montessori

13. Our Reactions are Funny Facial Expressions to Kids

jose-ibarra-297117I was inspired by a video clip of a father making funny faces to his baby and the baby was laughing hysterically.

This reminder me of a time when I did something similar with a three year old – where I would make these random silly faces and the boy would laugh hysterically. 

The faces I made where exaggerated expressions – emphasized expressions of surprise, fear, silliness. I would in the moment really use / push my face to intensely express myself and to provoke laughs.

From this, I had been looking at how we as adults probably do look ridiculous when we go into reactions – how what we experience inside is translated and seen on the outside through our facial expressions and body language.  Like for example anger – how we can pull our face down, our brow furrows, we go into a deep frown. If we freeze it it may actually look hilarious / funny, just as if we were in a state of extreme fear. How our eyes bulge out wide, our mouth drop open – it can look really funny to a child.

Perhaps when we go into these emotional experiences we do “look” funny because maybe what we are going through is silly / funny — For example getting angry at a spill on our shirt, or being stubborn and saying you know how to do something when you don’t. So little things like that can be silly if we really look at it — especially if they are small / futile things that really don’t matter. 

 

Recommended Resources:

DIP Lite – Free Self-Development Course

EQAFE.com – Self-Perfection Merchandise

School of Ultimate Living – Life Creation through Words

 

Additional Support:

Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race

Extraordinary Parenting: Leila Zamora Moreno

Teacher’s Journey to Life with Anna Brix Thomsen

10. Tantrummy Fits with Clean-Up Time

delfi-de-la-rua-157488I got the opportunity to run my own classroom downstairs where I work with 6-7 children for about 3 hours, 5 days a week. It may not seem like a lot of time with them, but for me it is. These moments are filled with spontaneous activity, new ideas, activities, discussions, learning – every day is new and unpredictable, so in a way I have to roll with it yet keep to a structure as best as I can.

Something interesting came up today, was from my fourth day working here I noticed the tendency of not wanting to bother to ask or request or tell the kids they need to clean up after themselves. I just didn’t want to – I was too damn scared. I was too scared for the idea and the reality of possibility facing their cries, their resistances, their temper tantrums, their ”no’s…” because I have encountered this, there are certain children who have developed the perfect tonality and expression and behavior to manipulate adults to get their way, and I’m one of those adults who have not been able to as of yet find a way to stand through the manipulation and temper tantrums. I have instead cowered to this fear and did the dirty work myself as I allowed me to clean up after them while they read, talked, drew pictures.

This is exactly how my mother treated me – she did everything for me, I didn’t do a lick of work and perhaps this is because my mom knew if she had me do chores and errands I would throw emotional tantrummy fits, manipulating to get my way. Funny how life works this way where I am now in my mother’s position acting just like her.

How do I change this?

  1. When I go back to the classroom I am going to hold a circle time right before we need to do our chores/clean up tasks and explain why we need to clean up, the importance of it, how it supports everyone, how it builds character, etc.
  2. Second is to work on my own fears of being manipulated by children / people – cause if I am being manipulated I am still brainwashed – only people who are not brainwashed do not get swayed in their minds with emotions and thoughts but know exactly who they are and what they stand for. This means I am still allowing my own thoughts and emotions to manipulate me instead of understanding why I so easily succumb to these specific thoughts/emotions.

 

Additional Support:

Parenting – Perfecting the Human Race

Extraordinary Parenting: Leila Zamora Moreno

Teacher’s Journey to Life with Anna Brix Thomsen

 

 

8. A Sound Environment for Children in the Classroom

sound-enviroment-for-a-child”When is it 2 o’clock?” (pick-up time)

”How many hours until circle time?”

”When is Lunch?”

I’ve been getting individual children asking me these questions shortly after the work session starts (a 3 hour work session where children are encouraged / directed to work with the Montessori materials and activities provided).

At first I was suspicious by their questions, but dropped it and made using the clock fun by showing the children how many hours we have until that time, sometimes making sounds of play as I moved my fingers around the clock, other times I would count the hour when I hit the 12 mark to make the process more interesting.  

Then more children started to individually ask me what time was circle time and what time was lunch time during our work session.

I asked a little boy once if the reason he is asking me is because he wants to go home. He said honestly yes, and I said ”well, what do you do want to do when you go home?” and he said he wanted to play soccer (football) with his dad.

It makes me concerned these children already 10-20 minutes into the morning work session are already wanting to go home. This is a huge problem… Is something going on the environment that is preventing them from enjoying themselves?

In my personal experience, I do find the way things are run in my classroom are not ideal which may contribute to children not being very happy. In this series I will walk through the problems I see and will add in my perspectives on how we can practically change them.

First of all the environment is not ideal – we are in an old building with long rooms, high ceilings and wooden floors on the second floor, so if chairs fall, glasses clink together, chairs scrape against the floor, or someone yells, the sound reverberates and echoes louder than usual. This causes many children and teachers to complain of the noise-volume, which affects stress levels, and disrupts work. When it becomes too loud sometimes teachers becomes angry/emotional and will speak and/or act in this emotion, that ripples in the classroom and affects the children. In some cases a child will cry because of the volume, so we would have to ring the triangle, remind everyone to talk in a quiet voice, but 30 minutes later it becomes loud again. These are ‘’Classroom Acoustic Problems’’ that actually harm a child’s health and learning.

There are a lot of little problems like this that contribute to making the work session environment not ideal/optimum for a child, and it’s really troubling to see children not happy and wanting to go home so early in the morning.

Practically, ideally, we require an environment/space that does not echo nor reverberate sounds for both teachers and children. Children are much more sensitive than us, so if we are going to have them work in an environment for long periods of time, we need to consider the environment and sound levels MUST fit their physical and psychological needs — they are of priority because the intention of school/classroom is FOR them to learn, grow and develop.

One way to fix the issue of tall ceilings that reverberate/echo sound is adding sound eliminator panels on the top of the wall, similar to what this classroom did here because these panels absorb sound very well, thus making the room much quieter and ‘’cosier.’’  If you’re on a budget, you can use cotton panels, which may not be the most attractive looking, but their purpose supersedes that (and children really don’t care what the room looks like). Other solutions can be adding carpets/rugs in the classroom, and more objects on the wall to block sound from bouncing off.

The most important point within this all is that the environment should be in consideration of both the child and teacher/adult’s health and wellbeing that leads/promotes optimum learning, growing and developing.

As my responsibility of a teacher’s assistant in the classroom, I will ask my team if adding panels in the classroom is a possibility, backing up my stance with research and personal examples for support, and will update you on any changes.

Thank you for reading!

7. How Not to be a Killjoy

photo-1437955010382-7b8721d5c977Killy joy: A person who spoils the enjoyment of others

In the kindergarten I work at, it is difficult for children to go outside of the box and use the classroom materials for their own exploration and creativity (unless it’s painting or drawing, but even within that there are certain rules such as not drawing on the table/easel).  The reason for this is because the materials we have are specifically designed for a child to use them a certain way. Even simple tasks like cleaning an orange press, we as teachers have these steps to show them.

When things get out of hand, meaning, when the child does not do what we asked or showed them to do, we tend to reprimand them – sometimes with a scowl, or a frown, sometimes changing our voice tonality to match the disapproval or even judging and shouting at them for what they’ve done.

But have we ever stepped back and just observed what they did? To see if whether that moment with the child was an expression of their own creativity and going outside the box?

Take for example these real situations that happened in my classroom:

  1. Two boys were washing glasses, and one of the boys decided to put water in his hair. The other boy saw how it changed the shape of the boys hair, so helped shape the hair into a style. Laughing, they played with the boy’s hair.
  2. A child sees himself in a mirror and starts dancing, doing cartwheels, watching himself perform tricks.
  3. A child (instead of washing the juicing equipment) set the equipment up in the sink in a way where when he turns on the water, the water goes through the equipment, creating a new structure for water to go into the sink. He called other children to see his invention.

How did we as teachers respond?  Basically what you would expect – a lot of no’s and stop that’s, telling what the child should do next.

When we adults/teachers see these sort of things, we tend to immediately think they are rebelling against the classroom rules, and we react, stop them, and/or tear them away from the situation. We don’t and cannot take that step back to see the natural creativity that came forth because is not within school rules and we don’t have time to look deeper. We got 20+ kids to manage! How do we even have time to look at the potentials and strengths of the child?

In creative – out of box situations like these, children are not deliberately rebelling from us/classroom rules but actually forget about the rules because they get so caught up in the moment, engaged in a new approach/way of working with something and just go for it — using the opportunity to try it out. The new moment of creation for children is more important than the old classroom rules/what they are ’suppose’’ to do, because it’s new and that process is fun for them. Though a point to mention is yes, sometimes their creations may create outflows that will disrupt the flow of the classroom environment (such as a child gets excited about what they discover and get the other children excited and classroom work is disrupted).

BUT – How many times do we as adults have an idea on something to try out/do and just go for it? Not so many… we tend to hold back and don’t go forward with things because we allow thoughts and memories of past failures limit us from just TESTING and SEEING what is possible…

I’d say, children are naturally creative in that they can make new things out of something we as adults think are used/meant for one purpose. The problem is when our way of thinking get in the way of child’s natural creativity and we become these authority figures that stop or ‘kill’’ the joy and opportunity for the child to continue exploring this new way of using the material.

I’ve been seeing these moments of creativity in children more and more when I’m around them, where they will use classroom materials in ways not meant to be used according to what we as teachers want, and — as much as I want to allow them to continue — I cannot , due to my job position, which is why I am currently trying to find ways where I can direct the child to perhaps continue this sort of exploration/creativity in another environment.

For example, I told V, this one child who placed a cup over the faucet to watch how the water came out that perhaps he can do this at home, but not here in the kindergarten. So I in a way approached it (as best I could) gently, communicating that this type of creativity may be possible in the home environment, but not here. Even writing this now, I  could have specified my approach by re-iterating the procedure on how we wash glasses in the kindergarten, and that there may be different procedures at home so ask your mom and dad if it’s ok to do this…

The problem is, with managing 20+ children in a classroom, staff members cannot actually allow children to freely express and test things out for themselves unconditionally, because they are in a confined environment with items/materials and thus rules need to be applied – however, are these rules in the best interest of children, where their mind, being and body are taken in consideration? No way! We have for CENTURIES formed our classroom rules based on our (adult-teacher) preferences, likes and wants. No where do we take the children 100% into consideration.

I say, a major change needs to take place. We need to uproot the current education system, get to understand more of the child’s mind, being and body and see how we can shape and design the future for children.

The best resources to start is studying the Parenting Series (even if you are not a parent!) and walking your own understanding of how human consciousness works through DIP Lite.

6. One Year in the Classroom

one year in the classroomIt’s been one year for me working as a teacher’s assistant in a bilingual kindergarten. When I first started, I was really thrown into the deep end — I had no prior experience to working all day with children 3-6 years old (the majority of my experience was with older children like 9+), and the assistant I replaced was well-liked by the children, so they were not so open to accepting me.

I was quite “weak” as a teacher’s assistant. For the first three months I did not know how to properly direct children, or lead children, or handle conflicts. I was quite scared of some of them, particularly the boys who did not like what I told them to do where I “kept at them” by not giving up on them, they would hit and kick me, call me names, from which I would take personally and retreat in myself. I was quite traumatized by the amount of pain I experienced with the aggressive behavior of the children, because I had never before. This then fueled a cycle of fear where whenever I would be near them and they needed to stop doing something, the courage I had was very small, fear override it, so my starting point was insecurity and the boys picked up on it, and they knew how to respond to that insecurity… so you can understand it was a tough ordeal for me.

Now, after a year of dealing with such situations, I rarely get hit at/kicked at, and if I do, I am much quicker in protecting myself and not taking it personally because I know more of the child’s background/mind and why they did that.  In a way, coming out of  all of this, I feel like I can handle anything, honestly.

This means that over time in the classroom, I grew more confident in myself, in knowing what works, knowing how things are run in the classroom, knowing the children more, and what I need to say to them, the more certain I became in how to direct them and things. This entire process took like a year, to get to where I’m at now with children, where if there is something wrong/off in the classroom, like a conflict is about to brew, or a child is not working on a material properly, I am more confident in myself on how to direct and say things. And it’s been cool to see the results of my process working with children where when I ask them of something that considers the rules of the classroom, or the environment, or the children, they do it, they (for the most part) listen to me, and if they don’t, I am more confident in being able to work with them to have them understand, or at times I let them go — it depends on the situation (in time to come I can share more specifics on how I work with children in the classroom).

I had many many many times wanted to quit and give up my job. The combination of working with children’s emotions and behaviors along with the physical labor I had to do and my own personal reactions, it was too much for me. But I knew deep down to not give up, to not quit. Yes, money was the main motivation to keep going, but I also knew that I would regret quitting because I genuinely enjoy the children and the classroom I’m in.

Now, since I am more stable working with them, a new process has opened up for me where I am trying to understand how I can work with the inner needs of children– especially the difficult ones, where I am observing their behavior and seeing within their behavior what they need that would support them in groundedness, stability and to take steps to their utmost potential. It’s been a fun process so far and am looking forward to sharing more with you on that.

Thanks for reading!

5. From Reacting to Understanding

children montessori reacting to understanding helping them fufill a needI had for a long time reacted to 4 year old V for his behavior and difficulty listening to teachers and children. He is different in that he cannot connect easily with the school materials and/or with other children by socializing.

What started happening was V began to give a lot of physical contact to the teachers and children, where he would randomly go up to a children and try to kiss them on the cheek, lips, or arm. Children would react to this, yelling or hitting him to go away, and so we as teachers started to teach V about space and asking before kissing children. This helped to an extent but then V continued with the physical attention without asking.

One day I looked deeper at the point, looking at human needs, and what this child’s behavior is showing me about needs he wants fulfilled. I saw V needed personal attention and physical touch as groundedness, which was what he was trying to do for himself by kissing and touching children, but it was bringing consequence to him.

Sunette from EQAFE.com showed me how V is an emotionally oriented child and does require personal attention because it is what he needs and by me supporting this need will support him with less consequences. One example to support him is sitting with him and reading a book for example, where we act out certain parts from the book (the character jumps so we physically jump) — making the together time a physical activity thing supporting him to stay grounded in the physical (so it’s not just all mental like reading and looking at pictures) but combining the mental, physical and potential education for him.

By supporting V to fulfill his need of attention, this can assist him to settle down within himself and not need so much attention from others, which then lessens consequences. Then additionally V now can move on to fulfill another need that will support him in reaching his utmost potential the more he develops/walks in life.

So for me, I have been shifting my focus to reacting to V to observing V — asking myself what does he NEED, what is his (problematic) behavior showing me that I can support himself with?

I got to apply this point of supporting him when V started to cause conflict between two boys. He kept poking them and being in their space when they were telling him to stop and go away. I used the opportunity to invite V to help me with laundry, since all the other children were busy. V came with me, and I showed him how the dryer works, and had him participate with me in taking the lint off of the lint catcher and putting clothes in the dryer.  We talked and I made sure he was engaged in the task. Once we were finished we went upstairs to look for something, then eventually we went back downstairs where V was more calmer and went to join children drawing.

So, this was a cool point to realize for myself, to shift focus from reacting to understanding – asking myself what does this child need, how can I support him…and find ways to get the child involved mentally and physically by fulfilling his need.  If we as adults practice and apply this consistently for our children, we support them in developing their self-stability, talents and self-awareness.

Thanks for reading.

4. The Problem with School Lunches

 

photo-1445093498563-4ba5fecf1bc7My situation is specific since I work in a private kindergarten, so I will write from that starting point:

Children and school staff are only allowed to eat the lunch the chef prepares for everyone. The food is specifically vegetarian as well. Any outside food is really not welcomed since it can cause a distraction and does not fit in with the school community rules. Unless of course, one has serious health issues or food intolerances written on a note from a doctor, then they can bring their own food.

Customized food from the chef is not frequently available due to the resources and time to prepare the food.  One of my coworkers is gluten-intolerant, and sometimes the chef has food for her to eat, but other times there isn’t so the teacher has to pick on the other foods (like salad).

For me as a teacher assistant the obligation of having to eat this food is one of the personal problems I have with the school. First because: children are essentially ”forced” to eat food they are served with, and some children don’t like the food at all and refuse to eat, causing conflicts and disagreements between the child and teacher. For me I experience an internal conflict when this happens, because I want to respect the child’s refusal of the food but as my ”job” as the teacher I have to try and make them eat something. 

When a child doesn’t want to eat anything, the teachers and I are not allowed to give that child another type of food or snack  (i.e and apple or banana) because that would influence the other children to want to eat that instead, therefore we as staff we are obligated to either forcibly recommend the child to eat a little piece of the food or just have them sit there and not eat.

Me personally would like to bring my own lunch because some of the food the school presents is heavy in dairy or carbs which is what I don’t like eating in the day (it makes me tired). We have heard complaints from parents themselves of the choice of lunches but despite it nothing has changed. Being a teacher assistant I must be an example to the children, follow the classroom rules and eat what is given to me, even despite my internal dissatisfaction.

These lunch rules really honestly suck in my perspective and I dearly wish that there was the option of children and teachers being able to bring their own food. We would still be able to get that sense of ”community” the school emphasis by sitting with each other, but we have the freedom of choice to eat what the school makes for us, or eat the lunch from home.

In an ideal world, each child and teacher would have the knowledge and awareness of the food that they want and is supportive for their body, and that food would be available for them to eat. Similar like a free-for-all buffet line with an abundant of foods that the child and teacher can freely choose at their will when they are hungry.

How can we as teachers, school staff, parents get to this idealized lunch time for the school participants? Is this even possible?

Yes, it is possible, but it requires a decision by the collective — an agreement with the community and school director, and a responsibility and awareness of the financial needs of food transportation, food availability and what is best for the children and teaching staff.