For me, the weekend provided a wonderful opportunity for the new ELC teaching team to listen to, share and discuss a wide range of education topics, including Montessori information. The guest speaker sparked a range of ideas and discussions.
Many of the ideas presented challenged us as teachers but one personal “take away” thought was concerning the heart of Montessori teaching.
Sarah Werner Andrews asked us to reflect on the heart of Montessori teaching and ask ourselves the following questions…
- Why are we teaching a specific lesson to a child?
- Where does it fit in with the child’s learning and interests?
- How does it capture that human tendency for exploration?
She expanded this thought with “exploration elevates the children from the what to the why.” This comment validates the inquiry learning style, asking children to focus on their own interests and encouraging them to drive their own learning through that interest. Therefore the learning becomes relevant to each child through the context of environment and family, creating meaning for the child. Gone are the days where teaching facts is the main aim of schooling.
Sarah gave us another challenge, “ Are we delivering the curriculum or providing the children with an opportunity to thrive?” At St John’s we could translate that as an opportunity to SOAR.
I hope that as readers of this newsletter you have enjoyed a small insight into the constant challenges and thinking about how we best care for your children, teaching and learning evolves constantly and is forever changing.
It has reminded me of the importance of building relationships with all children and how instrumental these can be for their future learning and relationships with other Educators. If we develop secure, consistent, kind relationships with children in the Early Years they will carry that with them. These relationships are important as during these years children begin to develop self-efficacy and control, self-regulation and adaptive skills and it is the beginning of a child building faith, trust and hope.
Truly getting to know a child, spending time enjoying things together allows them to see us as someone that wants to be with them. As adults we are the child’s visible representation of the adult world. Children do well when they can. They behave in certain ways as they have encountered some sort of obstacle. If we really know them as a person then we can see this, remove the obstacle and they are more open to be and do.
As teachers it is also important to examine ourselves. Have the courage to take on children’s feedback and adjust what we are programming and the learning environment. We need to reflect on the work we are encouraging the children to do. Is it their work? Is their voice being heard? Make sure we understand the purpose of the experience or task. Is this my work or the children’s? Am I following children’s interests? It takes self-awareness and courage to be an effective teacher.
As a teacher we often talk about inspiring our young charges in order to develop a love of learning in the hope that they will become life-long learners. Hence what a privilege it was to attend the Montessori Whole School Refresher Conference in Sydney last weekend with my ELC colleagues. I found the experience incredibly rewarding, challenging and fulfilling as I sat and listened to Sarah Werner Andrews lead us through two days addressing the topic of ‘Exploration: The Key to 21st Century Learning” within the context of Montessori Education. As you can imagine there were so many different ideas and concepts that she raised with us, some familiar, some novel and others that evoked a range of responses.
One message that stood out for me was that ‘Happiness is a big deal’ in regards to our children’s learning and exploring. It is a mental state where our serotonin levels are higher and our cortisol levels are lower, where our brains in a positive state perform better than when not. Children will not learn anything if they are not happy and that they are happier when interested and interested when happy. Enthusiasm and task persistence go hand in hand and is something that we here in the ELC work hard to establish on a daily basis. A child’s attitude towards their learning environment can and will impact for years and as such what a powerful role we have been entrusted with to ensure that a child’s first learning environment is a positive one.
Sarah shared with us a TED talk by Shawn Achor entitled ‘The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” which can be viewed here.
You might like to view this and explore further the notion of changing the lens through which we view our world.
“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.” Maria Montessori
As an experienced educator of young children, I was very excited to be attending my first Montessori conference. As a new teacher to St John’s team and to Montessori learning, my goal for attendance was to enhance knowledge and adopt new strategies for optimum learning outcomes for Preschoolers. From the outset, I was keen to further consolidate my knowledge of child development philosophies, explore new learning principles, draw educational parallels, deepen my understanding of Montessori learning environments, and link all this to the Early Years Learning Framework (our outcomes based Early Learning Australian Curriculum). In short, I wanted to take back to St John’s ELC learning principles and practices that would benefit the educational outcomes of the children and their families.
My attendance at this conference enabled me to concur that Montessori is an education for life, a learning process where children are encouraged to develop at their own pace in a safe and caring environment; this is certainly what we believe and practise at St John’s ELC. The Montessori approach inspires children towards a lifelong love of learning, by following their natural developmental trajectory. I too believe that for optimum outcomes children must be supported to become confident, responsible, independent learners, trusting in their own abilities. Daily in our program, we encourage children’s learning through direct experience and re-visiting to consolidate and practice skills – a “hands-on” Montessori approach.
Our Rectory learning program is interest-driven, and considers Montessori sequenced principles of development. We chose learning activities that build upon prior learning and lead on to more complex activities. The organisation of The Rectory allows children easy access to a variety of learning experiences, and the materials in our Montessori environment are purposefully chosen to fit the developmental needs and characteristics of our learners. The children are free to engage in any activities that interest them. They can work by themselves, or with a friend, or a group of friends. Importantly, they can learn at their own pace.
All children have an innate passion for learning, and our Montessori embedded learning environment encourages this by giving opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with guidance from educators. Through our daily learning program, the children develop persistence, emotional resilience, concentration and joyful self-discipline.
In summary, I have deepened my understanding of Montessori education through my conference attendance, and believe our St John’s Grammar Montessori program successfully and confidently begins each child’s journey with “Learning to Soar.”
What a wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Montessori philosophy with a two day national conference as a whole teaching team. The chance to listen to some very knowledgeable and experienced keynote speakers, provided springboards for us to reflect on our practices, values and beliefs. Underpinned by the foundations of the philosophy there was a focused link with Montessori practices and ‘exploration’ I particularly enjoyed Sarah Werner Andrews’ 3 points to exploration as an approach to learning.
Happiness + Engagement = Enthusiasm. Did you know that the chemicals released in our body when happy ‘turn on’ the learning centres of our brain? At the ELC we support the notion of happy and pleasurable by preparing the environment with freely chosen hands on work/play, which is purposeful and meaningful.
When curious or intrinsically motivated it is better for learning with the dopamine chemical released enhancing connections in the brain. Fostering children’s curiosity is so important for young and old alike.
The key message Sarah shared with this point was that mistakes = opportunities for learning. We need to have challenges, but persist through even if we experience failure “engagement is a state of being willing to do difficult things”.