Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Child has Stolen! and a word about parasite lessons

Inspired by true events:

My cousin's ten year old son recently stole a pack of erasers (he has been collecting them) from a Wal-Mart. My cousin's initial response was to donate all of his Christmas toys to Toys for Tots, or to make him do community service. I applaud my cousin for wanted to do something about this problem. Many times I have witnessed parents do nothing because the event seemed to not matter. His mother caught the theft and went back and paid for the erasers (then donated them to Toys for Tots so he did not get them). So, in many parent's eyes, no problem. The problem though is that if this is not addressed now then it becomes a more serious problem later. Bigger things are stolen, maybe mom doesn't catch it. Or maybe he assumes that his parents are always going to bail him out of tough situations.

However, the problem with this punishment is that you wouldn't want him to associate charity with punishment. In Montessori, we do not have punishments at all (nor do we have external rewards). As Dr. Montessori said "the prize and punishments are incentives toward unnatural or forced effort, and, therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them." However, if we allow children to face the consequences of their choices, that then becomes a learning experience for the child. One that can be built upon. Punishment also comes with what we call "parasite lessons." This parasite lesson would be that helping others out is something we do when we have done something society deems wrong. If children lose "television time" because of bad behavior you've made television something to be coveted because when the child is behaving properly television is permitted.

In this case, I would first have a serious talk with him about how this was illegal and he could go to jail. His uncle is a police officer and could even take him to the jail and show him where people go when they steal. The talk needs to be framed with why it is wrong to steal. The learning experience should include having him examine himself to assess how he would feel if someone had stole from him. And how, in our society, we must earn what we receive. Then have him earn the money to pay for the erasers (by doing chores that he would not normally be required to do) and repay his mom. Additionally, he should write a letter to the Wal-mart about what he's learned and how he would do things differently next time. Which he needs to present to the manage Wal-mart of the in person.

And then going forward, parents should think about what parasite lesson is being learned from giving children everything they want, when they want it. Is that a life lesson you want your children to have? I know my cousin suspects that the theft happened because his son generally gets everything he wants. My cousin suspects that he wanted it and assumed he could have it. At a young age have your children start paying for items, even better if they pay for it with money they have earned. And earning should be for something that he or she should not be responsible for. Making the bed, cleaning their own dishes, and putting their own laundry away are all jobs that your child should already be doing as care of himself or herself. My daughter earns money by folding her dad's socks. It is a job he doesn't like, so it saves him work, and it isn't something she should normally be responsible for.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Join us for a live event!

We are joining Governor John Kasich and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee on Thursday, May 19th for a statewide event to watch the film 'Waiting for Superman' and participate in a live webcast and discussion about education in Ohio.

The movie begins the discussion about how public education must change in Ohio and the US, and begins the discussion about how we can bring Montessori and other alternative education to the rest of the public. We know that Montessori is the best, and ONLY scientifically crafted, way to educate children. We need a plan to bring this method of education to public schools in meaningful numbers. With the systems currently in place this is not possible. We should be MAD, as Trevor Eissler says, that Montessori is not even known as an option. We should be MAD that even if parents know about Montessori, there is often no nearby and affordable Montessori education for most families. Montessori should not be an education for only those that can afford to pay for a private school AND pay taxes to their local public school. It is shameful that public school children, even in suburban districts as the movie will show, do not have access to the best method of education.

The screening will take place at Jane's Montessori Academy, 1375 Francisco Rd, Columbus, OH 43220. Please email to RSVP. We will provide pizza for dinner during the screening. There will be a babysitter for children who attend.

You can watch a short video message from Governor Kasich here.

Governor Kasich and Michelle Rhee will be participating in a live screening of the movie hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

How will it work?

• At 6:00pm, we will tune in for a live online webcast with the Governor to make introductory remarks.

At 6:10pm, the webcast will take a break for the movie and we’ll watch the Waiting for Superman movie at your house party.

At 8:00pm, the movie will end and we will tune in again online for the second half of the live webcast and watch a discussion about the film with Gov. Kasich and Michelle Rhee. Questions can be submitted online through Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for your support and we hope that you can join us on May 19th!


Tammy Chabria

Principal and Owner

Jane's Montessori Academy

- Please click here to learn more about Michelle Rhee

- Please click here to watch the official trailer for Waiting for Superman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grades, Success and Tiger Mothers

“Once we have accepted and established our principles, the abolition of prizes and external forms of punishment will follow naturally. Man, disciplined through liberty, begins to desire the true and only prize which will never belittle or disappoint him,- the birth of human power and liberty within that inner life of his from which his activities must spring.”
-- Dr. Maria Montessori
My System of Education

(A Montessori quick bite from The Center for Guided Montessori Studies:

On January 8th The Wall Street Journal published an upsetting article by author Amy Chua titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”. An excerpt from her new book, the article claims that the secret to academic success is tyrannical control over the child. Ms. Chua proudly explains that her two daughters were never allowed to have play dates, choose their own extracurricular activities, or receive any grade other than an A.

Furthermore, she explains what she calls her “Chinese” negative motivation technique – insulting her children by calling them “garbage” and threatening them with the loss of meals, presents, toys and birthday parties. Ms. Chua says, “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” In one particularly abusive example, she recounts denying her daughter the right to eat or use the bathroom for hours until she mastered a piano piece.

Ms. Chua calls this technique of parenting through physical and emotional domination the “Chinese mother” style. In recent television appearances she has defiantly shown an appalling lack of self awareness of the cruelty she has wrought on her children. She will, she says, leave it for “Western” mothers to raise the “losers”.

The invidious stereotypes of Ms. Chua’s article have caused some controversy to be sure. Like many others, I can say that her characterization of Asian families is certainly not backed up in my experience – and I’m married into one. I suspect that Ms. Chua has rationalized her abusive behavior by cloaking it in the generalization that she is, somehow, normal.

Ah, but only if she were that rare! There are many parents of all ethnicities who think any behavior should be excused in the name of raising grades. Children hate working, goes the thinking, therefore the only way to get them to excel is to subjugate their will to their wiser elders.

As Montessorians, we know that cultivating intrinsic motivation is the most effective way to increase the productivity of both children and adults. Ms. Chua was correct in that she could, for a time, force her children to do better in school by dominating and emotionally abusing them. But in her memoir, Ms. Chua herself recounts the dramatic rebellion of her younger daughter.

But perhaps the weakest element of Amy Chua’s reasoning is the assumption that grades will themselves lead to success in life. Even many of the arguments made against her accept the axiom that a high GPA promises wealth, prosperity and happiness. In fact, this is not the case. The tragedy is that she traumatized her daughters for nothing.

What is success? If measured by income, grades at best weakly correlate with success. Persons who get A’s and B’s generally earn a bit more over their lifetimes than those who received C’s and D’s in high school and college. On the other hand, many studies paint a very different picture. For example, a longitudinal study of valedictorians show that they are no more – and perhaps less – likely than their peers to be successful in any measureable way. This study was described by Sheila Tobias as “An important corrective to the notion that success in high school inevitably prefigures success in college, in life, or in careers.” Another study of success by Richard St. John also concluded that grading does not lead to success and identified 8 traits that were strongly correlated.

“ Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn. ”
-- Dr. Alice Miller

In other words, good grades mean something but not a lot. Richard Branson, Thomas Edison and Isaac Newton were all undistinguished students, and Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. Both Charles Darwin and Carl Jung were called “stupid” by their teachers, and Louis Pasteur was near the bottom of his class in college. Leo Tolstoy flunked right out. Werner Von Braun failed algebra and Louisa May Alcott was told she would never succeed as a writer.

Academic success is at best an imperfect predictor of success if measured by either income or notoriety.

So, what is the best predictor of success? New York Times science writer Daniel Goleman makes a convincing argument for emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to understand and cooperate well with other human beings. In a study of the outcomes of students who attended Harvard in the 1940s, Goleman found that those “with the highest test scores in college were not particularly successful compared to their lower-scoring peers in terms of salary, productivity or status in their field, nor did they have the greatest life satisfaction, nor the most happiness with friendships, family and romantic relationships."

On the other hand, Goleman identified a clear connection between emotional intelligence and every other measure of success that he measured. People with a high EI are the ones “who truly succeed in work as well as play, building flourishing careers and lasting, meaningful relationships.” Is it a coincidence that peaceful, cooperative work is at the heart of the Montessori method, rather than grades? Once again, modern science catches up with Dr. Montessori’s prescience.

Certainly doing well in school doesn’t necessitate the abandonment of individuality, nor does it follow that if you receive good marks in school that you must be an unoriginal thinker.

But three things are readily apparent:
  • The traditional school system rewards rote memorization more than creativity, yet the workplace requires creativity more often than rote memorization.
  • The traditional school system pits students against each other in class rankings and measures each child’s work in isolation, yet it is success in navigating the dynamics of group projects that plays a more essential role in the modern workplace.
  • By pressuring a child to do better in school, a parent also pressures a child to become that thing which the school most rewards – a rote memorizer pitted against other rote memorizers.
Integral to the Montessori method is respect for the child. The child is neither a tabula rasa, nor a willful opponent, but a unique and marvelous creation. Dr. Montessori built her method on the bedrock of mutual understanding, cooperative projects and conflict resolution. We hold in our hearts the faith that a more peaceful and joyful world is found in the secrets of childhood Dr. Montessori studied a century ago.

Science now suggests that the very same method could unlock a more productive and wealthier world as well. In economically uncertain times, what are our leaders waiting for?

Thoughts for the day:
  • If there is so much evidence that grades don’t matter, why are they still used for assessment?
  • What role does assessment and progress reports play in a Montessori environment? How do you personally support children’s natural motivation to learn without imposing predetermined goals and standards?
  • In Montessori we consider observation to be our main method of assessment. What systems have you put in place to help you perform this most important part of our job?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Come see Trevor Eissler!

Trevor Eissler, author of Montessori Madness, will be visiting Columbus, OH on February 10th, 2011 from 7-9 pm at Ohio Dominican University. We encourage all families interested in Montessori, school-choice, and non-traditional education to attend.