Monday, April 13, 2020

On parent communication

It's overwhelming. The amount of resources and ideas teachers and administrators have come up with to respond to this crisis of education is jaw dropping. It is also awe inspiring and makes me proud of those in our profession who join in with other tireless care givers in essential work during this time.

At the beginning of this, like others, I was scouring the web for resources to share with parents of all the wonderful offerings online that were being advertised. Shortly afterwards though, I realized that I was becoming a part of the overwhelm. By filling emails with links and ideas, I was robbing parents of the opportunity to actually listen to their own parenting instincts, to delve into their own family culture and craft their own routines and family rhythms. Giving them the space to figure out what they wanted to do with this time suddenly seemed wiser than clogging their emails with suggestions.

There are wide ranging school responses to the crisis at the Primary level, from sending weekly packets of worksheets, to making sets of rotating classroom materials that get passed from home to home weekly, to video lessons for parents on how to present materials, to video lessons for children, checklists, and all manner of school interventions in the home. 

Many of these options seem to respond to the idea that we must fill children's time at home with educational things to do. It almost sounds to me like a variation of the mistaken notion that we have to fill children's heads with knowledge, that adults have to drive children's learning and decide the curriculum. However, the basis of Montessori education is to follow the child. We know children are not blank slates. We know they want to learn. We know that what they need are environments conducive to learning so that they can do the learning. So before deciding on any course of action it may be worth thinking of the foundations of Montessori. 

Perhaps what is needed as a response to the school closures has more to do with helping parents create the conditions for learning in their homes as best as they can, given their resources and particular circumstances. I think our work may be to aid parents in understanding the development of children as nature intends it within their own home culture.

Let's have conversations with parents about enriching environments, about independence, about protecting concentration, about freedom within limits and how to set clear boundaries and expectations of behavior and natural consequences. Let's talk about the value of play in learning, and about routines and order, about how we talk, listen, and relate to children so that our relationships are respectful and harmonious. All these conversations not to train parents to become teachers, but to help parents be better parents because home life is the curriculum right now. We have a chance to not just to bluntly invade their homes, but rather to gently help shape family life so that it responds better to the needs of children. How about starting from the idea that education begins with how you are relating to your child from moment to moment.

I'm more comfortable with the direction our school communications are taking and have more clarity about our role as Montessori educators in this crucial time. It only took four weeks of clogging parent emails, let's see if we can move forward together now.

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