Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to guiding educators towards a centered and intentional Montessori practice.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MonTeSSori


As educators in Montessori environments, our job is to create situations that lead students to the edge of understanding - between what is known and comfortable and what is yet to be discovered, unveiled and considered - and then set them free to make the connections that lead to the development of new skills and the integration of knowledge.

That students come to us all along a broad spectrum of abilities, interests, and predilections is to be expected. As such, we each have students that, at times, struggle. Our task is to work collaboratively to lift them when needed, kindly confront them when they balk, and walk beside them as resistance gives way to, at first, reluctant partnership - and then true collaboration.

There is no superhero, nor perfect program, that will “fix” the students amongst us that face the fiercest of struggles - but for ourselves… We, the Montessori collective, is what stands between their experience of the status quo and a truly transformed life.  

Our job is to unravel the very essence of every child’s being who walks through our doors. Regardless of their family’s motivations for attending our schools, our work - our mandate - is to meet them as they are, give them what they need, and never give up.

Much has been made of the processes and protocols necessary to bring greater success (ease, comfort, joy...) to those who struggle - both the students, themselves, and the adults that support them.

Regardless of the mental model, unless approached holistically, these procedural blueprints trick us into a narrow, linear, and determinate way of thinking about children.

For those of us who have been in and around education for a while we have lived the reality that most answers are not what we expect, and - more often than not - are found through circling back and revising our own attachments, fears, and expectations.
How do we master this task? How do we move from a posture of fixing, problem-solving - or waiting for the help to come - to one that possesses the fierceness that calls us to action?

Our job is to, be dynamic, flexible, and open-minded; to scaffold, plan, anticipate, and co-construct; to interpret, bridge, team, and connect - all with the intention of providing what each child needs at this moment, and this moment, and at this moment, along their personal arc of biological and psychological development.

Our service to our students is embedded in who we are and what we do as Montessorians.

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* Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) is a framework, a way of thinking, a mindset through which we can highlight student needs, risks, and opportunities -  and then identify the next steps to employ in service.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Biophilia* (or Love of Life and the Desire to be Whole)




An Essence

I have such fondness for this life. When considered in silence, detached from the burdens and pleasures of each day, there is a balanced mystery to it, and I find myself marveling at the beauty of it all. From where does such attachment spring? Could it really be that it is merely our sensorial appreciation of our immediate environment, moment by moment, that connects us - or is there something more?

An Energy

What is it that calls to us? What is it that moves and shapes us, shakes us and takes us, in turns - first gently beckoning us closer, whispering, near teasing – then, at times, roughly by the collar, demanding our attention, that we wake up - to be fully here and now and present? Is it within us, or from without? Is it our soul, our spirit – or the spirits that sweep around us? Is it biological or psychological? Of life itself, or of the mind suspended?

An Ethos

Of all, such are the questions to our lives that lay incomplete and stranded, strung-out and wanting. These are the infinite riddles that reach forever outwards to the horizon. That they oft go unanswered, in fact, makes them all the more captivating and seductive. What is a question, after all… but a quest?

An Eagerness

There is a voice and rhythm, a pattern of play that guides our days. Who is at the helm?
Oh, Captain, guide my hand and on the rudder till. Stand beside me, and help me keep watch for the storm. 

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(*Note: Credit is due to both to Erich Fromm and E.O. Wilson, two pre-eminent thinkers and posthumous thought partners on this journey. Truth be told, after finishing an earlier draft of the simple reflections above, I was looking for a title that would reflect “love of life”. I credit my years in upper elementary classrooms for letting etymology fuel my search, ultimately landing quite naturally on the term “biophilia”. Little did I know that others preceded me in naming what I explore above. First Fromm, then Wilson, used the term “biophilia” to describe life and our relationship to it.

In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), Fromm wrote:

“Biophilia is the passionate love of life and all that is alive; it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or group. The biophilous person prefers to construct rather than retain. He wants to be more than to have more. He is capable of wondering, and he prefers to see something new rather than find confirmation in the old. He loves the adventure of living more than he does certainty. He sees the whole rather than only the parts, structures rather than summations. He wants to mold and to influence by love, reason, and example” (p.336).

Earlier, in The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (1964), Fromm reflected:

“The tendency to preserve life and to fight against death is the most elementary form of the biophilous orientation, and is common to all living substance. Inasmuch as it is a tendency to preserve life, and to fight death, it represents only one aspect of the drive toward life. The other aspect is a more positive one: living-substance has the tendency to integrate and to unite; it tends to fuse with different and opposite entities, and grow in a structural way. Unification and integrated growth are characteristic of all life processes, not only as far as cells are concerned, but also with regard to feeling and thinking” (p. 45).

Working with Stephen R. Kellert in The Biophilia Hypothesis (1995), Wilson interpreted and redefined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life” (p. 416).
  
Originally, Wilson explored these ideas in Biophilia (1984), set in both an evolutionary and mystical context:

“[W]e are human in good part because of the particular way we affiliate with other organisms. They are the matrix in which the human mind originated and is permanently rooted, and they offer the challenge and freedom innately sought. To the extent that each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little-known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions” (p. 139).

While certainly not definitive, nor necessarily answers to the questions posed in this post, I look forward to studying these perspectives further toward a greater understanding of ultimate truth).