Saturday, November 12, 2016

Unity and Montessori

Dear Fellow Colleagues and Parents,

In light of negative reactions that have been occurring around the country with regards to the election, what families are going through, what our schools are going through and communications that have been occurring in different online Montessori groups, I feel compelled to share something on this topic. My hope is to help with bringing about more of a sense of unity, regardless of disagreements and personal opinions. Also, I would like to stress the duty that we have to our children and peers.

On the Montessori Teachers Facebook group, Andy Lulka posted:

Many of our members in and out of the USA are fearful today, in a state of shock and grief. Many others are feeling joy - or at least relief. I see in my feed so much pain, so much division. We cannot bring that in here.

I ask only this: Pause. Pause before responding, pause before hitting enter. Make sure your words are healing today.

We have remained a sanctuary from the divisive partisan dialogue out there this far, we will continue to remain so.

Montessori asked us to rise above politics. This is a great time for us to practice that. This seems like a good time to remember Dr. Montessori's words, published just a few years after the second world war: 

Not in the service of any political or social creed should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment, unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear.
- Maria Montessori (To Educate The Human Potential), 1948

Please take the time to reflect on these words and make a mindful decision before sharing a certain opinion and what the possible ramifications of that decision may be. We have rights as Americans, we have free-will as human beings, but we also have the ability to use our minds to create unity and choose unity over divisiveness, which does not always reflect our immediate opinions. Even if we cannot create macrocosmic change immediately, we can create change microcosmically immediately. You may be wondering where am I going with all of this. Well, I want to share with you what I think my duty is as an educator, elementary Montessori teacher, head of school and founder. 

Every fall around an election time, children come in with “their opinions” about candidates. Usually it is an echo of what they are hearing or what is being supported at home. Disagreements break out and frustration levels rise between students. I have been around long enough now where I know this is going to happen and it is a mediation, political, and inclusive educational time. In the roles that I have, I feel it is my duty to teach the children about the government, politics, and structure from an objective perspective. So, I am not going to talk about the past couple of months but the present and what we can do now in light of reactions our children are probably seeing and hearing about. 

Whether we agree with it or not, whether he was being honest in his communication or not, President Obama made a choice to communicate unity with President Elect Trump to the public. This seems like what we need to be willing to communicate to our children, staff and co-workers. Unity is the key to rise above social or political creed. Our personal opinion about sides does not have to match our expression of what is universally right. It is a fact that a universal truth or fact is something everyone can agree on and it is inclusive, never divisive. 

An elected politician can make our lives more difficult, and if it affects enough people, can obviously force change amongst a larger power or group. However, while this is a point that can be communicated, this is also not the purpose of this communication. We (educators and parents) have to teach our children to come together for what is right from a place of peace and not fear or anger. 

Those of us who have been around long enough know that things always have a way of working themselves out. Let’s teach our children about facts and truths at an age appropriate level. Heads of schools and Guides should unite in not expressing their opinion even to each other, but communicating truths and unity. It might be best to share our personal opinions with our friends, families, and/or spouses. Being a part of the Montessori Philosophy and education puts us in a place of power. That power should be used to reflect. 

Here at a wonderful NAMTA conference in San Jose California, a fellow “Montessorian” expressed her passion for being an adolescent guide. She read us a beautiful quote and one that drives her. I want to leave you with this thought. 

The educator has the power to give your child(ren) the world and they have the power consciously and unconsciously to make the world, or the place in which they try to find where they fit in the world, to be non-existent. 

What a magnanimous responsibility we have as educators and parents!


Alan Simberg said...

I completely agree that the focus on facts and truths is far more beneficial to all than when we put our attention on opinion. By doing the former there is a greater chance for solutions to be identified that benefits many more people and fewer egos.

Unknown said...

This is definitely an incredibly rich resource that you have spent so much valuable time developing, I'll recommend it to parents at our school as well as link to it in our Montessori Resources section so that our teachers can take a look. Thanks! Check us out too at C'e Montessori Preschool in Brooklyn

Matthew Simberg said...

Thank you Fernando, I appreciate that and will check your school out! I hope you had a nice holiday and have a great New Year!