October 1, 2022 – Finally back to in-person work!
Let me begin by one of my favorite moments of this trip to the East Coast of the United States, discovering a bagpiper while exploring the neighborhood.
For the last few days I have been staying at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell working with a Montessori school. Above is the view from my window. It feels especially good to be in a university area.
My host, director of the Montessori school researched and found a wonderful vegetarian/vegan restaurant where I became such a regular customer that, even though they open at 9AM, opened at 7AM for me on my last day.
THE MONTESSORI WORK
Observing Montessori classes at three levels, infant community, primary, and elementary, then thinking and digesting and sharing suggestions and having an invigorating Q&A sessions, the kind of sharing where I learn as much as the staff of the school.
Another highlight was playing piano as I awaited the meeting time. I always carry piano music with me when traveling, in the hopes of finding a piano. The youngsters requested that we adapt the Bach Prelude into something that was suitable for Halloween (“Gladly!” said I) and another little boy was heard to say “I could listen to that piece for ever and ever.” Thank you, children.
During the sharing session with the teachers I made a discovery that I will share with you just in case you are using it for your elementary class. The record keeping for the primary class is the basis for that of the elementary class. It is referred to in the elementary recordkeeping section of the book. So, if you also find it confusing, that might be the reason.
CLICK HERE: BOOK
WHAT IS THE BEST AGE RANGE FOR THE ELEMENTARY, 6-12 YEAR, GROUP?
I am so blessed with all I learn each time I consult with a new school. This time I rediscovered the importance of keeping the children from age 6-12 years together in the same class.
In my experience teaching this age (and the 2.5-6.5 years class), the wider the age range the more successful the work, in all ways. It is common for a 7-year-old to get interested in the work considered t be appropriate for a 10 or 11-year old, and the reverse. There is more student to student teaching, less temptation to teach in groups. There is more curiosity being inspired and satisfied (and a much broader and deeper education) because of the wonderful range of materials and lessons.
There is less worry, especially by parents, about having enough children at each age (a hangover from traditional schooling) to make a student comfortable. It is quite common for strong friendships to form between friends who are two or three years different in age. Just as it is for all of us throughout life.
If, for legal reasons, it is necessary to split the 6-12 group into two by age (this happened in the school I visited in Rome, Italy) Baiba Krumins Grazzini, the AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) elementary trainer in Bergamo, Italy, tells us that there must be a complete set of materials (for age 6-12) and skills at teaching the complete range of lessons, for each, the 6-9 and the 9-12 class. Or, she says, the door should be left open between the two classes and children allowed to stay where they choose. In this open-door situation one usually finds (as happened in the school I founded in Michigan) that the children themselves create two 6-12 groups.
I remember when the 6-12 class connected with the AMI training center in London was going to try “the split” . . . the students were adamant the words “upper” and “Lower” NOT be used and they labeled their classes something else. Sadly, there is a traditional schooling hangover that the teacher who teaches the older children is more important, and the children learning more important or difficult subjects. This feeling is sometimes even evident when I talk to teachers, even in Montessori.
Anyone who has taught all ages (0-3, 3-6, 6-12, 12-18) knows that the greatest skill is needed for the 0-3 age, then the 3-6 age, and so on.
It was wonderful to see absolutely no screens of any kind visible in the classrooms and no teachers used even their phones in the presence of the children. It is only when children see there parents and teachers reading words on paper, and writing words on paper, that they are inspired to want to learn to write and read themselves.
The talk was very interesting and two friends even drove from Connecticut to attend! I shared the podium with a philosophy professor, a passionate old man (wait a minute, I will be 80 next year, who am I to say he is “old.” He is probably younger than me. I am sorry Andy.) .) He shared his views of the value of reading and how it is up to parents to take charge of this for their children.
I talked about how deep concentration, on work matched to the stage of development, chosen by the child, is the essence of Montessori, and results in the very best of the individual. It is the subject in the book, Montessori and Mindfulness.
CLICK HERE: BOOK
Since the name of the school is Atlas Montessori I saved the last card that had been made from one of my paintings for the school. I am honored that they will be framing it. The painting, created in the middle of the pandemic, shows the Greek god Atlas holding up the earth as usual. But in this case the earth is covered with Covid molecules. However, A butterfly hovers over his head, representing Psyche, the symbol of hope.
More coming. Hopefully by the beginning of 2023 I will have time to add my new paintings to my website. When this happens, I will share it with you.