Speaking in Ireland, attending the Annual General Meeting in Amsterdam, sharing the Value of Concentration, and then Montessori in France
Arriving in Dublin I was taken immediately to the tower, now the James Joyce Museum, where the beginning of the book “Ulysses” takes place. That experience has inspired me to give the book just one more chance and I am now on page 20 and enjoying it. Also in Dublin I saw the Book of Kells which has been on my “to do” list for many years, the National Museum, the Chester Beatty Library Collection, and had two shows of my own art.
Jamming with a Young Friend
One evening after a delicious dinner with the family of an old friend we were entertained with guitar music of her son. He had been studying classical piano and had become interested in guitar. In my Montessori classes I have always taught piano and guitar to any interested student and I was delighted when, after showing him the 12-bar-blues pattern, we figured out how to play a duet. Then we gave a little concert for the family. It reminded me of how wonderful it feels as a Montessori teacher to be always observing children, watching carefully for that little spark of interest or curiosity, and they stepping in only to provide what it is necessary to feed the flame of that interest – and then get out of the way, creating space for the child to concentrate on progress.
The Importance of Concentration
Here is an article that applies
CLICK: Concentration, “Where the Magic Happens”
The AGM in Amsterdam
Adding to with what I wrote above, I would like to share a slide from two presentations from this international gathering, the Annual General Meeting of the Association Montessori Internationale. In it you see students from two Montessori middle schools, in Sweden and the USA, who were there to answer questions from the audience about the Montessori middle schools they attend.
They spoke of the freedom and responsibility we have heard so much of in Montessori’s writings. They spoke of their love of work and how their education truly is child-centered rather than curriculum-centered. And how their own curiosity is respected. It reminded me so much of the situations I find when I consult with school where, at all levels from age 2-high school, the most valuable parts of Montessori are eliminated in favor of schedules and assignments and with plenty of time to think and concentrate!
My own Montessori students at the 6-12 level had lists of work they hoped to accomplish during 1 or two-week time period (which I helped them decide upon every 1 or 2 weeks), but other than the 5 Great Lessons given at the beginning of the year, there were very rarely times when I told them when and what to do, and certainly there were no required, regularly scheduled group or collective lessons. I constantly reminded myself, “The teacher is in charge of the minimum, the child the maximum.”
Teachers are doing their best but there so much social pressure to focus on academics that in even the best schools I find situations where daily, sometimes hourly, assignments completely eliminate the possibility of large, long, involved, child-initiated projects.
Rob Gueterbock who was speaking as the students answered questions shared the slide above during the presentation. He told us how important these quotes, recently reread, are in reminding him of the real work. Another of the speakers, John “Mac” McNamara, gave many examples of how, in many years of teaching, the exploration and concentration came before the required curriculum. One example he sighted was three students who found a large fish tank and wanted to set up in the school. They managed all the research and work to do this because it is all they did for 3 days.
Here is a quote by Dr. Montessori to help make this point.
A presentation is given, not to a group of children, but individually, to help the child to grow mentally. We prepare this special environment to help his growth, to offer him freedom so that he can proceed with his work in a normal way. The collective lessons are given only to the child who has not yet been normalized. After normalization, each child grows individually, in his own way. If we give a lesson we do not command all the children to stop what they are doing in order to listen. Many children may have absolutely no interest in the lesson and we may bore them.
–Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child
page 40 – Kalakshetra 1998, page 207)
Montessori Work in Amsterdam and Dublin
In Dublin I gave a public lecture, “Montessori, Education for the Future” at University College Dublin, and a full day workshop on Montessori from Birth to Three. This talk was based on the book The Universal Child, Guided by Nature. Book: The Universal Child
In between these two events I flew to Amsterdam to host the president of the new AMI Montessori teachers organization in Peru, and to witness the signing of the affiliate agreement with AMI. This has been in progress since the AGM in April 2016. It was a wonderful thing to see.
In Marseille, I visited Sandrine Mallet, the founder of the Montessori project, “KidsRFuture.” Sandrine and I met in 2015 at the 2-week Educateurs sans Frontières (EsF) meeting in Thailand where we gave a joint presentation on our work with children around the world.
Sandrine arranged for us to visit a school in Marseille and to give a talk on Montessori Birth to Three to the school staff and other parents and teachers. And of course we spent a lot of time observing and learning from her baby son Pierre, and exploring the city.
I hope you have enjoyed this news, the music, and the pictures.