Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kinesthetic Intelligence

"control of one's bodily motions and capacity to handle objects skillfully"

"a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses so they become like reflexes"

"the abilities to watch, observe keenly, imitate, and re-create"

"working skillfully with objects, both those that involve the fine motor movements of one's fingers and hands and those that exploit gross motor movements of the body"

from Howard Gardener "Multiple Intelligences"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grace and Courtesy at the Beginning

(With week 1 under the belt and feeling like the anxiety has turned into enthusiasm.)

It was a good thing that I've saved the lesson plans for first days of school of the last couple of years. These help me to compare and plan and remember about first weeks and what I'm supposed to be focusing on, which is (in my case), mainly practical life and grace and courtesy.

Since we have so many newcomers this year (11 new children and most of them just 3 years old), at this point it's all about laying the foundation for future work.

Someone out there asked me for it, so here is the general grace and courtesy list that I'm using (and of course modifying according to the need I see in the classroom):

  • How to enter the classroom
  • How to wash hands at the sink
  • How to have snack
  • How to use the bathroom
  • How to work on a table
  • How to work on a rug
  • How to observe someone working at a table
  • How to observe someone working at a rug
  • How to come to group lessons
  • How to sit for group lessons
  • How to stand in line to wash hands, wash dishes, use the bathroom
  • How to walk around a rug
  • How to get the teacher's attention (hand on the shoulder)

This is most of what we worked on last week. I enlist the help of the returning children when giving these lessons #1 to remind them of the lessons #2 acknowledging a bit of seniority to the older children (I put a word in about the responsibility of being role models for the new children)

Now our second week is coming up, so after observing the results of these lessons I refine these basic grace and courtesies and add what we saw problems with. So this week, for example, I'll be showing how to get up and sit down gracefully from the floor, how to tuck in your chair soundlessly, and try to fix the glitches like "how to turn the bathroom sign back to "GO" after you use the bathroom."

And from here on it's all refinement and continuing to strengthen the foundation all while trying to keep things fun... adding movement games here and there certainly helps me keep the youngest ones with me.

Every day I'm adding a few more materials onto the shelves now that I see that the new children are understanding the rule of not taking something they don't have a lesson with. I pick carefully what to add each day because it is like resurrecting a material... things like the shoe lace frame which in my classroom was gathering dust for weeks at the end of the year is being used with love when there are no other dressing frames available. (Insert evil laughter here)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Practical Beginning Stuff

(tasting lesson with some of the new children- food is a great indirect motivator for learning how to join and leave a small group lesson)

I inevitably get anxious at the beginning of new school years. I struggle with the uncertainty and feel a bit like a rusty teacher after the long vacation. The comfortable (if I am not romanticizing it) atmosphere that we ended our school year with undergoes a makeover- the new group of oldest children and the new children change the society every year.

To prepare, there are "rituals" that help me feel more ready for the change: Writing a letter to both new and returning children about how I am excited sharing the coming year with them, visiting the new children in their home, reading the chapter in my album about the first days in the classroom, and of course, setting up the environment.

At our school, only the new children come for the first 2 days of school. This gives me the opportunity to focus on them exclusively and make sure they get all of the introductory grace and courtesy lessons. I strip the classroom of materials and leave out plenty of transitional materials and just a few of the very basic and indestructible Montessori materials.

In those two days we try to prepare the new children enough to be able to function somewhat independently. We shorten the work period considerably and give lots of group lessons. On the second day of only new children, we focus on grace and courtesy such as not taking a material if you haven't had a lesson with it (in preparation for lots of other materials that "appear" on the shelf the following day, when the returning children arrive.)

Everything shifts once again with the return of the "old" children. A really nice thing is that since the old ones are used to a 3 hour work period, and are eager to be back at school, they really INJECT a surge of work force in the environment. I could feel this yesterday (it's our 4th day today) how the new children were able to work a little longer, and a little more carefully because of, I guess, the "energy" in the room.

Tomorrow will be the end of our first week of school. And by next week I will add a considerable amount of materials on the shelves for the "old" children to get back in gear from where they left off last school year.

It is great being in an environment that is so dynamic and changing, and to work in a field where things are in constant flux. Just when you think you've got the formula right, something or someone comes along and you have to modify it again. Observation, observation, observation. Flexibility. Enthusiasm. Love.


Some excerpts from Pema Chodron's book "When things fall apart" which has been uncannily appropriate literature for beginning this new school year:

"The main point is that we all need to be reminded and encouraged to relax with whatever arises and bring whatever we encounter to the path."

"Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news." (This may be out of context but it makes me smile a lot to associate it to classroom life.)

"Sticking with uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic- this is the spiritual path."

"Just be with your experience, whatever it is."

"This is the liberation that naturally arises when we are completely here, without anxiety about imperfection."

"Beyond all that fuss and bother is a big sky."