Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Empathy in Action

Today there is much talk of the “me “age and of the “selfie” generation, and I thought I would share this observation of empathy in action to demonstrate how we can alter outcomes and put others first.    A while back while I was visiting one of our toddler classes, I saw one of our students get bumped on his head.  I could tell that it hurt.  He immediately started to cry, the cry that tells of real pain.  One of his peers was the first to reach him and he asked what happened.  Through his tears the little boy held his head and pointed to the object of his hurt.  His young friend clearly understood and proceeded to rub his friend’s head.  He continued to rub and in the most caring tone told his friend he would feel better soon and it would be all right.   He stayed by his friend’s side until the little boy eventually stopped crying; adult intervention although offered was not needed, he did not even want ice.  His friend’s kindness toward him healed his hurt. I saw it all unfold and it restored my confidence in the fact that we can help our youngest students care.

What a moment to behold, empathy in action in such a young child.  No prods, no direction, no words needed by any adult.  This is a child who understands hurt and feelings and was able to respond naturally to his friend. The definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Children who can empathize are in touch with their own feelings and are able to connect theirs with what another is experiencing.

One can ask, is a child born with an innate ability to empathize or is it learned.  Research says it can be either.  Have you ever seen a baby or young child offer up his blanket, bottle, toy, or something treasured to someone who is feeling sad, or upset?  It happens, and is empathy in the making. We do know that not every child or adult can empathize. The great news is that we also know that empathy can be taught and the earlier the better. 

So in a nutshell how can we teach empathy?  It is easy to do the following:
Ø  Role model, a child does what a child sees
Ø  Validate a child’s feelings
Ø  Discuss feelings with children and give them “feeling” words to express them.
Ø  Praise kind and empathic behavior and responses

Submitted by Colette B. Cross

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I loved reading this recently published article by June George, A Montessori advocate, teacher and owner, and the overuse of “good job!” when praising children.  ACV

Montessori advocate, teacher and owner.
What's More Powerful than "Good Job?"
Pretend you’re sitting in the corner of a classroom of 30 children, ages 3-6. Everyone is working contentedly at their own tables. There is a buzz in the air, but not one of chaos.
Instead, it’s the quiet energy of independent children, picking their own tasks and following their interests. You’re so entranced, you might be inspired to pronounce “Good job!” to every child who passes by!
But that’s one phrase you’ll never hear in this classroom.
Why? What’s so bad about saying “Good Job?”
The reason adults in the Montessori classroom don’t say “Good Job” is because it casts judgement upon a child’s work. But those children aren’t going about their day in search of an adult’s praise. They are choosing activities ranging from washing dishes to multiplication work because it interests them. They want to do it!
When we place a label like “good” or “bad” upon a task that a child is doing in order to satisfy their own developmental needs, we take the ownership away from them. All of a sudden their work is about us and what WE think.
Here’s Ms. Wood:
“When a new milestone is reached, the first reaction is often, ‘Good Job! That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you.’ These are really positive things to say, but what do they do to your child’s development?”
How can we respond to a child’s work in a way that acknowledges them, but doesn’t get in the way of their ownership over a task? What’s more powerful than “Good Job?”
How about, “You did it.”
This simple phrase says so much. When spoken warmly and with a smile, a simple “You did it” allows the child to reflect upon their own accomplishments: “I did do it, didn’t I!”
And that sense of accomplishment and pride allows the child to move on to bigger things with a confidence in themselves that no “good job” could ever impart.

March 13, 2017 Primary

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Commitment to Professional Development

The Westmont Montessori School has a strong commitment to education, not just for the children who attend, but also for the adults who care for them. We host monthly parent events in our Parent Education Series and our teachers and administrators take part in Professional Development throughout the year.

Last year alone, our staff members took a total of 528 hours of Professional Development! Every year our teachers attend the New Jersey Montessori conference and several teachers are selected to also attend the national American Montessori Society conference. Although our classroom teaching staff of 11 have a combined 16 degrees (including six Master's Degrees), continuing to learn about new research, share ideas for the classroom, and hear about the great things happening in schools all over the world, ensures that we have the tools to provide the best for the children we serve.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ten Resolutions for Becoming a More Grateful Parent

It is also never too late to make, revisit or renew resolutions when it comes to parenting. I read this article in Independent School magazine and thought I would paraphrase and share some of it with you.
It was written by Madeline Levine a practicing psychologist, author, and co-founder of Challenge Success a project of the Stanford graduate School of Education.  I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Levine at a Common Ground Speaks presentation some years back.
Dr. Levine offers Ten Resolutions for Becoming a More Grateful Parent.  I was struck by the similarities in her words and what is near and dear to our own philosophy of developing self-reliant young people:-
1.       I will not do for my child what he can do for himself.
·         This inhibits motivation and the ability to innovate
2.       I will not do for my child what she can almost do for herself.
·         At one time your child could almost walk, now she can walk.
3.       I will love the child in front of me
·         Appreciate and be thankful for your child’s unique gifts.
4.       I will not push my child to be perfect
·         Life is full of mistakes, imperfect days, and human failings. Children need to be able to feel happiness and gratitude in the face of imperfection. This builds resilience.
5.       I will make sure my child gets a full night’s sleep
·         Children need between 9 and 11 hours a night, sleep deprivations impairs concentration and compromises the ability to learn
6.       I will not confuse my needs with my child’s needs.
·         Over parenting is not healthy for parent or child
7.       I will remember that I am a parent, not a CEO.
·         Don’t’ catastrophize about grades/results, you will reap the benefits
8.       I will value my own (adult) life
·         Being a happy fulfilled parent is one of the best gifts you can give your child
9.       I will honor the importance of Playtime, Downtime, and Family Time
·         Don’t overschedule, children need down time, or “hang time” as we like to say.
1.   I will remember the success trajectory is a squiggle ≈ not a straight line
·         We know our own paths took twists and turns, life does not always go as planned.

Submitted by Colette B. Cross

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Selecting a Preschool

A big part of the news cycle these days is the importance of preschool and the “strong correlation between high quality child care and higher levels of academic and cognitive achievement.”   This places great importance on selecting a preschool for your child.  Without a doubt, a warm, safe and nurturing environment that inspires learning while supporting social and emotional development is key.   As you research, plan and visit the preschools, be sure to consider these additional factors:

Educational Philosophy:   Many of the preschools follow a prescribed learning philosophy and it is important to choose one that best suits your family values.   Ask questions about the philosophy, why did the school choose this philosophy, and how is it applied in the classroom?  What are the benefits to the philosophy verses another philosophy?  Is the school licensed? Accredited?  

Teachers:  The fond school memories we hold as adults are often a direct correlation of the teacher and classroom experience. Be sure to gather information on the faculty and staff, meet with prospective teachers, ask about their educational background, observe a class and see the interaction between the teacher and children. 

School - Family Partnership:  “It takes a village to raise a child,” says an old adage. Entering into a partnership with a school, where the child’s success is first and foremost, is a vital ingredient in selecting a preschool.  The mutual and trusting relationship that forms in these formative years will provide families with a strong support system for years to come.  Do clarify how the school and family will communicate with respect to a child’s progress and development, how often will this communication occur, what will be communicated and who will be communicating. 

Safety First:  Ask how the children are kept safe and properly supervised.  Are there emergency drills; is there a security system, if the faculty and staff trained on first aid, what is the allergy protocol, what is the sick policy, etc.?  Most, if not all schools, will have all these systems in place to keep children safe.

Location, Cost and Family logistics:  Be sure to consider where the school is located, the cost and the effect on your family day to day logistics.

It is a wonderful time in your life and in your child’s life; enjoy the journey as you plan and research the preschool of your choice.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Spatial Reasoning as Preparation for Math and Reading

By: Melanie Thiesse

What do stacking blocks and doing puzzles have to do with algebra and reading? There is a growing amount of research linking early exposure and understanding of spatial reasoning with future success in those subjects. Children who can manipulate objects, match patterns and sort objects develop the spatial and reasoning skills necessary to later tackle more academic tasks.

This concept was one that Dr. Maria Montessori saw to be true decades ago. She noticed that not only were preschool aged children interested in exploring shapes and discriminating objects by their size, color, similarities, and differences but that the earlier they were exposed to these hands-on activities, the easier it became for them to extrapolate the rules of mathematics and language.

She also designed many materials as geometric representations of mathematical concepts, providing visual and tactile reinforcements of some of the most abstract concepts. (Math Works, Michael Duffy)

Some of the activities developed by Maria Montessori to improve spatial reasoning in children include:

 The Pink Tower and Brown Stair
The Pink Tower and Brown Stair are each sets of 10 blocks that change in size and weight incrementally. As children stack or sort them they must use their discrimination skills to correctly order them.

The Knobless Cylinders
These cylinders (each in sets of 10 again) change in height, width, or a combination of height and width, requiring a detailed eye to arrange or match them.

Binomial Cube
The Binomial Cube is a puzzle that requires attention to detail of height, width, length, and color to put together. The cube itself also represents the algebraic representation of (a+b)3 =  a3+3a2b+3ab2+b3, a concept not introduced until the elementary years.

Geometric Solids
The Geometric Solids provide an opportunity for children to explore different three-dimensional objects to discover the differences and similarities between such shapes as a triangle-based prism and a rectangular-based prism.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bringing Montessori Home

Colette B. Cross

Parents often ask how they can support Montessori principles at home.  One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Montessori is “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed." 

Keeping this in mind, here are some tips from The American Montessori Society for developing independent, capable, responsible, young people in collaboration with your child’s Montessori school experience.

Create an Ordered Environment

Having a place for everything, on a child friendly scale, encourages both independence and self-discipline.  Children know where to find what they need and where to put it when they’re done.  An ordered environment also has fewer distractions, allowing children to focus on the task at hand.
To make things accessible to your young child:
·         Provide shelves or drawers for clothing; lower the rod in the bedroom closet.
·         Keep a step stool in the bathroom and kitchen so your child can reach the sink
·         Arrange toys and games n low open shelves with a particular place for each.  Sort smaller items into trays or baskets by category, such as puzzles, art supplies, and blocks
·         Put healthy snacks and foods on a low pantry shelf so your child can help himself.
·         Pour drinks into small, manageable pitchers placed on a low refrigerator shelf. Keep cups within your child’s reach – along with a sponge to clean up spills.

Teach Real Life Skills

Montessori students are taught to take care of themselves and their classroom and to be helpful to others.
Having your child help at home can bring similar rewards.
 Take time to teach each skill separately and to repeat the lesson as needed.
·         Each task your child masters adds to his confidence and self-esteem. 
·         Young children, for example, can peel vegetables, fold their socks, and care for pets.

Promote Concentration

The ability to focus and concentrate is an important skill for learning. You can help develop your child’s concentration by observing what sparks her interest.  Set her up with the means and materials to explore it. And let her work without interruption.

While your child’s work environment should be free of distraction, it doesn’t have to be away from family activity. Some children prefer working at the kitchen table or reading in a cozy corner of the living room to holing up in a bedroom or study.  Observe your child’s response to various environments, ask questions, and make adjustment as needed.

To read the entire article click on the link