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.