Metamorphosis Elementary School Of Monticello Inc

Thursday, March 21, 2013


They hatched the chickens from eggs. Dutifully, they feed and water the birds each day, offering the occasional treat from a lunchbox. Each chicken has a name, and is well-loved. I believe that these children will always remember this part of their lives, where they loved and tended, and were responsible for other living things. And talk about the icing on the cake! The chickens produce eggs for us that we use in our practical life work. 

When I owned a cafe, I taught high school students how to fry eggs. They had never done it, and they were so nervous about this simple task! Yet at a young age, the children in my class build themselves each day with common household tasks such as cooking an egg, or ironing a table cloth. This is where self-worth begins. They are developing so much more than the skill it takes to fry an egg in this integrated curriculum of ours. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Forward

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” Dr. Maria Montessori

Spring forward has always bothered me. I've thought it was my problem adjusting to the time change, but I remembered a childhood incident this morning that makes me think twice. The memory swept over me as I sat on the side of my bed, grumbling that half my day was wasted.  How funny that I forget so many things each day: "Where are my keys, my phone, my checkbook?" But I remembered this agonizing experience that I had, in a church of all places, at around age nine. I've had a poor short-term memory since I suffered a cardiac arrest at age eight while I was in recovery after a surgery. I can remember things like latin names of plants and animals for decades. (Dame's Rocket 'Hesperis matronalis') But I am infamous for missing appointments, forgetting what I'm doing, etc. It's bad enough that it makes my life pretty challenging each day. But I am getting off track. The story is about how terrible a child feels when people laugh at them.

My parents really wanted me to attend church each week, and I often resisted. That said, at the same time, I envied the children who never missed. I longed for their rituals and routines. I also coveted their perfect attendance badges. But I was always shy and felt out of place in classroom settings, so my attendance was sporadic. One beautiful spring morning, however, my mom made me go. I dressed up from head to toe, and my dad dropped me off outside the church and drove away. I still remember my hands sweating as I crossed the brown and tan linoleum tiles, and put my hand on the doorknob of my Sunday School classroom. I opened the door. Everyone - the children and teachers stopped cold and turned to look at me in my frilly outfit and white patent leather shoes. Then they erupted into laughter. One teacher looked at me, rolled her eyes, and announced, "It's spring forward! You missed class. We're done." All of the children continued to roar and slap their knees at my expense. I turned and ran all the way home in the outfit that I now thought looked ridiculous. I couldn't wait to get out of it.

Just the thought of this small scenario made me feel so sad this morning. I know that I felt foolish, embarrassed, and ashamed of my parents for not setting their clocks back. And I'm sure that those teachers never had any idea of how rotten they made me feel. Actually, throughout grade school and high school, a friend or two would occasionally bring this up and laugh hard, so it stuck with me. I'd not thought of this for many years, and I found it so interesting that as I remembered this morning, the emotions from that time that were sitting around in my brain somewhere for 51 years, washed right over me again. Was I overly sensitive? I do not think so. Today I have been thinking about how a Montessori professional would have handled the situation. I have also been thinking that I will never, ever laugh AT a child - only WITH a child. And I'm glad to say that I do that every day.

I know that Dr. Maria would agree with me.

I thought about this so much today that I decided to see if anyone was talking about this subject. And they were!

The following is from the blog CONNECTED NURTURE A celebration of growth.

Children are not entertainment
Often we laugh at children when we are in an adult social setting. We relate with other adults by watching their reactions, or just want other adults to enjoy how much being with kids makes us laugh. Is this at the expense of the children?
I frequently notice how when adults laugh after a child does something “funny”, they look at other adults to see their reaction. This is very interesting. Is there some type of social evaluation going on?
Using children as a way to make our guests or family members laugh is belittling to our kids existence. It is disrespectful. Would we put grandma on display to make our friends laugh? or a person with Tourettes? How much do our kids have control over their “funniness?”
Don’t even get me started on all the things we do things to our kids to make ourselves laugh…  

Laughing is fun when everyone is in on the joke
When we are laughing and joking about what kids do, do they understand why we are laughing?
If they are staring at us questioningly, and our reaction doesn’t seem to make sense to them, we are creating a disconnect in our relationship with them. This may be great bonding time for adults, but how does this help us bond with our children?
How to respond when something “silly” is said
I love it when kids give me the opportunity to practice a mindful response. I call it mindful, because I try to be intentional (not impulsive) in how I wish to respond.
  • Stick to the facts of the observation without the need to correct. — “Does that remind you of papa’s head because he lost all of his hair?”
  • It’s ok to provide more information, so everyone’s on the same page — “I wonder if it might hurt papa’s feelings to hear that, because he was sad when he lost his hair, and he might not want to be reminded about it”.
(FYI: I’m using this example because I used to say that when I was little. At the grocery store. To my dad! Now that we’re adults, he brings it up regularly and cracks up about it, “remember when you used to point at the melon and make fun of your poor old papa?” Of course, my original observation was innocent of mockery.)
  • Repeat what your child is noticing, and ask them more about it– “That’s true. The fan does blow air on us, what else did you notice about the fan?”
  • If you really did laugh (sometimes it just comes out), explain what you found so funny about it and stay mindful about your child’s feelings. — “I laughed when you said that, because the way you described how the fan works sounded so different to me.”
Find ways to share joy instead
Now let’s talk about laughing with our kids! How different does this feel?
Our kids are laughing with us, and they understand what’s funny. Usually, it is something outside of ourselves, like a funny story, or a funny picture. Sometimes it is sharing joy about something funny that we, the adults, did (self directed humor relays the message that making mistakes is ok)… “d’oh! I dropped my toast again! I have butterfingers today!”
Sharing joy means staying connected with our children, and sharing the same perspective of an experience. Aka: We are in the same boat!
This always feels good to both parties. Now just remember to not share joy at the expense of someone else who isn’t in on it. ;-)
A quick word about babies
In my opinion, I notice that babies get laughed at the most. They drool and babble and are learning coordination.. which is so uninhibited and free in physical actions! Yes, lots of funny material there. But babies are also people. Yes, whole people. They are in tune with our messages and are sensitive to them. Maybe we feel that a little laughter at their expense doesn’t hurt. Is this true? I haven’t found any direct studies yet, so I couldn’t say “officially”. I just know it feels “off” in my heart.
If we are planning on treating our whole growing humans with respect, why not start right away? If it’s disrespectful to laugh at what kids do, or adults do, or elders do– at their expense, why should it be ok to laugh at babies?
Respond to babies in the same respectful way. When they spit, say “I notice you spit. I wonder if you’re done eating that food?”. When they burble, say “I hear you saying something. You are looking at the cup, are you saying “cup?” and point to the cup.
When grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and strangers are laughing at baby and you have learned to take your baby seriously (because you respect your baby so much), you can narrate to the baby, “Everyone is excited to have you here and watch you grow.” Validate the babies perspective, and stay an active part of it. Emphasize with the experience and make sure everyone is on the same page.
When grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and strangers are laughing at 
Please take children seriously. Even if they seem funny to you. To them, they may be sharing something thoughtful and genuine. Let them know you love them by treating them with respect and dignity. This will help them become confident and secure adults. And maybe when you’re saying something silly in your later years, they will show you the same respect.