Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Montessori in China

Whew! I'm back from a rather quick trip to the other side of the world and amazed in many ways. My happiest amazement came at the proliferation of Montessori schools in Asia since my time there. It has been sixteen years since I boxed up and shuttered Montessori Children's House of Sai Kung outside of Hong Kong. It was one of a handful of schools in the region and now the Montessori community there has just hosted their first professional conference. What's even more amazing is the growth of Montessori (even elementary) on the mainland. Hooray! It looks like a wave of the future on the Chinese education scene. This, of course, means big things for the world. Maria would be proud.

My trainer at NYU, Marlene Barron, has done a lot of work to introduce authtentic teacher training in China. She is featured in these two videos.


Shanghai, where I visited last week, has so many Montessori schools it was hard to choose which ones to visit. According to this video, Shanghai is leading a new "revolution" in learning in China.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Real language experiences

As I head out of the country I feel compelled to post yet another reflection on the danger of losing an important component in human development--language. The losing of it is occurring in the cyber filled nature of children's language "interaction". This occurs in the form of e-readers, iPad games, and the like. Much has been written lately about thus subject and I am happy to read about the research being done on the possible effects on children's development. Much like the nature deficit defined by Richard Louv in recent years, there appears to loom a language deficit. There is no understating the negative effects caused by a lessened experience in language (not to mention movement) in the young child. The early language and literacy deficit is revealed in the varied research done on the achievement gap plaguing our nation's schools, but is not limited to the conventionally cited groups in this discussion. What of the car seat bound suburbanite child restricted to interacting with the leap pad? Or the youngster pushed on the swing while a cell phone conversation takes the place of appropriate language interaction? A pervasive language neglect may prove to dumb down all children to the point of some serious struggles with surrounding reading. Reading is being able to understand written language. Written language is based entirely on the spoken word. When I say reading begins at birth, I mean that as we hear our first word, we begin the road to reading. 
As I board a plane to the other side of the globe I plan to ready myself to observe the language interactions from the perspective afforded to a language outsider. I hope to find that universal human element alive and active. The electronic devices I feel are robbing our young children of successful language experiences are manufactured in the continent I'm traveling to, let's see if their influence is similarly influential on the degradation of language development there.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Art of Creating the Perfect Arrival

As a young parent I remember watching in awe as more seasoned friends effortlessly dropped off their children for preschool. Little did I know that many preparations had been done “behind the scenes” to make the event seem so effortless. Through much experience I now know that a child’s successful arrival for school rates right up there with “you get what you plan for.”  And it is definitely worth doing well because the child’s arrival defines the child’s day.  Here are the ingredients for a successful arrival:

The night before:

  • provide a nutritious evening meal free of harmful additives (videos, television, cell phones, computers …) accompanied by interested and interesting family members
  • arrange the selection of next day’s clothing for easy access
  • gather and place all necessary items the child will need for school in one prepared place that is used consistently (tote bag, lunch box, jacket, any notes or correspondence, a book to read while waiting in arrival line …)
  • provide a soothing, unhurried bedtime preparation (bath, story-time, lights out …)
  • ensure ample, undisturbed sleep for child and self

The next day:

  • arise early enough to greet your child with genuine warmth
  • assist only as needed as child dresses for school (no switching outfits, stick to the plan!)
  • provide ample time for routine chores (making bed, grooming, assembling lunch …)
  • provide a nutritious breakfast free of harmful additives (video, television, cell phone, computers, newspapers, magazines …) yet injected with authentic camaraderie (no eating in the car en route)
  • provide ample time for your child to collect items from the pre-arranged storage space, all assembled neatly in appropriate containers (totes, lunchboxes …)
  • provide ample time for child to put on outer wraps, outdoor shoes, and assist only as needed – the key is AMPLE TIME
  • have a signal for load up time that is consistent and stick to it (“Wagons ho!” “Get ‘em up! Move ‘em out!”)  Be sure your child knows that he is expected to be ready.  Most schools will accept children in pajamas!
  • have everyone assemble at a pre-designated place, make a quick survey to note that all is in readiness, lock up and load up
  • A VERY IMPORTANT STEP: provide plenty of travel time for unhurried, unharrassed, safe travel
  • arrive on time!  You are not only getting to school on time, you are building awareness in your child of responsibility, reliability and respect for her school community and its expectations.  You are also providing the tone for the child’s entire school day.
  • pull into the appropriate line of cars, settle back, and wait patiently.  Perhaps read quietly from the book you so wisely planned for the night before, or have quiet conversation about what you see about you.
  • keep your child seated and belted in until assisted to leave the car
  • say your brief goodbye to your child before the assistant opens the car door. Make it upbeat and cheerful – and very brief.  Prolonged goodbyes and hand- holding serve to increase the child’s anxiety about separating from you.  A brief, uplifting goodbye says, “I have every confidence in you and your school.  You will have a fine day!”  Children are amazingly intuitive about our true feelings.
  • recognize that, if you have done all of the afore-mentioned items, the remainder of arrival is the work of the assistant, the teacher and the child
  • allow the assistant to accept your child, to include assisting her from her seat as necessary
  • as soon as the assistant and child are safely clear of the car, drive away with complete confidence that you have worked hard to create an arrival that will start your child’s day off beautifully
  • repeat daily because, as everyone knows (parent as well as educator), repetition breeds perfection


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Technology and other summer musings

Ah, summer, with its gift of time to reflect and renew for most educators. Here is a bit of reflection for all on technology use for the young child.
Steven Hughes interview (see min 29-35)
During the school year I don't always have the time to study this topic as I should, but I do feel very strongly about it. For a touchstone on technology usage I often seek out advice from guru David Walsh. Here's his take on things.
The Trouble With Paying Attention podcast