Sunday, April 29, 2012

Montessori A to Z: S is for Self-Awareness

Are you aware of your self? Do you understand how you feel each day and how you are presenting yourself to your children? It is amazing how much our own personal feelings and stress in life impacts the children in our classroom. If you wake up late and run around feeling frazzled, the children can pick up on your frenetic energy in the classroom. If you are feeling stressed about something else, they can sense it and become uncomfortable. Many times, without realizing it, you are bringing a tremendous amount of energy into the room.

I try really hard to leave my baggage at the door when I arrive at school. I try to focus on the children and nothing else while I am in my classroom. The hardest test for me was last school year. I already had the most demanding group of children that I had ever hard in all of my years in the classroom. During the third week of school, my grandmother passed away and I missed a week. A few months later, my mother ran away from home, due to her Alzheimer's, and I had to try to help my father get her situated from 400 miles away. A couple of months after that, he went into a coma due to a brain bleed. He died on the last day of school. Talk about a lot of stress and negative energy!

I will never know how much my class was affected by my energy last year. The difficulties that we experienced with some of our students and their unanswered special needs added a great amount of stress and energy as it was. I had to be absent for several weeks, spanning each of these family crises. When I was there, my mind was sometimes elsewhere, no matter how hard I tried to let go.

But it doesn't take a major crisis in your life to throw off your game and your energy. In fact, you may not even be able to identify what exactly it is that is throwing everything off. The first thing you must do is to acknowledge when it is happening.

The best way I have found to do this is to remove yourself from the classroom for a few moments. In my school, the best way to do this is to go to the office to refill the coffee cup or simply to use the bathroom. Those 2-5 minutes in which you are gone can be quite telling. If I leave during a crazy moment and have a calm classroom when I return, then I know it is me, especially if the level starts to immediately increase again. It is the same for my assistant. I often ask for a truthful answer as to whether or not I am causing the energy or if it is some other factor at play. And then I try to adjust accordingly.

It is also important to realize your own limitations. When I have exhausted every possible resource that I have at my fingertips, or have simply passed my patience threshold for the day or the moment, I ask someone else to take over. I take a walk. I switch rooms for a few minutes. Some days are just more demanding than others. We want to be the masters of our own little universe, but cannot possibly handle every single situation. We need to learn to lean on the people around us.

Take the time every day to meditate on yourself and how you are doing. You will find yourself becoming a better teacher as you do so.

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