Sunday, November 9, 2014


Growing up, we go on about our lives as children with up to three main voices in our minds: our own, our mom's, our dad's, or that of whomever is responsible for us.  These voices or conversations that are taking place in our minds can be judged as positive or negative.  I can imagine as a toddler, I might go to touch something and my mom or dad says, “don’t touch that!” Then, when I come across a similar experience, I hear their voice in my mind, “don’t touch that.”  At some point in the near future I come across an experience where I have to make a decision to touch something or not.  I might hear one of their voices and choose to ignore it.  Then a judged, either negative or positive reaction occurs, and that experience either gets reinforced or it does not by how I judge the reaction.  I begin having multiple experiences where, even though I may not be aware of it at the time, my own voice speaks to me, and then, at the very least, the voices of those who are closest to me.  I probably think nothing of it because I am not capable yet and my life continues on, just as all of ours does.

Then we go to school, and the voices in our minds increase to include our teachers' and our peers’.  Each of the people who are in our lives for a significant period of time now have an impact on our self-talk and decisions we make throughout the day.  Should I do my homework or shouldn’t I?  What will happen if I do or don’t do it?  We imagine a response or hear a voice of what one of our guardians would say or our teacher.  We might think about whether our friend is doing it or not and based on what we know about them, we hear what he or she might say.  The cycle continues without giving it much of a second thought, if at all.  

As we get a little older, we let certain people into our lives and have more intimate relationships that may or may not last.  However, the voices of those people usually stick with us, especially during certain situations. For instance, let’s say you have a best friend that you spend a lot of time with.  Your best friend notices a quirk that you might have.  It could be that you bite your lip a certain way when you are concentrating.  He or she says that it is weird that you bite your lip that way when you are concentrating on something.  Since he/she is your best friend you feel comfortable doing it anyway and it is never really spoken of, but now you are aware of this “quirk” and you can hear him/her telling you that.  Now, let’s say your friend tells you one day that his/her family is moving far away.  So, you say your good-byes and it’s time to make a new best friend.  Before you know it, you start hanging out with someone new.  Within the first couple of times you are hanging out with this person your old best friend’s voice pops in your head, “it’s weird that you bite your lip when you are concentrating.”  “Where did that come from?”, you think to yourself.  Then, you start to feel self-conscious.  This is when you must make a decision about whether to let your friend’s judgment negatively or positively affect you.  Or to even just realize that he/she thought that, not everyone will think that and it really does not matter. 

When we are young, we may not be aware of our own voice or that we are even able to observe the conversations that are happening in our minds and that we actually have a choice. We have a choice to listen or not listen, to give the voices weight or not.  While this is applicable to everyone, I would like to continue our focus moving forward to our Montessori training. 

At some point we made a decision to go and receive our Montessori training at some level.  We met our passionate and steadfast trainers and they became a significant part of our lives as did our peers in training.  Assuming now, all we want is to do a great job for the children.  Our minds are open to learn, our hearts are ready to receive and eventually we are deemed ready to be in the classroom or to be an administrator.  Once we start our work, we realize that we have the voices of our Montessori peers and our trainer(s) in our minds.  We are not alone, even though it might feel like it at first.  We have experiences, and the voices of these wonderful people are speaking to us as we are going through the day.  It is not good or bad, it is just something to be aware of.  Eventually, with enough experience under our belts, we make our own judgments about these voices.  Additionally, we have the voices of the parents’ expectations, the voices of the children and if we are not in charge, we also have the voices of those above us in our minds.  

All of these voices swirling around in our minds at different times can be quite loud and feel like they are always around as we begin our journey in the classroom. The volume of voices is at a whole new level and the mind chatter is exponential and even more repetitive.  This doesn’t have to be viewed as a bad thing; in fact, it can be a good thing, if perceived in a positive way.

As Montessori guides, administrators, or whatever our roles are, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, if we are doing what we love.  We might ask ourselves some questions.  How could I have done that differently?  What might my trainer have done?  Was today a failure?  Am I good enough?  Are the parents going to be satisfied?  The voices in our minds are giving us answers to these questions and more throughout the day. 

We need to be more aware of the replaying in our minds of these experiences, fears, worries, and expectations every day.  We run about with our minds racing, wondering if we are adequate enough, trying to measure our day based on other people's reactions and assumed or literal expectations.

I was taking a walk the other night and thinking about a lot of different things with regards to Montessori, school, the pedagogy and my own life. The other thing I was thinking about was what should I do next, what should I focus on and who should I listen to about what? I distinctly remember thinking about the voices, the conversations in my mind, and a fox came darting across the street, in front of me and then into the woods.  With my heart racing, a few moments later a rabbit came darting out in front of me the other way with no fox behind it.  The rabbit stopped just across the street from me, sat and waited for a few moments.  Then I started thinking about symbology.

I thought about a symbology lesson I gave to my students last year.  That led me to thinking about Native Americans and animal symbols.  So, I looked up the meaning of a fox and then I looked up the meaning of a rabbit and I came up with this poem.

Scurry, scurry, worry, worry,
Like the hare I run about,
Busy, busy, in a tizzy,
I only hear the voice without.
Quiet, hare.  Do not despair.
The voice within is strong and sure.
If you just listen, you'll learn your mission,
Be confident and self-assured. 

~ Anonymous                                                               

Now, I have a new sense of peace.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Faith and Fortitude

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog and a lot has happened since then.  I would like to be consistent with writing again.  A theme that comes to mind especially with the start of a new school year is faith and fortitude.

I used to think about faith in a certain way.  However, especially over the past few months, faith has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  Kiran Shaikh says, "Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together.   What you have always wished for has finally come to be.   Maybe not the way you had wanted it.   But even better than you could ever have imagined."   We all have bridges to cross.   Sometimes we cannot see what is on the other side.   Eventually, we all have to cross a bridge.   Faith is a driving force that can help us to get to the other side.   It gives us the tool of hope to move forward and to know there is something better on the other side of that bridge.  To me, hope coincides with fortitude.

Fortitude is an emotional and mental strength that enables people to face difficulties and push through them. It is like a muscle that gets stronger through difficult experiences.  The more a person uses their growing faith to reach the vision that they can not physically see, that faith becomes a flashlight to know the steps to take in order to get there.  Having the fortitude to push forward is experienced during the process of reaching that given destination.  Even when that destination is reached, we become fortunate enough to realize a lot of things.  One of those things is to hopefully realize that the destination we thought we were striving to reach is actually only a point in which we can take a break before moving on to the next bridge.

So, as the school year starts, whether you are a teacher, a parent, and/or an administrator, remember what faith and fortitude means to you.  Remember what your goals are for the day, weeks, or months.  Keep in mind what your goals are for the children and or your staff.  Realize that they may also have goals too.  Talk to them about goals, and if appropriate, faith and fortitude.  I hope you have a great start to your year and may the concepts of faith and fortitude be something empowering for you to reflect on with joy.