognized by the dominant culture and yet learning about other cultures and cultivating a shared understanding of what is important to other people is part of the recipe that creates a community.  In fact, Dr. Montessori said in her book The Mass Explained to Children, “Real religion is not just certain information that can be taught to a certain class at a certain time, it is something mysterious and inexpressible, it can only be communicated directly in moments of inspiration, but it is expressed in an indirect way through traditional ceremonies.”

To honor that which is important to another human cultivates empathy, nurtures an accepting global awareness, and builds a critical consciousness necessary in a fair and just world. Sounds in alignment with Montessori, eh?

The first step to build an equitable holiday approach that values inclusion is to go to the families of your students.  I’d suggest a combination of asking specific questions through a Family Traditions survey, understanding the demographics of your community, and doing your own homework about specific holidays.

Creating an equitable plan includes calendaring and learning about the holidays being celebrated in your student’s homes, and including the study of holidays from cultures beyond your community.  Figuring out an equitable approach means committing to fair representation of holidays and as such, leads to another principle that promotes best practices: educate rather than celebrate.

This principle will allow all members of your community to learn about what each other values without disrupting the continuity of class-time. This principle opens the door for you to guide your students in learning about how people express their beliefs, milestones in life, and the diverse ways they celebrate what is important to them.  It doesn’t mean you should eradicate all moments you express joy or celebrate your community, it means you are valuing all celebrations by learning more about them, and you are thoughtful about what you actually celebrate as a community.

One simple way to organize learning about holidays is to group your learning by type.  Most holidays around the world have commonalities such as the harvest festivals of Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada, Vendimia in Argentina, Sukkot in Israel and around the world, Olivagando in Italy, Chanthaburi Festival in Thailand, and Lammas Festival recognized by Britons.  Other common themes you can utilize to plan your recognition of holidays include Festivals of Light, Spring Renewal, New Years, and milestone celebrations such as birth, naming traditions, losing teeth traditions, coming of age, marriage, and death. Learning about these family and world traditions can be as simple as a family member telling a story and sharing a meaningful object from a celebration, to your entire community coming together to share foods celebrating the season.

Finally, your question denotes a need to communicate your mission as it relates to holidays and I’d encourage you to create a simple statement that clarifies your approach to holidays and includes a statement of inclusivity.  An example might look like this, “Peaceful Child Montessori recognizes the holidays celebrated by our community members and beyond, no less than a day and no more than a week.” The point is to be clear about your approach and infuse your language to families with what you value.

-Tammy Oesting has spent the last 25 years delivering professional development workshops, consulting schools, and educating new Montessori teachers.  Her passions include issues of social justice, training support staff, art education, neuroscience as applied to educational practices, and exploring the magnificence of the world.  She is location independent and serves Montessori globally through her company ClassrooMechanics which offers an online workshop, “Building an Equitable Holiday Approach”. AMS certified 3-6, 6-12.  Find out more about Tammy.