Thursday, August 30, 2012

15. Humility...The Tao of Management


    Humility is having great possessions and not dwelling upon them.  Lacking humility, a manager and his organization become empty, disrespectful, and lazy.  Humility is recognized by its quality and endurance.  It should be practiced in both favorable and unfavorable situations.  True humility enriches all.  Satiety brings on resentment.  The manager humbly follows the strong, is hard working, and extends his humility to the high and to the low.  Do not underrate the positive effect of true humility. ~ Bob Messing

    Humility helps to keep us present while also connecting the guide to both student and parent at the heart level.

    Many people think of having possessions as having physical possessions.  Yet, we can also possess great knowledge, mental qualities and abilities.  This may give us a sense of superiority.  It may even give us a sense of security.  This sense of security can lead us to not fully connect with the child or adult.

    Humility reminds us to be present and to not get lost in routine.  How many of us have been teaching for several years?  With this experience comes a comfort with teaching certain lessons.  As guides we are sure of how it goes and we have the nuances down.  I would like to put out a thought of encouragement.  Take a look at those lessons in your albums and see if you find something in there that was overlooked or forgotten about.  I think when we find that nuance or piece of information that we missed humility finds us.

   Another part of humanity comes when we adjust.  When we are open to adjust the way we are teaching or how we are imparting information to a child that needs it a little differently we are being humble.  This connects us at the heart level and forces us to be present.

    I have thought of humility as admitting to be wrong, or acknowledging that I do not know everything.  However, when I really think about humility as I was forced to when reading the above passage, I realize it goes deeper then I had acknowledged.  It is so interesting to think of it as forcing us to be more present and connecting us to each other at the heart level!

What are your thoughts on humility?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

14. Great Possessions...The Tao of Management

Great Possessions ---Ta Yu

    Great possessions represent the success and reward brought about through management efforts and effective work.  The manager must be firm and flexible, in so that which is great, now will grow greater.  The manager always builds on strength.  This individual and organizational condition requires nurturing within and the repudiation of adornments.  Daily rewards call for daily renewal by the manager.  ~ Bob Messing

When I read this passage I am seeing it differently so as to relate to the classroom.  Great work by the children, which is their great possessions, represent their successes and rewards internally in turn leads to the internal success and reward felt by the guide for having had experienced the child's success.  The guide must constantly be aware of their freedom and responsibility and to do that must be both firm and flexible.  Doing this will bring about what is already great into something greater.  Through persuasion, interaction and conversation the guide builds on each others strengths and offers the child the opportunities to transform weaknesses.  Internal dialogue and qualities must be nurtured from within.  Relying on external praise should be repudiated so as to focus on the thing or task for its own sake and it's own rewards.  The Great Possession(s) is experienced and owned internally not externally.  Daily rewards of this kind lead to daily renewal for the guide and child.


Friday, August 24, 2012

13. Fellowship and Assimilation - The Tao of Management

Fellowship and Assimilation --- T'ung Jen

    Fellowship and assimilation are brought out by the charater of the manager, not by his position.  A manager must skillfully and sincerely mix and assimilate with others.  This true sameness with others is developmental.  Do not be a fair weather fellow.  Be true in good times and in bad.  The manager must always recognize that there are people with whom he should not assimilate.  Assimilation as a management technique is based upon correctness and other rational factors, never on emotion.  True mutuality exists as a result of truly natural and productive activity.  The manager develops himself inwardly while at the same time developing others outwardly.  This is the condition within which the manager is able to adapt to change and to set truly significant goals.  ~ Bob Messing

        I typed this passage up today before I had a meeting with a landscaper to get an estimate for the next stage that our school is at in building a labyrinth.  My experience with this  landscaper reinforced this passage for me.  Regardless of the position that one holds, it is the person's character that expresses the qualities of a manager or leader.  I experienced how a person with heartfelt qualities that sincerely mixes and assimilates with others brings out the best in each other.

    When I met the landscaper he was nice enough and was obviously a little overwhelmed by what seemed like a little more of a daunting task then he expected.  However, upon speaking with him more and more I saw him softening up.  When he gave me the quote I explained to him that I will have to meet with the school head, landscape designer and president of the P.A. before moving forward.

    Before I knew it, he was asking me about the school and talking with me about his son.  We spoke about the Industrial Revolution and the public school education system.  Miraculously, as we were speaking he came up with an idea to use another guy he knows to help excavate the area at a much cheaper price while not compromising efficiency.  Then he thought of another idea and realized that he knew someone that could donate one or two bee hives for honey production.  What a wonderful experience!

    If that were not enough as we were wrapping up the conversation he said, "...and so you are the head of this school."  What a huge compliment, especially since that is one of my life goals, to become a school head. I of course clarified my position at the school and told him that was actually one of my life goals. 

My interpretation of this experience and applying it to this passage is that if a person carries themselves a certain way and connects with another from the heart, your actual position does not matter.  I met with several landscapers and we assimilated well together.  While I acted consistently and gave the same spiel to each, two were simply not interested and so we did not assimilate.  There is something to be said about knowing when to assimilate and to try and connect versus when to disconnect professionally and positively.  I am sure it is something to work on regulalry and develop. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

12. The Tao of Management - Obstruction

Obstruction - P'i

    Obstruction always exists in opposition to harmony.  Through obstruction the great goes and the small comes.  The manager's goal is to immediately effect balance.  Hiding embarrassment or just being unaware means that the manager does not know that there is obstruction or blockage in the organization.  In times of organizational or individual blockage, it is helpful and even necessary to go back and start over.  The manager reverses the role of events and restores tranquility.  The manager had better be aware of the path of events around him.  ~ Bob Messing

    The Montessori guide can be both manager of the classroom and at least an example of a manager for the staff and administration.  Thanks to Synchronicity, the acknowledgement and awareness of a co-worker I learned this today.

    We had a faculty meeting and we were going over our handbook.  The head of school expressed that in her opinion it was not okay for children to yell or scream while playing tag or anything of the like during recess because it is annoying.  I noted that I was confused as  to why it was not okay for them to do this, yet it is acceptable for younger children that are upset to go outside during class time and yell, scream or cry to their heart's content.  This rule was actually implemented by the school head and at the time said that this never actually happens or even happened.  I replied that while not often, it does happen and was actually implemented as a policy at least a couple of years ago.  While  the staff spoke up and said this was the case the school head went on with a metaphor.

"A given person may extend their arm and swing it around to the extent that it stays within the proximity that it does not hit another person."

   I saw that the obstruction was at the very least simply the school head's opinion which was not going to change.  I could have argued and even argued well until I was blue in the face.  Yet, I realized that because this was her opinion and the rule was being implemented based on that then because of this person's personality the school  head would not see the logic of any other opinion.  So I dropped it and we moved on.

  After the meeting, my co-worker complimented me on knowing when to just be and not react.  I thought about this and the quote from Bob Messing's book on obstruction.  The blockage here was the opinion and not the thought of freedom and expression of the elementary aged child especially for appropriate times and places.  I feel that by responding how I did it restored tranquility and kept the peace while also raising awareness for several staff members.

   A certain kind of peace comes from knowing when to push forward and knowing when to be still.  It does not mean that you do not experience frustration.  However, it does mean that you will not experience more by doing something else, like over engaging.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

11. The Tao of Management -- Tranquility


     Tranquility is harmony.  This is developmental in that the small goes and the great comes, and the organization goes through in harmony.  There is proper timing in the course work.  Proper timing in taking advantage of opportunity can bring about tranquility.  Tranquility can be lost by softness. The balanced and flexible manager can bring opposition into submission.  Manage strongly while acting in a docile manner so as to nurture your strength widely.  A primary goal for managers is to bring about harmony and to preserve it.
 ~ Bob Messing

      Tranquility sums up what the manner of the guide in the classroom should be at all times.  Proper timing with the child, intentional or subconsciously accurate brings about tranquility for the child, the adult and the classroom.  When the adult is steadfast and centered tranquility is contagious throughout the classroom.  I think tranquility is found while actively and consciously treading.

What are some tips that you have found helpful to bring tranquility into the classroom?

What helps you to tread through difficult situations?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

10. The Tao of Management By Bob Messing

Treading ---

     Treading means forward progress.  A manager needs firmness of purpose here and must operate with strength of mind, robust energy, and sincerity.  In treading, avoid impetuous action because ignorance and incompetence can only bring misfortune.  A manager practices self-mastery in times of peril. ~ Bob Messing

     I think every Montessori teacher has their own personal purpose upon entering their classroom whether they can sum it up in a personal mission statement or it is an embedded feeling.  What separates those teachers who can hold on to that inner purpose during chaotic times versus those that struggle?  Reflecting on this question leads me to believe that there are at least two main possibilities that are closely related. One is that as humans we let our emotions overshadow what our purpose is and our firmness of that purpose wavers.  The other is that we just take things to darn personally and that shakes our emotions which causes our purpose in the classroom to waver.

    Maybe through repetition we can mentally train ourselves to control our emotions during those times to hold on to that firmness of purpose.  We can repeat to ourselves several times a day what our purpose is or feel what our inner purpose is a couple of times a day.  That could help remind us to tread and use our will to push forward with robust energy and the sincerity that truly connects us with the children in our classroom.  

    As I read this passage I think to myself how interesting and how important it is to have these qualities and strive to maintain these qualities each and everyday in the classroom.  What a challenge that can tend to be when in the middle of the hustle and bustle throughout the day. I would love to read what your comments and reflections are on this topic!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Tao of Management - 9. Nurturance by the small

    Bob Messing writes, "Management from the lower levels is developmental, but can mean small development for the organization and the people in it.  However, a manager who walks with and among his people knows greatness and is humble.  A manager grows through humility.  This should represent valuable insight and should be thought over in the spirit of honest self-evaluation.

    Humility is definitely an important key to a successful Montessori classroom.  The guide must practice humility and utilize discernment.  Humility is a bridge used for the mutual respect between student and guide. 

     I heard a great story from a very well respected Montessori guide that has stuck with me for some time now.  It includes a great math lesson as well as what I found to be a wonderful story about his humility.  In this story I will call this guide J.

    J was giving a math lesson and he asked his little group what was 96 x 5 eual too.  The children were working it out as well as the guide and one child finished it amazingly quickly.  Then the child asked, "J, what is taking you so long?" J said, "What do you mean? I am doing 90 x 5 which is 450 + 5x6, which is 30, then I added them and got 480." 

     The child then went on to say, " J you obviosuly did not go to a Montessori school because if you did then you would know a much faster way to do that problem."  J laughed and said, " well, you are right, I did not go to a Montessori school as a child, I have only been teaching for about 40 years." 

    The child when on to say, "well, that is probably why you never figured out that all you have to do is multiply 96 x 10, which is obviously 960.  Then take half of that and you get 480.  In fact, anytime you multiply a number by five, all you have to do is multiply it by ten and then take half of it."  J, then thought about it and figured out that the child was right.  He then thanked him for sharing that with everyone.  Later on, if I remember correctly that child got J a sign to hang up in his classroom.  J got such a kick of out if that he did hang it up and this action of hanging up the sign just reflected how humble I felt he was when he shared the story.  The quote says," Those who can-do, those who can't -teach, and those who can't teach - teach Montessori." 

   Some may find this quote offensive and on the one hand it might very well be offensive.  However, J is a very good teacher and very well respected.  It spoke volumes to me with which the humor that he found in all of this and the fact that he hung it up in his classroom. 

    I hope that this story encourages you to reflect on humility in the classroom and the role that it has with you and your children whether they be in the classroom or at home.  I am grateful for being able hear this story first hand and for learning that little math trick. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Tao of Management -- Accord


    Bob Messing writes, " A manager must achieve union and accord with what is right and real, and must assure himself inwardly that this accord is based in true reality.  A manager must have an open mind and be willing to give in order to receive.  True accord and union with those around you can only come from within. Further, the manager is known by his associates.  Union with ignorant and foolish people will reflect poorly.  True accord calls for leadership.  A manager should indeed approach a true leader or teacher.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help and/or guidance.

     The Montessori guide must work on being aligned with that which is right and real.  However, real can not necessarily be defined as that which can be seen.  There are those subjective qualities which a guide must work on being aligned too.  Some of those qualities are compassion, awareness, love, an evolving understanding, open-mindedness, and forgiveness are just a few but important ones.  While right can only be understood as what is right based on the guide's level of development.  However, I hope all guides at this point are able to use discernment to help the child see what their level of right is based on their level of development.  I push here for others to reflect then that true reality is subjective and not necessarily tangible. When a guide can allow them selves to allow the children to align with them, coupled with some light-heartedness, I think a true union forms in the classroom.

    The Montessori guide wins the minds of the parents over through the interview process.  The guide wins the hearts of the children through what is right and real through the prepared environment and Montessori curriculum.  Children win the hearts of the guide almost instantly.  While the parents hearts are won when they see that process has taken place.

That last paragraph may or may not seem to fit for some of you, but I felt like something like that needed to be there for some reason.  To me, that is a rough outline of what happens when a guide achieves or is on the road to achieving accord with what is right and real.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Tao of Management - 7. Militancy

Militancy - Shih

     Bob Messing writes, " In militancy, the manager chooses the way to punishment and execution, command and authority ... and needs the ability to change in order to be effective.  When there is peace, the military manager, even the great military leader, is not needed.  It is not always possible to restore peace in perilous times.  Those who disturb and disrupt are often brought forth by forceful management.  A manager in times of militancy proceeds in an orderly manner.  Ignorant actions result in casualties and loss of valuable associates and outside allies.  Sometimes, a judicious retreat can avoid mistakes.  When order is restored, there is no longer need for punishment and execution.  The manager then rewards meritorious achievement and chastises those of little or no merit.

     The guide in the classroom chooses between natural or logical consequences in any given situation.  Is the natural consequence enough to teach the lesson or do I need to somehow integrate a logical consequence as well?  We obviously do not use 'punishment' in a Montessori classroom or at least do not intend to.  An interesting point to think about from the passage is that when order is restored there is no need for punishment.  So, when a situation happens in the classroom and you are patient enough for it to work itself out, then that is it.  The situation has been worked out and order is restored on its own.

    One time I was having my AMI consultation and the classroom was buzzing nicely.  I was giving lessons and things were happening everywhere as it tends to do.  As I was giving a lesson, several boys got into an argument over a major battleship that they were creating for a presentation.  It got to the point where it was disruptive in that local area of the classroom.  I paused for a moment from my lesson and looked over at the boys.  When they saw me look at them, they quieted down.  Of course, the consultant was watching this whole experience unfold.  While I did feel a little nervous anyway, I just told myself that Montessori taught us  to observe and let the children handle it and to intervene if it seems it is getting out of hand.  How else can a child learn to resolve a conflict if they do not go through the conflict?  All in all, the children ended up resolving the situation on their own.

     During my meeting with the consultant, sure enough she mentioned that experience and how I handled it.  She congratulated me for not intervening, keeping an eye on them and allowing them to have the opportunity to work it out.  I do not share this story with you to pat myself on the back or anything like that because I believe most Montessori teachers do that.  However, I shared it with you because this story is what I thought of upon reading this passage.  I would appreciate and I am sure other's would appreciate hearing stories that you may think of from reading my reflections or Bob Messing's passage.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Tao of Management --- Contention

  Contention --- Sung

    Bob Messing writes, "Arguments, battles of wit, and issues of right and wrong are behaviors that deviate from harmony.  They result in a loss of balance for the manager, the team, and the entire organization.  In following the path of the Tao, the manager becomes acutely aware of his temperament and the nature of that temperament which is most harmful.  Caution and moderation are tempered by inner strength and the holding back of outward aggressiveness.  A manager does not seek outside justice.  We all know that winning an argument is not the same thing as getting the job done."

    This passage really resonates on several levels as a Montessori teacher.  We also experience this with different age levels in the same classroom and need to appropriately resonate what is right and wrong with the respective age level and maturity level of the given child.  With so many personalities at different levels of development this can definitely be a challenge.

    Everyday comes with its own set of challenges, its own set of contentions in the classroom.  The most difficult contention that I think we have as Montessori teachers is our inner contention during and about given situations.  How do we handle it? Did we handle that right?  This personality or group of personalities is really getting on my nerves today.  One guide might think to themselves well this is right even though this child thinks they are right and they may very well be right for their level of thinking.  I think we need to have harmony within ourselves about the contentions going on in the classroom.

    One day a teacher that I had just started working with, whom I respect very much, must have observed me intently or may have been observing me intently for several days.  She watched how I handled different situations and how I handled certain adults that were quite difficult.  This teacher said to me how do I do it or how do  I handle it like that.  I had to think about it for a little bit because I never thought about it as me handling it.  Thanks to her I came up with two realizations.  One is that I do not take anything in the classroom with the children personally.  It allows me to be aware of where the harmony is during given situations.  The second thing is that I do not see the children as children.  I see them as how I perceive that they are and I see their best qualities.  Then I look at where their weaker qualities are and how to help them to strengthen them.

   That was kind of a big insight for me and I appreciate that teacher asking me that question.  It was also a huge compliment coming from her.  When I explained this all to her she had told me that she never thought of it that way and what an interesting spin on interacting in the classroom.   Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little spin on contention in the Montessori classroom.

   What do you notice about your inner dialogue in the classroom?  How do you view the children when you experience battles of the will?  What skills and techniques can you share about this passage?  Thank you for reading and I look forward to continued interactions with this Tao of management experiment!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Tao of Management - Waiting

Waiting - Hsu

     Bob Messing writes, " A manager who is sound and strong and able to manage in the midst of danger is "waiting."  Waiting is nurturing.  Do not presume upon your supposed strength. Do not hope on the remote chance of luck.  Awareness of danger requires care, caution, the refining of one's self, and the awaiting of the proper time.  When the proper time arrives, after waiting, a manger acts in an appropriate way.  A manager is strong and cognitive of danger."

    Most Montessori teachers have probably experienced the importance of waiting.  There is a time to wait in the classroom.  We learn that there is a time to wait with parents.  Sometimes waiting is important with a head of school.  Waiting is also important with fellow employees.  While I would love to hear reflective stories from others about how waiting helped them I am going to share a story about waiting outside of the classroom.

    There are parents and administrators that probably do not appreciate how stressful a going out can be, let alone overnight going out trips in a city.  Parents, I know, have a certain level of awareness when they are helping by chaperoning, but teachers must have a whole other level of awareness.  Teachers must do it in such a way that the children still have fun and the parents feel secure.  If you can make that look effortless and be successful then I think you are mastering "waiting."

    One day last year in New York City I was walking back to the hotel with ten of my upper elementary students and a couple of parents.  I typically walk in the front and have any other parents either in the middle and or at least in the back of the line.  We had gone over the rules about staying between the adults and most of the children had done this trip with me previously.  Everyone, was having a good time chatting and getting ready for the rest of the day.  As we came to the end of a busy intersection all of us were coming to a stop before we could cross.  In my periphery I saw one of my older students begin to pass me.  My arm automatically extended out and I literally pulled the student back with it.  Simultaneously, a car raced passed not two inches away with a breeze instantly imprinting in my mind the tragedy that did not happen.

    Whether in the classroom or outside of it, as guides, we must constantly wait and need to be aware of danger.  That danger could be saying the right thing at the wrong time or even saying the wrong thing because we were not patient enough to wait.  It may not seem like we are aware because we are laughing at a given moment when something can happen. Or maybe we are giving a lesson and seem too engaged to be able to be aware of what else is happening.  However, our job is to be aware.  Our job is to be ready for the right time to act.   We have a duty to practice being aware of our surroundings.

 What are some exercises that we can practice in order to be more aware and to practice our observation skills?

    1.  Open a refrigerator for thirty seconds and shut it.  Write down as much as you can about what you observed and remember in as much detail as possible.  Then open the refrigerator again and see how you did.  Practice this exercise a few times a week.  Then apply it to the classroom with children in it and see how you do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Tao of Management - Darkness

Darkness - Meng
     Bob Messing writes, " Darkness comes from using intellect mistakenly thereby reducing cleverness.  This artificial cleverness results in the seeking of a reality which is already there.  A manager must be open, calm, sincere, and serious.  He proceeds along the path of non-contrivance.  The innocence of action needed in the midst of darkness is the innocence which is cognizant of darkness.  Darkness is a confusion which moves the manager on to subsequent enlightenment."
    When I think of darkness I also think of being in the midst of chaos.  This passage reminds me of an experience that I had two years ago.  It was an experience that required me to be open, calm, sincere, and serious.

    I had thirty-three children at the time, my assistant was upstairs and I was giving a lesson to about four children.  In my periphery I saw one of my fifth grade boys running over to me with a bloody hand.  It turns out that he accidentally broke a test tube and cut his finger pretty badly.  Then, I took him to the closest sink and simultaneously instructed a fourth year student to call the office upstairs and let them know what was going on.  As I was inspecting his wound a child ran over to me and told me that one of the girls passed out.  When I went over to her, my assistant came downstairs and made a mad dash to the bathroom because she got sick.  Someone from the office came downstairs and I directed her to the child in the bathroom trying to stop the bleeding.  Meanwhile, the child that passed out became conscious again and I took care of her with the help of some of her friends.

    In conclusion, the boy ended up going to the hospital, upon tending to the child that passed out she was okay and my assistant went home for the day.  In that series of moments I learned how important it was to be open, calm, sincere, and serious.  However, I must add that it is also important to be lighthearted.  During that series of events I was fortunate enough to instinctively respond in such a way that I was all of those things.

    Montessori teachers, to me, are managers.  I am sure most of us if not all of us have had experiences where we have had to replicate these qualities whether it is with a child or parent.  Through chaos or darkness comes harmony.  Please share with us any stories you might have where you have seen that staying open, calm, sincere, and serious has benefited you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Tao of Management - 3. Difficulty at the Beginning

Difficulty at the beginning - Chun

     Bob Messing writes, "We all experience difficulty at the beginning.  It occurs when the creative and receptive unite to create.  This is always and naturally the case.  A manager's success in dealing with difficulty at the beginning is achieved through perseverance, delaying activities, and through the selection of helpers.  The confusion of difficulty will result in order.  The manager pursues goals within a prevailing mood of hesitation and hindrance.  He subordinates himself to inferiors so that the hearts of all can be won.  In this case, correctness of management style in dealing with difficulty allows for creativity and results in success."

     In the classroom, don't we have to be creative and receptive, especially in the beginning, whether it is the beginning of a lesson or start of the year.  We have to persevere if a child is not quite getting it.  Sometimes we even select helpers to give it a go while we step back and observe.  Isn't it so true that through chaos or confusion or frustration order or at least understanding and possible insight comes to light.  So, we should not run or hide in our more challenging emotions when the storm of a conflict comes.  We should embrace the experience for by now we should know order will come.  What a great lesson to show the children at such an early age by being a role model for that.  The guide or manager or parent puts themselves second so that the "hearts of all can be won." ~ Bob Messing

When this is followed, most of us can probably recall from experience that the child has their light bulb moment!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Tao of Management - 2. Receptive K'un

"Receptive is the nature of the man who serves.  It is the station of second place.  Thusly, should all managers describe themselves.  The manager becomes receptive, yielding, devoted, moderate, and correct.  The receptive mind is obedient to natural principles and is able to develop understanding from confusion.  The manager makes things right, strives for fulfillment of his duty, and completes his tasks without fabrication." - Bob Messing

     The successful and fulfilled Montessori guide and parent or the guide and parent striving for success and fulfillment practice receptive.  It seems to me that receptive in the Tao relates to Montessori's observing, and Buddhism's deep listening.  The manager, the guide, or the adult must be receptive (open-minded throughout communication).  There must be a yielding or willingness to be silent.  A genuine inner devotion to resolution leads to a greater possibility towards peace.  Utilize the ability to moderate the given situation.  Doing all of these things and having the mindfulness of correctness leads to the experience of receptive.

    How can we or how do we inspire receptive in the classroom or for the parent?  Do you have any examples of how receptive has been experienced in your classroom or school?  \

With gratitude I look forward to your comments and contributions!!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"The Tao of Management" The Creative - Ch'ien

    I found this book "The Tao of Management," by Bob Messing in Ocean City, New Jersey.  After looking through it I thought to myself what it would be like to apply the wisdom from the "Tao Te Ching" into the perspectives of the Montessori Classroom and possibly home life too.  In all fairness, there is already a wonderful book called "The Tao of Montessori".  Then I came to the conclusion that I am going to take on a little experiment this summer.  I am going to read the sixty-four passages in this book "The Tao of Management," reflect on each one, and then see and write about how it can be applied.  I think and hope that we will both find some value in this experiment.  

Bob Messing writes for his first passage, The Creative - Ch'ien

    "The creative represents the strength of Tao, you, and your organization.  Strength is born, expanded, fulfilled, and consolidated.  if any of these aspects of strength are lacking, the creative quality of strength is not complete.  The manager must never confuse strength with force.  They are not the same.  The manager concentrates on the accomplishment of his task(s), and is minimally visible.  Arrogance is the extreme of knowing something about winning but nothing about losing.  Arrogance blocks a manager by diminishing his creative strength."  

    Without the creative, the child will be lost both in the classroom and at home.  The adult must be creative in their capacity to inspire.  Remember, inspiration is different then motivation.  Anyone can be motivated to do something.  It is using something external to get someone to do something that you want them to do.  Inspiration is getting the person to light their own spark and to take off.  That is what we want to do for the child in the classroom and hopefully what the adult wants for their child at home.  One must be creative to inspire.  The more creative is exercised, the more strength there is.

    Strength is internal just like inspiration.  It seems to me that the frustration of not being able to or even understand that they must inspire causes the adult to use their force and they become misguided thinking that they have strength.  The adult must focus on what they wish the outcome to be, especially upon failure.  It is necessary for the adult to focus on what the goal is for the child, give them the tools and then be visible as little as possible during their process.  Each failure of the child is truly another opportunity for the adult to express more creatively and find a different way to inspire.  In realty we always hear, "location, location, location," but in learning it should be, "presentation, presentation, presentation."  Presentation is how learning and teaching can be successful with all of its components, variances, and ability to provide and accept idiosyncrasies.  

   If we allow ourselves to remove the internal obstacles, and be careful to not confuse or misuse force for strength then the child keeps us humble.  An important thing to note is that when you are aware of arrogance as you are trying to present something or too comfortable with successfully presenting, it is then that the adult's creative strength is blocked and the trust in the presentation is temporarily disconnected.  We have the opportunity to be humbled by the child.  The problem here is not in having confidence, but in not being able to adapt to the child and be creative because of arrogance or force.

   Well, this was the first of sixty - four passages.  I look forward to your observations, thoughts and insights.  Maybe you have a different interpretation that you would like to share.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cosmic Education

Cosmic Education

‘It is this vision of an indivisible unity made up of energy, of sky, of rocks, of water, of life, of humans as adults and humans as children that lends a sense of the cosmic to Montessori’s thinking. This cosmic sense pervades all of Montessori’s work, both her thinking and her educational approach for all of the different planes and stages of development of the human being: from birth without violence to the Infant Community, to the Casa dei Bambini, to the elementary school, to the Erdkinder community for adolescents.  Quite clearly, then, this cosmic vision belongs by right to the whole of the Montessori movement: it is indeed the key which gives us a shared direction and a common goal in our work’.

‘Maria Montessori’s Cosmic Vision, Cosmic Plan and Cosmic Education’ p 81 – 82 Conference Proceedings, Paris 2001

Maria Montessori saw the first plane of development as being the start of cosmic education.  The child needs freedom to explore and absorb the environment.  They need to learn how to function and communicate in their immediate environment.  The adult in the classroom and the parent(s) at home need to learn how to observe, prepare and manipulate the environment and obstacles for the child in order to establish the greatest possibility for success and inner fulfillment.  The instructions for success are within the child just as the instructions for a seed are within that seed to become what it is meant to.  Both just need the right ingredients.  Both the adult in the classroom and parent(s) at home need to be more thoughtful of themselves and the child.  Thoughtfulness is a large part of what cosmic education is all about.  Your child’s education should incorporate a collaboration between home and school and not consist of two completely separate entities. 

The six to twelve year old child is literally given the universe.  They receive a vision of their role as a human being from the first humans to the modern day human.  Very generally and literally speaking here is where they begin to learn how to function and participate in the world beyond their immediate environment.  A general to specific education is given at this age.  The child learns about the laws that the universe follows all the way up to the specific details and foundations of subject matter which is not limited to mathematics, language, science, and history, but everything in between.   The foundation of the elementary education is interdependence.    There is an interdependence that can be seen and felt between each other and subject matter. 

The second component of Montessori’s Cosmic Education is what Camillo referred to in the quotation, as the ‘ vision of an indivisible unity …’ this determines the Montessori view of the Universe. In her book ‘To Educate the Human Potential’ Chapter 1 ‘The six-year-old- confronted with the Cosmic Plan’ Dr. Montessori describes it in this way, ‘Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality, and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child to become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied, having found the universal centre of himself with all things’

(Clio 1989 p 5 – 6)

The third plane of development includes the twelve to eighteen year old adolescent.  Most people do not distinguish an adolescent from a child or an adult.  However, an adolescent can be characterized by that person which is no longer a child and not yet an adult.  They are more concerned with themselves constantly self-assessing.  There is regular critical thinking and self re-evaluation.  The adolescent is transitioning both physically and mentally.  This is where beginning to find themselves and their place in the world truly begins and should be nurtured.  Social and moral values are constructed and reconstructed.  Maria Montessori termed “Erkinder,” “Children of the Land,” as a key for the adolescent to unlock their innate powers.  A model of an education on a farm is where the child practices and learns for success in life.  All the subject matters can be learned and applied within a farm like structure and there is a co-existence between classroom learning, internships and farming. 

When you perceive the differences between traditional western education and Maria Montessori’s concept of Cosmic Education you can only come to one true conclusion.  Cosmic Education leads to the probability of fulfillment while traditional education leads to the possibility of material success in some profession.  Education through Maria Montessori’s Method leads to material success and happiness as a side effect from achieving fulfillment; they are not the goals in and of themselves.    The goal of an education through Maria Montessori’s vision is that of fulfillment from birth through the age of eighteen.  This is the foundation for life, the rest is just details.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Montessori Education--A Collaboration

I have recently been doing a lot of research on a certain topic that has several different branches.  It would be so helpful if I could get some perspective from at least a handful of people.  Some of these question might seem to have obvious answers, however I am sure every answer will help me a great deal to support my classroom and hopefully beyond.

What are the needs of the parent that has a child in a Montessori Classroom?

What keeps a parent from collaborating more within the Montessori community or at least the classroom that their child is in?

Would parents partake in educational avenues through the school on even a monthly basis?

Do schools do Skype conferences to accommodate more participation?

Has anyone tried Montessori book discussions?

Please feel free to add anything else!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

Recently, I have found myself studying the concept of gratitude.  I have been looking at which leaders practice it, what they say the effects seem to be, and what I notice about practicing it in my own life.  An online article in Psychology Today even has this to say about gratitude...

It opens the heart and activates positive emotion centers in the brain.  Regular practice of gratitude can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns. The positive emotions we evoke can soothe distress and broaden our thinking patterns so we develop a larger and more expansive view of our lives.  

When I arrived at school today my mind was buzzing with all sorts of ideas.  What I decided to do was to introduce the concept of gratitude to my class and see what their reaction was.   Then I went over to our over-sized white board and wrote attitude of gratitude on it.  I wrote three things that I had been grateful for just this morning.  The result of creating the attitude of gratitude white board was that it was completely filled by the children before the end of the day.  The wonderful thing was that I told them they did not need to do anything and it was not a requirement, it is only their as an option if they would like to do it.

Then a couple of my girls went shopping for fruits and vegetables for a pizza day.  One came running back into the room afterwards excited beyond control.  "Mr. Matt, Mr. Matt," it worked she said, "it really worked!"  I was working on something with another student and asked,"what worked?"  She said, "being grateful, it really works.  This nice old lady at the produce store gave us free produce and I was grateful before we got there and she gave us free produce and now I am grateful for old ladies and free fruit!"  Then she wrote it on the board.  

"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
-- Oprah Winfrey

Children are wonderful teachers and motivators if you let them be.  I am starting a gratitude journal and I offered for the children to do it with me everyday for one month just to see what happens.  The goal is to write at least one more then I did the previous day.  I think I am going to keep the whiteboard going as a motivator of ideas for those that forget or have trouble remembering what they can be grateful for. I hope some of my readers will join us and share their experience with us too!

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus

This is the attitude of gratitude board in my class.  This is about halfway through the school day, on the first day!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MontessoriSeeds: Right Perception Coupled With Discipline

(My first blog on discipline is important to read before this one)
In the book "The Tao of Montessori: Reflections on Compassion" by Catherine Mc Tamaney, she has a great quote with regards to discipline and perception.

If we have neither sufficient experience nor love to enable us to distinguish the fine and delicate expressions of the child's life, if we do not know how to respect them, then we perceive them only when they are manifested violently.  ~ Maria Montessori

This falls very nicely into the concept of the pendulum needing to stay more in the center.  So many of us have misperceptions both of Montessori and more authoritarian perspectives on parenting such as the ones that John Rosemond seems to express (I will say that John Rosemond does have some similarities to Montessori's philosophy).  Yet, on a different note this just goes to show how well Montessori 'got it'.  This blog is about helping to dispel some of these illusions.

First, I want to start with the concept of right perception.  By right I mean as accurate and as educated of a perception as possible.  A whole new experience occurs when we sit back and observe our child.  We have to peel away the attachments that come along with observing to get to the core of what is going on.  When you observe an object such as an apple, your mind automatically forms attachments to that object, judgements.  Observe it for what it is, what you see, not even what you perceive on an atomic level.  Sure atoms are so compact that it makes this solid sitting in front of you.  However, you are not observing this.  Just like you are not observing the child's inner feelings.  You are observing a reflection or opposite reaction of what is going on internally.  Remember, observe it for what it is, not for what you judge it to be.  That is the start to a helpful and 'right' perception. 

Right perception opens your mind to prepare the child's environment in such a way that his or her needs will be met, discipline will be found, and the child can move on to fulfill the next internal need.  Montessori believed that deviations in behavior simply come from internal needs not being met.  Think about how you respond as an adult in a given situation when your needs are not met, or how you want to respond but have the will-power, hopefully, to choose not to. 

In talking about needs, we have to talk about right perception.  There is a difference of course between a child's needs and his or her desires.  We are not respecting the child if we are giving into their desires.  As adults, we also have a duty to not give into our children because it is easier for us.  This is what Montessori is also talking about when she says respect the child.  Give the child the opportunity for success, and you will know you have successfully done this when the deviated behavior is not longer displayed. 

We are supposed to discipline our children, teachers and parents, are meant to help the child teach themselves.  That is discipline.   When an adult gets angry and punches a hole in the wall or worse, think about what the consequences are when that happens.  Think about the possible logical and natural consequences.  Does someone go up to the adult and say to him or her, "Aw, you must have felt frustrated, let's talk about a better way to handle that for next time buddy?"  I really do not think so.  We are doing the elementary aged child and older a disservice if we do anything other then give them natural and logical consequences.  Grounding them for a week with no television has nothing to do with punching a hole in the wall.

Change your perception and discipline will come.  Not only for the child in the classroom or at home but for the adult as well.  Believe me I know that no one said it would be easy.  However, it is possible to have fun with it.  Think of it as a mystery game that you have to figure out.  It is a life puzzle.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Patience is a Virtue

In this fast paced present day world there is no time for patience. Or so it seems, especially in a traditional classroom. However, I think many people are beginning to recognize we cannot afford as a society microcosmically or macrocosmically to not exercise patience and other virtues for that matter. In my mind, this is what separates the so called “Montessori community” from the mainstream community. It is my contention that pretty much every parent and educator realizes this, at least in the back of their minds.

Presently, it is those Montessori parents that have the courage to allow guides to exercise patience and other virtues in themselves, and give their child or children the gift of a good Montessori centered education. More parents have come from public schools this year than any other year to observe my classroom. Upon listening to the radio, experiencing the many visits from public school parents, and speaking with public school teachers, I can’t help but believe the tides are changing.

How amazing it would be to experience the end of “Industrial Revolution Education” in the United States. What an incredible experience it would be to witness the integration of true Montessori education and the like. It does not have to be just the ideas of Montessori, as there were many great thinkers that also contributed to her works and thought similarly to her. But, how marvelous to be a part of a time where education could possibly be about the child throughout our mainstream education system.  I recognize many things need to occur for all of this to happen. I would like to introduce something that I have known, yet had not more fully experienced until this past month. It has to do with patience as a foundation in the guide’s ability to educate.

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” ~ Plato

I believe that patience is something that can never be completely attained, but is rather something that needs to be practiced and exercised daily, as you would a muscle. This especially holds true for parents and teachers. So, at best, by being harsh and forceful with a child you are temporarily controlling. One must discover with patience how to amuse the child and, as Montessori says “seduce the child”. As Montessori parents, this is what you are giving us (Montessori guides) permission to do. You are giving us the time to observe, to persuade, and step back to let your child’s genius express itself. I humbly thank you for that trust and opportunity. I know of no other place that allows this to unfold.

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think—rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.”
 ~ John Dewey

Many say we want this for ourselves and our children, but we are afraid to go on the path that it takes to get there. It may be difficult to let go of our personal experiences of education. A part of us knows, we had things that were missing when we were growing up. One of those things was a pure enjoyment of going to school. How many parents can say math, language or science was their favorite subject in school? How many of you enjoyed lunch, gym, or snow days more? Meanwhile, I am constantly amazed at how much so many of the children in my class love school and learning. They are overtly happy to be here. It is even hard to get many of them to leave at the end of the day. This does not happen just in my class, either. I have had the same experience in several Montessori classrooms in several different states. In addition, many of the teachers I trained with told me the same thing of their students and the students of the classrooms they observed.

This brings me back to the practice of patience, not only with our children but with our selves. Maria Montessori says, “We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master.” Over the past month I have really been able to digest this quote more than before. It had a bit of a negative connotation for me until now. Admittedly, I have my own stigmas and expectations. Taking it a step further, I have assumed expectations in my mind that you have for each of your children. But, something magical happens when I can briefly forget all of that, and place myself as the servant to your children. It is my duty to put my personal feelings, and about what I think your possible feelings are, aside. This way I can observe and persuade based on their interests as objectively as possible.

"As soon as children find something that interests them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate." - The Secret of Childhood:: Fides Publishers, 1966 :: p. 145

After all that is our goal, for your children to concentrate. No one truly concentrates on anything other than what interests them. At some point throughout the six years of elementary your child is to experience all of that which is in the prepared environment and more. Believe it or not, I have to remind myself of this for you, when those warranted and engrained fears creep in. Is my child reading fluently and comprehending by the end of second grade? Does my child know all of his or her times tables by the end of third grade? Can my child name all of the states, capitals, and spell them correctly by fifth grade? Is my child writing paragraphs and paraphrasing correctly for report writing by the end of fourth grade?

"Our task is to show the way to discipline. Discipline is born when the child concentrates his attention on some objects that attracts him and provides him not only with a useful exercise but with a control of error." - The Absorbent Mind :: Clio Press Limited, 1994 :: p. 240

Here, Montessori is expressing what the Prepared Environment does for the child. It also leads to an interest of exploring the world. For example, some children expressed an interest in art and went to the art museum in Philadelphia after researching different works of art in the classroom. Several children have done research on Leonardo Di Vinci and are now planning on going to his exhibit at the Franklin Institute. It is awe-inspiring to be a part of the experience of so many different children, and to see what happens to them, as they become inspired and concentrate.

There are three things that tend to cause a child to act out or not do as we would like them to do; they are overstimulation, tiredness, or boredom. The hard part, what most don’t have patience for, is deciphering which one it is, and then figuring out what to put in front of the child for him or her to discover. We give them the environment and what is in the environment and they make the discovery. When it comes from them, or when they believe it comes from them, they own it.

As I stated earlier patience is a virtue. Without it, we cannot achieve what we want for our children to achieve. I believe you’re giving the gift(s) of patience and other virtues to your children by sending them to an A.M.I. Montessori classroom. You are giving me the gift of experiencing it and being a part of it. Let’s take this opportunity to remind ourselves of all of this, relax (but not too much), and smile.

Discipline For The Elementary Aged Child

Any age person needs discipline in order to be successful and fulfilled.  Discipline is often a misunderstood term with a negative connotation.  Modern definitions of discipline relate to punishment, control and order.  However, this is not what discipline means in its originally intended form. 

When someone has discipline they have the ability to motivate themselves regardless of a negative emotional state.  Someone with discipline demonstrates will power, the ability to work hard and is persistent. Parents and teachers have a duty to instill discipline.  However, because of the many gimmicks out there, the misunderstandings of what works short term and what works long term, and the ignorant guidance of many so called professionals, our parents, children, and teachers are struggling.  It seems to me that as a generation we are experiencing a pendulum effect.  It is up to us, the parents and teachers, to keep the pendulum from swinging and find the balance in the middle.

The generation that grew up until the late sixties experienced 'punishment', 'repression of feelings', 'order', 'structure', and 'complacency'.  Then in the seventies there was more of a swing in the pendulum.  The protection of feelings took precedence.  Thomas Gordan had a best selling book with a theme that highlighted what many professionals were starting to share with parents and other professionals.  The message was that since children do not like being told what to do, they should not be told what to do.  Also, if parents continued to be authoritative, their children would fill the offices of psychologists when they became adults.  So, there was a stream of acceptance of feelings and disregard for the controlling of those feelings.  This in turn lead to a pitfall of children that did not learn discipline.  These two extremes have lead to exclusivity, anxieties, and a need to hang on tighter to one of these two ways of raising our children. 

With all of this said, discipline for the elementary aged child can best be instilled with the right understanding and application of freedom and responsibility.  Dr. Maria Montessori had an incredibile understanding of these concepts upon studying the development of numerous children throughout the world.  To be free is to not be under the control of some arbitrary power, but to be given the freedom to only be restricted by ones own limits.  The adult should create this safe and 'free' environment in the classroom and at home.  Adults should purposefully create the environment for the child to be free within.  Montessori calls this the prepared environment.  Freedom and a prepared environment alone minimizes a child's mental and emotional abnormalities and struggles.  Responsibility is another piece to this puzzle which brings about self-discipline. When a child is taught and can distinguish right from wrong, and be held accountable for his or her behavior either by themselves or the adult then they can have more freedom.  Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and consequences for given actions should be natural or logical for the sake of teaching discipline, being taught in and of it self, not to control a behavior that the adults wants.  Montessori taught that teachers should be guides for the child to act freely and responsibly in society with discipline so that they may be successful contributing members.  I think parents should be guides too.  No one said it was easy, but no one said it was impossible either. 

Please know that there is a lot more to be said and learned then what is written within the contents of this blog with regards to Dr. Montessori.  This is simply meant to be a seed for others to enjoy and to do with it what they will.  A lot of the information disseminated within comes from my experience, understanding, training and research.  I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to your comments.