miscarriage is not a four letter word.

A few weeks ago I gave birth to a wonderfully healthy little boy named Micah. About a year before that, I had a miscarriage. Since Micah was born he’s basically taken over my internet presence (and life in general), but I haven’t yet spoken about the one that came before him. The happy stuff is fun to talk about but the other side is just as important.

I certainly grieved the loss of the tiny creature that was growing inside of me and still tear up a bit writing about it. Miscarriage is sad and difficult. But for me, it wasn’t a tragedy. It can be part of the process of creating new life and it is incredibly common. Most every mother that I have spoken to has told me that she also had a pregnancy that just didn’t pan out.
So, I am not alone. We just don’t tend to talk about these things. It’s easy to apply our instinct to avoid physical pain to emotional matters as well. But just like the physical pain, the more we accept it, the more we can embrace it and all of our human experience.

SO MANY EMOTIONS. Though I was only pregnant for two months the first time, I loved that little tadpole in a way that I had not previously experienced. It was amazing. It was terrifying to care so much about something so very tiny and fragile and uncertain. I was so very afraid of losing him. Then, he was gone. I cried for a day or so and it was ok. I had people try to tell me that it wasn’t ok. That it was in fact devastating.  I agreed to disagree.
For a while, baby bumps angered me. The women sporting those baby bumps angered me. Babies angered me. I had been denied all of those things, so why should anyone else have them, especially in my presence. Then I felt guilty for my anger. Then I stopped feeling guilty about my feelings because there’s no need for that. And soon I could see a baby and have no desire to punch his mother.

Like birth stories, miscarriage stories vary drastically. Some hardly even know it happened. Others (myself) go through a long and painful process.

I had two major bouts of cramping, 2 days apart, that each lasted about 6 hours. On a scale of 1-labor, the pain was probably about halfway to full-blown labor only there were no breaks between contractions. Though I was only 9 weeks along and hardly showing, all kinds of stuff came out of me. I was not prepared for that just because nobody ever told me that might happen. If Mike wasn’t around to talk me through it and assure me that all my guts were in fact still inside me, I would have either driven myself to the emergency room or had a mental breakdown. Despite the intensity of the experience, I required no medical attention. Just a lot of writhing around on my living room floor.
After that first night, I assumed it was over. The next day I had a couple more cramps, but nothing major. The day after that, we headed up to Chicago for a wedding. About an hour out of Chicago the cramping started up again and the last hour of the trip ended up taking three hours since we had to stop at nearly every exit to find a bathroom.  It was rough, but we got there. And after sleeping most of the next day, I even made it to the wedding that night.

It took my body 3 months to completely heal from the whole process. And though that was often irritating, it gave me adequate time to emotionally heal before Micah started to form.  I’d hardly told anybody when I was pregnant, but after the miscarriage I talked about it to anyone who cared to listen. It helped immensely to relate to many many other women who shared this experience. I found myself to be far less fearful the second time I got pregnant after having worked through the thing I feared. Stuff’s tough sometimes, but everything will always be ok.

 

 

makes SENSE.

 

“Beauty is found in harmony, not in discord; and harmony implies affinities, but these require a refinement of the senses if they are to be perceived. The beautiful harmonies of nature and of art escape those whose senses are dull. The world is then cramped and cruel. Our surroundings provide us with inexhaustible sources of aesthetic pleasure, but men can still move about in the world as if they had no senses or were like brute beasts looking for pleasure in strong and sharp sensations since these are the only ones accessible to them.” [1]

 Maria Montessori developed the sensorial materials in order to help aid the child’s natural tendency to understand and define his physical surroundings. These materials help the child refine his senses so that he might develop a deeper comprehension of and connection to the world around him.

Sensorial exercises exist to help refine the senses. They cover a range of categories including tactile, temperature, weight, stereognostic, olefactory, visual, and auditory. These materials contain internal controls of error so that the child can realize a mistake he has made without any sort of outside intervention. For example, each of the knobbed cylinders fits into an opening specific to its size and none of the other cylinders. IMG_0741 “If he mistakes, placing one of the objects in an opening that is small for it, he takes it away, and proceeds to make various trials, seeking the proper opening. If he makes a contrary error, letting the cylinder fall into an opening that is a little too large for it, and then collects all the successive cylinders in openings just a little too large, he will find himself at the last with the big cylinder in his hand while only the smallest opening is empty. The didactic material controls every error. The child proceeds to correct himself, doing this in various ways…There is, therefore, no question here of teaching the child the knowledge of the dimensions, through the medium of these pieces. Neither is it our aim that the child shall know how to use, without an error, the material presented to him thus performing the exercise well.” [3] It is important that the Montessori teacher present the materials to the child and then allow the materials to teach the child. In this way, the child is taught that he can independently learn from his surroundings without the intervention of authority.

 

Each of the sensorial materials also completely isolates a single sense so the child can focus all of her attention there. “Another important particular in the technique of sense education lies in isolating the sense, whenever this is possible. So, for example, the exercises on the sense of hearing can be given more successfully in an environment not only of silence, but even of darkness.”[4] We remove visual stimuli from the child’s experience with the sound materials for the same reason that adults sometimes close their eyes when listening intently to music. Focused attention allows for a deeper understanding and appreciation of any subject.
Montessori held the sensorial materials in very high regard, especially in a 3-6 classroom:       “…we may say that the training of the senses is a matter of the greatest importance in education. As a matter of fact, we have a two-fold aim in education. One is biological and the other social. The biological objective is to assist the natural development of the individual; the social objective consists in preparing the individual for his environment, and this also embraces professional education, which teaches an individual how to make use of his surroundings. The training of the senses is, in fact, of utmost importance on both counts. The development of the sense actually precedes that of the higher intellectual faculties, and in a child between the ages of three and six it constitutes his formative period.”[5]  She goes on to clarify why it is so important to introduce these materials at this age: “If training of this sort is undertaken at an age when the formative period is naturally over, it will be difficult and imperfect. The secret of preparing one for a particular skill consists in utilizing that period of life between the ages of three and six, when there is a natural inclination to perfect one’s senses and movements…The training of the senses must begin in the formative period of life if we wish to perfect them later through education and make use of them in any particular human skill. This is why such training should be begun methodically in childhood and then be continued during the time when an individual is preparing himself through education for the practical life he will have to live.” [6] By helping the child refine his senses at a time when he is interested and naturally inclined to do so, we help him lay the groundwork for his future endeavors. By introducing a child to Color Box III (in which the child learns to grade colors from lightest to darkest), we may be planting the seeds for a future master artist.
As with all areas in the Montessori classroom, the sensorial materials were created around the needs of the child. The materials were designed to incite a child’s interest and then further his development through their use. A child from three to six years is eager to understand his surroundings. Montessori created the sensorial materials to assist this process by giving the child a more concrete understanding of the various ways we define our physical reality. When the child is presented with the concept of rough and smooth, he then begins to understand that the world around him is made up of a variety of textures, and he can begin to categorize and name these different experiences. This ability allows him to form a strong connection with the world around him. If a child learns that he can understand his world simply by interacting with it, he might just maintain that mentality throughout his life. Montessori describes the importance of developing the child’s ability to become an observer of his world: “The positive sciences advance through observation, and all the discoveries made during the last century and their practical applications, which have done so much to transform the world, have followed along this same road. We should therefore engender this attitude in the oncoming generation, since it is necessary for modern civil life and an indispensable means for continuing the work of human progress…The training of the sense, insofar as it makes a man an observer, not only fulfills the generic function of adapting him to the contemporary mode of civilization, but it also prepares him for the exigencies of life.” [7]

 

6a00e3981de7fa883300e5539140a28833-800wi Traditional education focuses largely on the intellectual development of the individual. While important, sole focus in this area creates a man who is largely disconnected from his external, and therefore internal, environment. “Indeed, when with intellectual culture we believe ourselves to have completed education, we have but made thinkers, whose tendency will be to live without the world. We have not made practical men. If, on the other hand, wishing through education to prepare for practical life, we limit ourselves to exercising the psychomotor phase, we lose sight of the chief end of education, which is to put man in direct communication with the external world.” [8] By refining the senses of an individual, we increase his capacity to appreciate and enjoy the subtle nuances of his existence. The smaller the details he is able to perceive, the richer and fuller his life becomes.

 

 

 


[1] The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg. 148

[2] The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg 112

[3] The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori, Schocken Books, Inc., 1964, pg. 170

[4] The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori, Schocken Books, Inc., 1964, pg. 179

[5] The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg 143

[6] The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967 pg  146

[7] The Discovery of the Child, Maria Montessori, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg 145

[8] The Montessori Method, Maria Montessori, Schocken Books, Inc., 1964, pg. 223

let’s all just hug for a while.

 

I try my best not to form strong opinions about issues because strong opinions tend to tie knots inside me that get all tangled and don’t leave much room for new information to come in. It seems more useful to make little bows that come undone with a gentle tug and can change into different things like friendship bracelets or maybe a jumprope.
In situations like this, it’s incredibly difficult not to take sides. With such massive amounts of emotion erupting on both sides of the issue, it’s just so easy to point fingers and assume that THOSE people are acting incorrectly. Because actions based on fear and anger are never nice and usually very loud and easy to see.  But the act of choosing a side is also based on fear. Fear of acknowledging that part of myself that knows that if I was that person in that situation, I would have done just what he did. If I was Mike Brown, I would have charged that cop. If I was Darren Wilson, I would have shot Mike Brown. If I was that white supremacist, I’d negate the value of black lives. If I was that protester, I’d be looting the Dollar Store. (Pixie Stix, bitches.)

Fear is a thing that every human has in common. So why are we using it to draw lines and point fingers? Why not use it as a unifying agent? Oh hi I’m afraid. You’re afraid too. That’s cool.

Every problem that has arisen from all of this is a direct result of people having an emotion and channeling that emotion directly into an action (charging, shooting, bitching, finger-pointing, burning, tear-gasing, etc.) Instead of arguing over the intricacies of one isolated and highly unfortunate incident, instead of bouncing this weird negative energy back and forth,  maybe let’s focus on some love instead.  I’d like to do a thing where I tell you to close your eyes and love everyone for a minute, like right now, then get all clever by saying yes right now unless you’re driving in which case put your stupid phone down and read this later.

But whenever someone tells me to do something it makes me want to do the opposite thing really hard like that Go See a Play  bumper sticker makes me want to drive straight to Wehrenberg Theaters. Or whatever’s the opposite of that…hear a work or something.  So I’ll say this instead.

I find it helpful to close my eyes and love every person. Love that cop. Love that shooter love that looter love the guy posting that stuff on Facebook that makes me think ‘that’s the type of person that I could never love.’ Because that’s the person I absolutely need to love.  All of the time.


Clearly there is a collective underlying hurt that this whole ordeal has stirred up. Whether or not this incident is actually representative of racial injustice and/or abuse of power is besides the point.  The issues exist. I don’t know much but in my experience, acknowledging the issues that create my emotions has been the first step towards healing. So here are the issues.  Now what?

Maybe this. Think it’d be nice if the whole world watched this and hugged each other.  Then we can go from there. <3

more thoughts on education.

Utilizing the Power of Sensitive Periods

(a slightly modified paper for a philosophy class)

“Only nature, which has established certain laws and determined the needs of the human being in course of development, can dictate the educational method to be followed; for this is settled by its aim—to satisfy the needs and the laws of life.”1

            Maria Montessori describes a sensitive period as “a special sensibility which a creature acquires in its infantile state, while it is still in a process of evolution. It is a transient disposition and limited to the acquisition of a particular trait. Once this trait, or characteristic, has been acquired, the special sensibility disappears.”2 By maintaining an awareness of the sensitive periods in classrooms, educators can foster the child’s natural drive and passion to learn. We can nurture these delicate tendencies and help the child cultivate a lifelong joy of discovery.
Montessori found that children pass through a relatively standard set of sensitive periods including order, language, movement, and social behavior.3 As educators, it is important that we stay vigilant of the various sensitive periods of the children in our classrooms in order to properly facilitate development within this time. By observing the child, we can notice repeated behaviors that might indicate that he is attempting to perfect and internalize a skill. If a child is continually walking around the classroom and pushing in all of the chairs, he might be in a sensitive period for order. In this case, it would be helpful to maintain an orderly environment and direct the child towards materials in which he can create order (the red rods, pink tower, etc.)Andy-Godlsworthy-Broken-stones

We can easily recognize a child in a sensitive period for language because he will rarely stop talking. “These explosive phenomena and eruptions of expression continue after the age of two years: the use of simple and compound sentences, the use of the verb in all its tenses and modes, even in the subjunctive, the use of subordinate and co-ordinate clauses appear in the same sudden explosive way… This treasure which has been prepared by the subconscious is handed over to the consciousness, and the child, in full possession of this new power, talks, and talks, and talks, till the adults say: ‘For goodness’ sake can’t you stop talking!’” 4 Our tendency to desire a quiet classroom atmosphere may inadvertently hinder a child in his sensitive period for language. Rather than attempting to squelch the constant chatter of the children, educators can direct them towards various language materials.  In my classroom, I plan to create material in which the children can use language in different forms to figure out alternative means of communicating with each other such as writing, drawing, and a variety of symbols. This type of material will also aid children who are in their sensitive period for social behavior by providing quieter means of socialization within the work period. In order to further aid a child in his sensitive period for movement, I have plans of creating an outdoor learning environment as my yearlong project. worm picThis area will include several gross-motor activities (railroad ties as balance beams, sweeping/raking/shoveling, and simple tent pitching) for children who might have a hard time moving slowly through the classroom for an entire work period.  It seems that if children are allowed to naturally progress within each of their sensitive periods, they are more likely to continue that pattern throughout their lives.
 

I believe that as we grow older we continue to pass through sensitive periods, but they become more specific to the individual: if a person is naturally inclined to dance, her sensitive period for movement will expand to include the broad spectrum of movement for dance. But often these sensitive periods are exploited. If a child has a natural proclivity towards dance, she may be pushed to become a “dancer” long after she has acquired this trait. She may have an internal desire move on from dance to a sensitive period for architecture, but might feel constrained by the expectations of those around her (and herself) to be a “dancer.”non stop dance party

This seems to be one reason why there often appears to be such a difference between the way children and adults learn. “…when the sensitive period has disappeared, intellectual victories are reported through reasoning processes, voluntary efforts, and the toil of research. And from the torpor of indifference is born the weariness of labor. This then is the essential difference between the psychology of a child and that of an adult. A child has a special interior vitality which accounts for this miraculous manner in which he makes his natural conquests; but if during his sensitive stage a child is confronted with an obstacle to his toil, he suffers a disturbance or even warping of his being, a spiritual martyrdom that is still too little known, but whose scars are borne unconsciously by most adults.”5 I believe those scars are what sometimes prevent adults from continuing to learn with that natural vitally that is characteristic of the learning of a child. If we continue to encourage the process of learning within a sensitive period rather than praising the traits acquired during this time, the child will not feel pressured to remain stuck within a sensitive period after its natural time has passed. She will be able to continue learning in new directions with that intense joy that is inherent to the natural expansion of her abilities.
Many adults maintain a belief that we need to learn certain things in order to succeed rather than allowing ourselves to naturally follow our interests. As a result of being overstressed by outside demands placed upon us, we develop the habit of looking forward to a break rather than enjoying our current situation. We are then always looking towards to the end result, to the point at which we no longer have to force ourselves through the difficult task of acquiring unnecessary information and carrying out menial tasks. Rather than working for the sake of working, we work in order to relax on the weekend, in order to earn vacation time and eventually retire. But what then? We retire but the mentality of living for the future does not. Those who experience this realization at retirement often go back to work, like a prisoner commits another crime in order to put himself back where he’s comfortable.vanishing point

Standing describes this tendency: “It often happens that, in obedience to a set programme of studies, a teacher is obliged to hustle on his pupils to reach a certain attainment by a certain date. His eyes, and therefore those of his pupils, too, are fixed on the future; and the whole atmosphere becomes one of forward-looking tension.”6 When children are forced to acquire knowledge at inappropriate times, when they are not allowed to develop naturally within their various sensitive periods, they begin the habit of looking elsewhere for fulfillment. Many of us have acquired this habit. When we have our minds always set on the future, it’s difficult to keep that tendency from seeping into our classrooms and into the attitudes of the children. But if we acknowledge our tendency to look to the future, we can begin to change and keep our minds and those of our students more focused on the present. We can experience the joy of watching a child thrive within any given sensitive period: “During such a period the child is endowed with a special sensibility which urges him to focus his attention on certain aspects of his environment to the exclusion of others. Such attention is not the result of mere curiosity; it is more like a burning passion. A keen emotion first rises from the depths of the unconscious, and sets in motion a marvelous creative activity in contact with the outside world, thus building up consciousness. The intense and prolonged activity aroused and sustained by a sensitive period does not cause fatigue; rather the reverse. After a spell of work done at the imperious bidding of this inner urge the child feels better, stronger, calmer. Why? Because by means of such ‘work’ he has been creating himself.”7
Given the pace of our modern society, it is sometimes difficult to slow ourselves down enough to take notice of the child’s sensitive periods. “In primitive societies, where work was simple and could be carried out at a relaxed pace, the adult could coexist with children in his working environment with less friction. The complexity of modern life is making it increasingly difficult for the adult to suspend his own activities ‘to follow the child, adapting himself to the child’s rhythm and the psychological needs of his growth.’”8 Perhaps we can take note of the fact that the complexity of modern life is so inconducive to human development. We have chosen this way of life and if we notice that it stands out in such stark contrast to the way in which a child exists, maybe we could adjust our current way of living. Children show us the potential of a human being, young and old. As educators, we are attempting to change the world by creating environments conducive to child growth and development. So why not start with our own environments? This doesn’t require any sort of drastic dropping out of society. Just a change in mentality. Society can move at breakneck speed, but we can choose to slow down and simplify our lives. We can eliminate most of the chaos and confusion of modern life from our own home environments. We can be an example to those around us for the way life can be lived. And in so doing, we can truly adapt ourselves to ‘the child’s rhythm and the psychological needs of his growth’ because we will learn how to meet our own psychological needs. We can remember how to work like children.

super-happy-baby-with-a-super-happy-camel
I believe the Montessori Method is a wonderful means of rekindling the love of work in our society. As an educator, I can foster the growth that occurs within the child’s sensitive periods and enable him to stay in touch with his innate passion for learning through work. “Success in life depends on a self-confidence born of a true knowledge of one’s own capacities…”9 By supporting the child in each of his sensitive periods, he gains confidence in his abilities. If he is able to fulfill his innate desires to grow and develop himself through work, he has a better chance of maintaining this sort of confidence throughout life, always trusting in his own impulses towards his natural interests.  I plan to create environments that protect that passion for learning within the child so that the child will never forget that his potential is limitless.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori, The Montessori Series, Montessori Pierson Publishing 2007, pg 75
  2. The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori, Orient Black Swan, 2006, pg 38
  3. The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori, The Montessori Series, Montessori Pierson Publishing 2007
  4. The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori, The Montessori Series, Montessori Pierson Publishing 2007, pg 166
  5. The Secret of Childhood, Maria Montessori, Orient Black Swan, 2006, pg 40
  6. Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work E.M. Standing First Plume Printing, 1998, pg 140
  7. Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work E.M. Standing First Plume Printing, 1998, pg 120
  8. Montessori: A Modern Approach, Paula Polk Lillard, 1972, Schocken Books Inc., pg 39
  9. Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work E.M. Standing First Plume Printing, 1998, pg 117

preparation of the teacher.

hi friends!

I’m currently in week 4 of an 8 week Montessori teacher training program. I got to write this paper for the philosophy class and thought I might share it with you:

 

The Preparation of the Teacher
“Justice, here, is to give every human being the help he needs to bring about his fullest spiritual stature, and service of the spirit at every age means helping those energies that are at work to bring this  about.”1
In the first two weeks of this training program and in my experience working in Montessori schools over the past few years, I have come to realize that a Montessori teacher is an incredibly hardworking and devoted individual who is engaged in an ongoing process of self-evaluation. The teacher must constantly work to prepare an ideal learning environment for children, both physically and emotionally.
Montessori describes three main stages in the preparation of the teacher. The first stage focuses on creating the best possible physical learning space for the children. “The teacher becomes the keeper and custodian of the environment.”2 Though somewhat tedious, I find this stage quite enjoyable. Working with toddlers made me fully aware of the importance of a pristine and orderly environment. The smallest detail can wholly effect a child’s ability to concentrate. I take a lot of pleasure in straightening the shelves and putting together materials so as to “entice” the children. I love how Montessori says, “The teacher must believe that this child before her will show his true nature when he finds a piece of work that attracts him.”3 That idea really drives home the importance of putting careful thought and love into the arrangement of the classroom. The work must be appealing to the child so he will select it of his own free will and proceed to “reveal himself through work.”4
            The second stage occurs when the children enter the environment but before they begin to concentrate. At this stage, it is helpful for the teacher to suggest some work that needs to be done in the classroom in a manner that makes the activity sound appealing. Also, some children in this stage might have a tendency to be disruptive. In that case, it is the teacher’s job to gently redirect the child or maybe suggest they engage in some activity together outside of the classroom.5 The teacher must also place the child in contact with the orderly environment she has created by explaining that it is the duty of each child to return materials to their proper place. When the child becomes aware of his role within the classroom, he feels a sense of belonging and takes pleasure in maintaining that order.6 Throughout the course of our observations at the preschool, I’ve gained a better understanding of why I sometimes find this to be the most challenging stage. It is a common belief amongst teachers that if the class is noisy and disruptive, something is “wrong.” While it’s true that wandering children and an overly rambunctious group is likely a sign that adjustments need to be made, assuming something is “wrong” implies that someone or something is at fault. Entangling our egos and self-images with the way a classroom is operating is a recipe for frustration. Our thoughts proceed in this manner: from “the classroom is noisy” to “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be” to “I’m a horrible teacher.” Since the majority of us were raised under the old mindset that assumes it is the adults job to mold the minds of children, it’s easy for us to take disobedience personally and revert back to the kindergarten teacher that Standing describes: “She is not penetrated by the realization of the vastness of the forces of the human soul, she is not subdued and consoled by a calm certainty of the rightness of natural development. She is far gayer with her children than the Montessori teacher, but she trusts them less. She feels a restless sense of responsibility for each action of the child. It is doubtless this difference in mental attitude which accounts for the physical difference of aspect between our pretty, smiling, ever-active, always beckoning, nervously conscientious kindergarten teacher, always on exhibition, and the calm unhurried tranquility of the Montessori directress, always unobtrusively in the background.”7 While the latter description is the ideal model of a teacher, we will all falter at times. Montessori says teachers “should strive to rid themselves of their basic defect composed of pride and anger, seeing it in its true light.”8 While I think she’s suggesting more of a constant effort towards the absence of anger than actually exterminating it, those words are a little daunting. Thinking that we must rid ourselves of a basic human emotion makes suppression more likely, and suppression leads to explosion. If we acknowledge when anger arises in the course of an interaction with a child, we can take a step back from it. We can discuss our feelings with the child thus modeling the appropriate way to handle emotions. If we slip and allow the anger to dictate our actions, we can apologize to the child afterwards. The child will see that we are human and imperfect which allows for a deeper connection.
                        To be a Montessori teacher in the second stage is to trust that when the conditions are right, the child will take care of himself. A normalized classroom cannot be forced. Herein lies the challenge: to be aware of the potential of a classroom while allowing ourselves to accept the reality of the situation without judgment. To observe the children as they are and not as we think they should be. “The teacher’s happy task is to show them the path to perfection, furnishing the means and removing the obstacles, beginning with those which she herself is likely to present (for the teacher can be the greatest obstacle of all.)”9
The third stage happens when the children take interest in the work and concentration begins. For a child who is new to the Montessori classroom, the practical life area is the gateway to the rest of the materials. The teacher’s main task during this stage is to disappear from the child’s awareness.10 The slightest interference can destroy the delicate process of concentration, so the teacher must become a guardian against any distraction.11 In this stage, “The duty of the teacher is only to present new things when she knows that a child has exhausted all the possibilities of those he was using before.”12   The teacher must have an in depth knowledge of the materials in order to be able to give lessons, placing the child in contact with the appropriate material at the correct time.13 This is a beautiful stage. Watching the joy that engulfs a child when she makes a new discovery is one of the main reasons I love working in a Montessori school.
Creating a proper learning environment requires the teacher to maintain careful observation of herself and her classroom so she can provide gentle guidance to the children without becoming an obstacle to their learning. I have become increasingly aware of the importance of staying detached from the outcome of any situation within the classroom.  In order to have the most beneficial impact on the children, I will do my best to create an orderly and immaculate environment that allows the children to teach themselves while removing my presence from the equation as much as possible.

1. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 285

2. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 277

3. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 276

4. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 276

5. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 278

6. The Discovery of the Child, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg 150

7. Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work E.M. Standing First Plume Printing, 1998, pg 333

8. The Secret of Childhood, Fides Publishers, 1966, pg 151

9. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 264

10. The Discovery of the Child, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, 152

11. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 280

12. The Absorbent Mind, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 1995, pg 279

13. The Discovery of the Child, Fides Publishers Inc., 1967, pg 152

 

 

 

what i learned from a year of improv classes.

So I like being good at things. I like it when I’m noticed for being good at things. This is partially why the idea of taking an improv class scared the poop out of me a few times over: I’ve always told myself I was no good at being in front of people. In our fifth grade Ellis Island play where everyone was given at least one line, mine was : “I am shy.” I’ve been called an introvert. I called myself an introvert for a while because giving a label to my fear stuck it outside of myself and made it something beyond my control. Something I was unable to work with so it wasn’t my problem. I had to take a public speaking class in college. Our speeches were videotaped and we were supposed to watch the tape and critique ourselves. I never watched the tapes. In 6th grade we did a story telling exercise where we were supposed to learn the gist of the story and then get up and tell the story. DON’T MEMORIZE our teacher told us. If you memorize then you might forget your lines. I was too afraid not to memorize. I forgot my lines.

I don’t just like to be good at things. I like to be perfect at things. I like to do a thing so hard that it passes out afterwards, a lit cigarette burning its way towards the fingertips of the thing.
But maybe not this thing. This thing, I’m just not good at. I’m not the type of person who can be up on stage, let alone up on stage without a plan and with the expectation that people will laugh at me. [Motherfuck I know saying I’m a type of person is limiting everyone is a person who has certain tendencies which can always be changed and tinkered and bettered.]
But what if I freeze if I forget all words if I show how little I know if I look awkward what do I do with my hands where does my body go crap I’m on stage and am not really needed in this scene I’m the kid who sat down at the wrong lunchtable nobody likes me I’ll take my lunch to the bathroom goddamn I think too much SHUT. UP.
I know who I am. I love me. My family loves me. My friends love me. I have faults. I am stupid. I am brilliant. I am an asshole. I’m the sweetest. I want to be the cool kid why would I do a thing to exclude anybody I’m just not nice sometimes I’m working on that. Whatever. FUCK. Whatever. All of this is in me. All of this can come out of me. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter if everyone sees these things. It’s actually helpful if everyone sees these things. REFUCKINGLAX.

Know what? I don’t have to do a thing ‘til it’s comatose. ‘Til I’m bleary eyed jumping from one thing to the next feeding off your laughter and praise. I’m going to do this thing because it feels good to do this thing. Because I can walk out in front of a big ole batch of people with no plan and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what happens. The more I worry and try to figure out where things are going and what everyone is thinking of the way I perfectly fucked that scene the more I’m going to fuck that scene. Perfectly.
The more I just walk out there and be myself with all my flaws and not worry and have a silly time with my friends, the more that scene will work fucking perfectly.

I’ve been doing this improv thing for over a year. And about two weeks ago something clicked. And I finally believed all of these things that I KNEW were true. These things that Mike has been telling me for the past nine months. And the fear melted. [A bunch of it anyway.] And I walked out on stage and was clear. I wasn’t a bundle of anxiety, confused at how words were even coming out of my mouth, afraid to really move my body lest I ruin the world. I was just Julie. Playing a silly game with friends. And people laughed. And nothing bad happened. Because nothing bad can happen. Ever. We can build these ideas up in our head that say this thing that happened was horrible and terrible and the world will never accept me for the terrible sins I’ve bestowed upon it. I did that. More than a few times. I convinced myself that what happened up on that stage had ruined everything forever. When the truth is, nobody gives a fuck. And why should I give a fuck even if they do. I don’t. At the core of it I don’t. Obviously I’m a human and want to be accepted by all these other humans and so I want to do good things for the humans. I’m still afraid to say things I think the smaller louder part of a person doesn’t want to hear. But that’s not really helpful. And they know that. Inside we’re all screaming Just talk to me please don’t try to stroke my cock though it would like to be stroked and is telling you that it would like to be stroked all of that is just so GODDAMN DISTRACTING.
I do plenty of cockstroking myself.  I’m trying to do less since all that bullshit feels more like being stroked by hard plastic hands that were formed in two separate molds so they’ve got that scratchy crease that runs down the center like the seam of a blowpop scrapes the roof of your mouth raw.

Anyway. That thing clicked a few weeks ago and everything was just ok. And then another thing clicked. This isn’t about me. This whole time I’ve been so concerned with my own bullshit. I’m playing on a team and wanting to help the team but at the root of it I just wanted to look good. I wanted people to like me.

Last week was our final showcase, the culmination of over a year of improv classes and I was hardly in it. If that had happened a month or so ago, I would have berated myself for the next 27 hours for being too much of a pussy to get my butt on stage. But this time it was just amazing. It was just clear to me where I was needed and with 13 people up there, I just wasn’t needed very much. And that was fine. Beautiful actually. I was just watching a show and being entertained and putting in my two bits here and there.

I started taking an improv class because I wanted people to like me. I graduated the program knowing that I don’t need anybody to like me. I just need to know where I fit in. That’s all.

Why I want to become a Montessori Certified Teacher.

Hi friends.

I want to become a Montessori Certified Teacher because it scares me. The idea of entering into a profession where my success will be entirely determined by who I am at my core is a little terrifying, no? This isn’t some job where I can just coast along behind a desk and wait for 5 o’clock, then wait for the weekend, then wait for my next vacation. This job will require that I attempt every day to learn as quickly as these children learn and they set a pretty ridiculous pace.  I will be required to continually address all of the not-so-positive attributes I possess since children have a way of waving these things in my face until I choose to do something about them. Which is wonderful a lot of the time and horribly annoying the rest of the time.  But I’ve learned to embrace the annoying (sometimes) and enjoy the wonderful the rest of the time.
I also want to become a Montessori Certified Teacher because:

-I have quite a love for learning and want to surround myself with a place that reminds me of this love and constantly challenges me to do more. Every child I have the opportunity to work with offers another tiny piece of this massive puzzle that is the human experience.
-I am a happy adult and would like to help produce more happy adults.
-The times when I am learning something new and facilitating that in others are the times when I feel most alive.
-I would like to make more money.
-I love watching children continually realize the value in doing things for themselves.
-I think the human spark is often the brightest in early childhood and I’d like to learn how to help children learn to keep their spark glowing.

Mainly I want to become a Montessori Certified Teacher because it just feels right.  I’ve explored a variety of career paths and seem to keep coming back to education. And the Montessori Method just makes sense to me.

During the Montessori teaching program, my goal is to address any personal issues that might interfere with my ability to facilitate a positive and productive learning environment. At the moment, I see my main obstacle as wanting too much control. I sometimes become a bit fixated on the way I think things should be rather than accepting and flowing with the way things are. Working with toddlers for the past two years has helped me immensely and I plan to continue to grow in this area.  I also have a tendency to place teachers on a pedestal and I’d like to work on that since it interferes with both my ability to learn and teach. It seems to me that learning happens best when everyone involved in the process is open and accepting of the fact that we all have infinite possibilities for growth and development. Learning is a dialogue, not a speech. I also intend to maintain a cooperative rather than competitive attitude throughout the program. I want to help the entire group live up to our potential. The more we focus on helping the group as a whole, the better each of us will be.  My goal is also to remain open to whatever may arise. I will embrace the vulnerability that comes with any learning experience and allow it to deepen my connection to those around me.

I feel that I have a variety of attributes that allow me to excel in this field.
For one, I remain calm.  I continually work with my emotions in order to help increase my ability to set them to the side in a frustrating situations. Humans can be frustrating and this job involves interacting with a lot of them every day.
Also, I have a huge passion for learning which is very contagious and I plan to infect as many as possible with this affliction.
I also spend a lot of time studying myself and others. Humans have always been incredibly interesting to me so I’ve developed a bit of an understanding of why we act the way we do. I feel that working in this field will help me better understand how to help a child (or any human, myself included) modify behaviors that are not beneficial to himself and his surroundings.

I wish to enroll in the HMEI program because I fully believe that this is one of the best educational institutes. Up until I started working at Hope, I had plans to eventually start my own school from scratch in order to create a positive learning environment for children. Discovering Hope, an environment that embodied what I thought education could be, was a huge relief. Knowing that I can attend a program that will teach me much more than I could have created on my own is just a wonderful feeling. I also have the benefit of seeing the HMEI program from the inside since I teach a Tibetan Yoga class for the Infant Toddler Training. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with a group of such passionate individuals who are wholly dedicated to making this training program the best it can possibly be. I’m always seeking to develop and utilize my ability to make this world a better place.   I believe this program will be a wonderful way to continue that process.

Thank you for reading. 🙂
To contribute, pop on over here: Raisin’ Funds for School

or here:


life is neat.

So about 2 years ago I woke up at my mom’s house feeling the worst I’d ever felt in my life. The morning before I’d crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and flown home from California after deciding to leave my little home in the redwoods the day before that. All I really knew was that the way I felt was the opposite of the way life actually was and thus I’d done something along the way that ruined everything everywhere forever.

Then I picked up a random book off the shelf and opened to a random page and this is what happened:

In Muir Woods

Last night, a giant redwood fell
either from old age, disease, or
“sometimes they just give up,” the ranger said.

Listen, I was in the woods, I
heard it too, like my own death
falling inside me.

Here in the last of the old growth forests
where some trees are still virginal,
some older than Moses,

I thought, then, of you. You are not the one
dying, you said to me,
and I quoted to you from Montaigne

that death was not a proper object of fear
but only the end of life.
What is a proper object of fear, you asked,

and I said death of the heart.
But life, you said, was
everything. And you were in love

with that beautiful lie.

Sometimes these trees send out
all their sap at once
making them vulnerable, sometimes,

they grow burls of anxiety

Look, the ranger said to us,
the bark is so wet because the tree
drinks hundreds of gallons of water a day

from the fog that rolls in
over the Golden Gate Bridge.
That bridge which is so beautiful and which

holds such promise for tomorrow
with its blue shimmering bay.
Every day when I see the fog now,

I think of you and can almost
feel the fog cover me with
that enveloping mist, can almost feel

the branches of the redwood
being kissed by its cold
ministrations. I would, if I could,

stand here all day like these trees, but my
heart is so sore, it is almost ready to burst,
and I am filled, suddenly,

with a wild and insatiable thirst.

 

–June Beisch

 

I just pulled that book off of the shelf again and opened to that page so I thought I’d write to June and tell her how much her poem means to me but it seems she’s dead so I thought sharing her poem again might be a better way to thank her anyway.

I have no idea how this world works but I think it’s pretty neat.

some notes on toddlers.

For the past two years I have worked at Hope Montessori Infant/Toddler Community as an assistant teacher. Next week I’ll be moving down the hill to the preschool to work with 3-6 year olds instead of 1-3 year olds.
Before I go I thought I’d jot down a few tidbits I’ve learned about caring for toddlers and maintaining an environment that fosters positive growth and development. And sanity. [for the toddlers and myself.]
-Set consistent limits. 
  Distinctly setting limits and providing myself and the toddler with valid reasons for these limits is hugely important for this age group. Setting limits mainly consists of continually expecting the toddler to listen to what I’m asking her to do when I’m certain that she understands. When I ask her to do something and she refuses, I will offer her help in doing said thing. If she continues to refuse, I will help her complete said thing. If this makes her upset [it will] I help her to a quiet place to calm her body. A toddler will push and push and push again and so long as this limit and remains set, she will learn that limit is solid. And after pushing several dozen or so limits over and over and over again, she learns that I maintain solid limits and will expect that in the future.
Keep emotions out of it. [At least the negative ones.]
This is the most [seemingly] simple and the most difficult part of my job. Toddlers are brilliant and will immediately learn where you hide your buttons and exactly how to push each and every one. Knowing that they’re just looking for reactions and that I don’t need to take anything personally does not keep me from forming future gray hairs on a daily basis. But becoming emotionally involved in a difficult toddler situation makes the difficult infinitely bigger. Every time. Emotions feed on each other. Frustration does not recognize age or the boundaries between one human and another. It will not be reasoned with. It will only get bigger until you give it space and time to dissipate.  So when a toddler stares me in the face while pouring his milk on the floor for the seventeenth day in a row, I take a breath and calmly respond.
Enjoy quiet times.
These can in fact happen in a room of twelve toddlers. And actually happen fairly often.  Humans are hardwired to learn. When they are placed a room free from outside distractions and full of materials specifically targeted to capture their attention, toddlers will sit and focus intently sometimes for hours on end. Watching twelve toddlers silently working like the tiny little people they are gives me goosebumps every time.

-Clear communication of the expectations within a classroom from both teacher to teacher and teacher to student is vital.
 I was super lucky to have been able to work for a while under the guidance of two wonderful Montessori teachers, and have had the pleasure of working with a couple other great assistants throughout my time here. As a team we maintain high and consistent expectations for the children in the class. This cuts down on the whole ‘mommy said no so I’m going to go ask daddy’ routine and minimizes the toddlers’ confusion about what sort of behavior is acceptable in the classroom. Also, there are an infinite number of situations that can arise when you put twelve toddlers in a room together for eight hours a day. And each one is entirely unique. The ability to discuss an appropriate response to any given situation [while the situation is actually occurring] with other knowledgeable adults has been incredibly helpful.

High expectations are also key.
 Working at Hope has me continually astounded by what these tiny people are capable of. Children will live up to what you expect them to do. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that they are just children. Learning can be incredibly quick but a single day in which I repeat ‘Please use your nice words’  forty-seven times can make it seem just the opposite. Really, it’s not. A 36-month old has been functioning on this earth for 36 months. In that time, she has learned how to maneuver her body through space, maneuver her mouth to form auditory symbols to express what she encounters in the world, maneuver her bladder and bowels to release on the toilet [for the most part], maneuver adults to do her bidding, maneuver her hands to put food into her mouth, maneuver all sorts of different materials in the world to perform various tasks, and maneuver her vocal chords to scream when she reaches a breaking point. Which is often. There’s a lot of information here, folks.

Having high expectations is sometimes conducive to high frustration. Learning can be a rip-out-your-hair process when you witness a person intentionally choose to perform a task incorrectly over and over again.

But that IS learning.

How often has this worked:

Step one: realize a truth about life.
Step two: alter your patterns accordingly.

For me, it often looks more like this:

Step one: realize a truth about life.
Step two: realize that truth means it would be beneficial for me to alter a certain pattern I’ve developed.
Step three: try the old way a hundred or so more times.
Step four: guess that’s not going to work.
Step five: try that new thing I’ve discovered.
Step six: SUCCESS! Step seven: repeat steps 3-6 a few dozen more times.

Patterns are patterns because we’ve done them over and over and over and over and pulling ourselves up out of a groove that’s been worn thousands of times takes a bit of an effort.

When everything is fresh, learning can take place in a snap but it doesn’t always happen that way. There are all kinds of factors involved: was the toddler attached to the old way of doing things is he receiving some sort of reward for this behavior elsewhere has a tiny detail within the environment changed in order to distract or confuse him is your paying attention to the fact that he just learned this thing going to make him want to pretend he needs to learn it again in order to get your attention again did he perform that action consciously or did it just sort of happen without any real memory of the thing.

Learning happens best when we are given the space, both emotionally and physically, to make mistakes, both emotionally and physically. We have to experience the results of our actions in order to truly understand them. Education works best in an environment in which children [and humans in general] are able to safely make as many mistakes as they need.

-Toddlers will bring out the best and the worst of you.
They will make you laugh and cry and want to scream and throw things through windows. They will make absurdly profound statements. They will tell you their penis is making dinosaur noises. They will shove a friend down for no particular reason. Later they will stop in the middle of an intense game involving some sort of monster to run over and check on that very same friend. They will grow incredibly quickly and bring you along for the ride, whether you like it or not. Working with toddlers has taken me to the depths of frustration and the peaks of joy. I’m infinitely grateful for my past two years at Hope Montessori Infant Toddler Community and all of the wonderful people who have helped me along the way.

sex is neat.

 

A few nights ago I got up on stage in front of a bunch of people and performed with the improv group that I have been practicing with for a while now. And it was wonderful. There were certainly some jitters and a moment where I froze completely, but the beautiful thing about this whole team deal is a couple of my cohorts jumped into the scene before I even had a chance to do that -what gives me the right to be up on a stage- thing. Words won’t work when I try to make them show how much I appreciate playing with this conglomeration of weirdos that I very much adore.

octipuss

Since I discovered how great it feels to create things I’ve mainly done so in the privacy of my little space, tapping into that place where I’m never sure quite what’s going to come out so if it’s something SUPERGROSS OR WEIRD I can just delete it burn it or at least tinker with it until it’s a bit more palatable.

But with improv you gotta go to that unknown place with other people. Way scarier [seemingly] than doing it on your own. But like sex, it might seem a little scary to do it with someone else at first but after you get over that hump, everything is not just ok it’s actually far beyond what you could have imagined. For a while I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk about sex, thought I needed to relate on some sort of profound truth instead, but what is more profound than sharing ourselves so completely with another person that we can each allow ourselves to lose track of where one ends and the other begins and then float off together in a bubble that is the same thing as infinity. I read some book once in which the author seemed upset with the fact that his only means of communing with the divine was through sex. Why take something amazing and undermine it with the fact that we haven’t yet figured out everything about this amazing thing just yet? Sex is a universal means of waking ourselves up for a moment but we’re all afraid to talk about it. Or is ashamed of it. Or we cheapen our own experience by thinking that we should be privy to some other means of contacting the infinite [yes we should work towards finding some other means in addition to the sex thing] but what the heck is wrong with fully giving ourselves over to the divinity that is the human orgasm.

Know something? It’s ok to express how much you care about things.

I’m working on that one. When I really care about a thing, I tend to downplay it in case other people don’t care about it as much as I do.  Which is sort of ridiculous since when I hear a person talking about a thing they care about, I can’t help but care right along with them. “I don’t care” is nearly always a lie.

Part of our job here is to seek out that which lights a little spark inside of us and fan it to the point that anyone close enough will feel the heat.

inner spark

It seems that acknowledging that I do in fact care about what other people think of me makes it easier to address the issues that have been caused by caring too much about what other people think of me. Which then reminds me that there’s nothing I need to hide and expressing what I believe to be the truth is never a bad idea. Yes, it’s scary. Sometimes we get scared away when someone shows us a part of ourselves that we haven’t learned to love yet. [I still run and hide on a daily basis.] We just need to be gentle with these things so as not to engage the escape pattern we’ve been rehearsing for so many years like a bunny practices running away over and over and over again. [Bunny bunny? Bunny bunny.]

The more we realize that everything beautiful and sparkly and amazing and weird and awkward and gross and evil and fantastic we see in everyone else is also in us, the easier this gets.

 <3.