Monday, December 6, 2010

JMA Blogs!

If you get a chance, please stop by to see our teacher's blogs, some good reading!

Children's House 1 (Ms. Tina and Ms. Julie)

Children's House 2 (Ms. Megan)

Outdoor Classroom (Mr. Mat):

Have a great winter day!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why do children lie?

A question I get from parents often is "Why is my child lying?"

So here are some reasons why children make up stories (which is not unordinary):

1) They will fabricate a fantasy world if they are unsatisfied with something in their world. Make up stories, even believing them to be true. Typically, these result in stories about things they wish they could do or have done. They are a means of escape. Dr. Montessori calls these fugues.

2) Another reason for a fugue like this may be something he or she has seen on television. They will play out or live out stories from television or movies. Sometimes so much that being in reality is difficult or boring.

4) To relay a story they want to tell but remove themselves from the story so they do not have consequences. For instance, if a child got hit at school and he or she wants to tell the parents, conveniently leaving out the part that he or she hit first.

5) To get someone else that they are holding a grudge against in trouble. For instance, if another student accidentally ruined his or her work, or if a teacher stopped him or her from doing something he or she wanted to do a story is made up to get the offending person in trouble.

6) Sometimes stories are fabricated out of laziness. I do not want to think of the answer, so I'll just make something up.

7) Sometimes constant accusations of the adult drive the child to lie, and therefore not to expose his or her inferiority.

8) She or he is having very vivid dreams, so vivid that in the daytime it is believed that they have actually happened. This can begin suddenly because of a dietary change, medication, life circumstances, or maybe she just is coming into a cognitive ability to remember dreams.

9) We lie to them. All the time. Santa, Easter Bunny, I just do not have time to look up the real answer, oh that story is so cute I'll tell you that as if that is a real answer, a misplaced need to "protect" children from the truth, a mistaken assumption that they would not understanding the truth or are not ready for it, marketing, and a number of other reasons that we do not tell them facts. Really, adults lie to them so often, why would it NOT be all right for them to lie to us?

If your child is lying, look deeply to see why they might be doing this. And then fix their environment to remove the reason they are lying. If it is television, turn it off. If it is our constant badgering or nagging, try to stop. And, most importantly we need to stop lying to them. I am not saying lay out the world and all of its uglies in one fell swoop. But, if they ask a question, answer it. Honestly. Or, say "I don't know, but I will find out the answer." (and then actually find out the answer and tell them).

Remember, you only have to answer the question they ask. A question about where babies grow does not need to be a whole birds and bees conversation, just say "they grow in the uterus of the mommy, here is a picture of the uterus, it is here in the body." Notice, I didn't say to tell them that they grow in a flower field and then a stork picks them up and delivers them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Because of You

I went to a Reba McEntire concert last night and she was singing the Kelly Clarkson song Because of You, which is on her Duets album (sung with Kelly Clarkson). As I was listening to the song, which I knew but had never really thought about, I realized what a Montessori song this is. It expresses the dangers of an adult getting in the way of child development, and therefore passing on their adult hang-ups. We often do not realize how we can set up children for failure by our own risk avoidance. We pass our fears, our wishes for what we wanted our lives to be like, all onto our children, leaving them unable to blossom as their spirit should. Take it as a lesson when you are interacting with your children, let them explore, live THEIR lives (not yours).

Because of You by Kelly Clarkson

I will not make the same mistakes that you did
I will not let myself cause my heart so much misery
I will not break the way you did, You fell so hard
I've learned the hard way, to never let it get that far

Because of you I'll never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt Because of you I find it hard to trust
Not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you I am afraid I lose my way
And it's not too long before you point it out I cannot cry
Because I know that's weakness in your eyes
I'm forced to fake, a smile, a laugh
Every day of my life
My heart can't possibly break When it wasn't even whole to start with

Because of you I'll never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt Because of you I find it hard to trust
Not only me, but everyone around me
Because of you I am afraid I watched you die
I heard you cry
Every night in your sleep

I was so young
You should have known better than to lean on me
You never thought of anyone else
You just saw your pain
And now I cry
In the middle of the night
For the same damn thing

Because of you
I'll never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side
So I don't get hurt
Because of you I tried my hardest just to forget everything
Because of you I don't know how to let anyone else in
Because of you I'm ashamed of my life because it's empty
Because of you I am afraid
Because of you Because of you

Friday, September 3, 2010

Amazing Valedictorian Speech

Let's start an education revolution!

The following speech was delivered by top of the class student Erica Goldson during the graduation ceremony at Coxsackie-Athens High School in NY on June 25, 2010:

Here I Stand

Erica Goldson

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." 
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" 
Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

      to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Early Reading and Writing in Children

Dr. Montessori wrote about how children learn to read over a hundred years ago, and today brain research backs up her findings.

Published in Psychology Today:

As mentioned in the article, children write BEFORE reading. Writing is a way for them to communicate their ideas, which they are more interested in at first. When they realize, "Hey, I need to read what I wrote!" that is when reading happens. In the classroom, we begin with tracing metal insets. At home, any tracing or free drawing will build hand strength in preparation for writing. Also, activities such as play dough, using tongs and tweezers, pinching clothespins, using a pincher grasp to move materials from one bowl to another will all help build hand strength for writing. When writing doesn't happen, it is typically not a cognitive problem, but a strength issue. Imagine, in our computer world, if we as adults have to sit down and handwrite a ten page paper. Our hands would be tired! The same holds true for young children. Writing makes their hands tired. We can give them activities that they enjoy doing, that will strengthen their hands in preparation for writing. Then, the reading will come...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dissecting a Cow's Eye

A little snippet from a cow's eye dissection our after school teacher, Mr. Mat, led. Cool and gross all at the same time...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review of Parenting, Inc.

Here is a book review of the book Parenting, Inc by Pamela Paul. I have not read the book, but it is on my reading list. I do agree with the author of the review about the direction our society has gone with media and toys, and I think this is a good refutation of marketing ploys by companies.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Technology and Media in the 3-6 classroom and Home

In our society, we hear so much about media and its evils or overuse. Some think the solution is to never expose a child to media. Some use media as a virtual babysitter. And then there is everything in between. This is just how we use media in our school, and we do, and how I personally use media at home.

We do not use television daily, weekly, or even monthly, but we do use it if a documentary or a staged production fits in with a particular theme the students are working with. For example when studying poetry we were led to TS Eliot's Book of Practical Cats and then those interested watched the London production of Cats. I have a student who is now in 6th grade and he still talks about this musical with his parents and he remembers watching it in class. We at this point do not use TV shows or movies in school. However, I would not be opposed to a fitting Sid, the Science Kid show (PBS) or another carefully screened show if it met the schools values and what we are studying at that time. And we would certainly do experiments or investigations along with it, it would just be one piece of exposure in our web of experiences.

We use computers in the classroom for research resources, for example, we are having an international fair and one class chose China so they watched the Dragon Dance on YouTube and then made a dragon and tried the dance. Ideally we would rather have live performers in, but most times that is impossible (cost, time, space, impromptuness of what they want to learn about). I would like to find computer programming to actually teach students computer/typing skills, because in our society it is important for them to learn and it is something they are interested in. However, I have not yet found software I would like to be in the classroom. Therefore, we do not have computers in the classroom for student use. The Montessori software available that I have found is just our apparatus in computer form and I personally do not feel like that is as beneficial at this age as actually manipulating the apparatus.

We use recorded music at all age levels. Sometimes as sing alongs, sometimes nap music, sometimes fun dance music, and definitely to introduce composers, instruments, and their work. Sometimes the whole class can hear the music being played, sometimes a student uses headphones to listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons privately.

I feel that there are good points to media, used properly. A thing cannot be fundamentally evil, all is dependent on use.