Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let go of your agenda

Even Montessori teachers have to adhere to some sort of agenda. We make plans about what we are going to teach our kids. We have certain requirements that we need to meet, especially when kids are moving on to public schools. And yes, we do need to answer to parents to an extent. That is the crappy part of the job. But the beauty of Montessori is sometimes you can just absolutely let it go.

My first major agenda change happened last week. I was all set to do my Extended Day sound of the week lesson. The kids had just came back from lunch, so they were still changing their shoes. Instead of us always tying the children's shoes, we encourage them to ask a friend. This is one of those skills that children always seem to learn better from each other than from an adult. I vividly remember the boy who taught me how to tie my shoes in Montessori kindergarten.

One of our boys learned how to tie his shoes at the end of last school year and has been very helpful with the other children. On that day, he was feeling a little frustrated with everyone asking him to help tie their shoes. He finally exclaimed, "Okay, everyone! You all need to learn how to tie your shoes!"

I quietly said, "You know, there are dressing frames over in practical life that will help you practice tying shoes."

The boy in question walks over to the bin and gets out the bow-tying frame. "Okay, everyone, watch me!" And he proceeds to give his own lesson on the tying frame. The kids were so excited that they wanted more dressing frames. I didn't yet have them all out, so I went to the storage closet and filled the bin. They gave each other lessons on the dressing frames for a solid 20 minutes. I did finally get around to my sounds lesson, but this somehow took priority.

Today there was a similar story. I did my sounds book and they brainstormed new words. They got out their notebooks to write some of them down. I noticed that the aforementioned boy and another one were doing more than just writing words in their notebooks. The second boy just recently started taking Chinese classes. He is madly in love with his new talent of writing Chinese characters and was teaching the first boy how to make some. He then started showing me some of them and I told him I could add some works to the shelf if he was interested. He got very excited.

I pulled out my laptop and showed him a couple of activities that I already knew. He helped to teach us how to correctly pronounce the Chinese numbers from 1-10. He commented that he wanted to know how to make more of the numbers, but hadn't yet gotten there at Chinese school. So, I hopped on YouTube and found a video about making numbers. I played it and asked him if that looked right. He said yes and got very excited to see how some larger numbers were made. One by one more children came around to watch. Some of them even grabbed their notebooks and were trying to make the characters. They also asked to watch a short video that taught them the color names in Chinese. We watched a few of them repeatedly. Have I maybe found a use for that damn SmartBoard? (Although my assistant and I agreed that we preferred the intimacy of using the laptop, instead.)

It was very exciting for me as well as the children. This is what I love about Montessori education. You follow the child and his interests. And you can learn from him just as much as he will learn from you.

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