Learning to learn means knowing yourself, making a plan, and taking initiative. Our Montessori approach, particularly in the Elementary class, emphasizes the individual responsibility that each student takes in his or her own active learning. Student choice, one-on-one lessons, and personal work plans all help children see themselves as primary agents in their education.
Our elementary students are full participants in their teacher/parent conferences. It is one of the most powerful tools we use to help children understand their role in their learning.
The results are clear. Children enjoy a greater sense of pride in their accomplishments, feel more control, are significantly more motivated to learn, and develop an enhanced degree of independence.
Remember that list of attributes of high achieving 21st century kids? Perseverance, curiosity, self-control, optimism and conscientiousness. Essential yes, but incomplete. Gratitude may be the most important but overlooked virtue. The benefits of a grateful attitude are well known, including greater emotional well-being and a more positive mood. While our culture shows that egotism is the path to success, gratitude is the path to happiness.
Our gratitude may be the best antidote and only hope against our culture’s consumerism. Fortunately gratitude can be cultivated, modeled and taught. Here’s just one advice column and another saying how. We ought to take more time giving thanks for our blessings– precious children most of all.
I see your future.
More than thirty-five former parents and students gathered at Seneca State Park yesterday to reconnect and re-live Evergreen memories. I was thrilled to hear their stories and learn more about our past.
What did I find out? Mainly this: Evergreen friendships last. It was friendship that inspired John and Ronda Kent to plan the superb reunion. It was friendship that inspired the Gowducheruvu family to drive over four hours from Pennsylvania to attend. These bonds endure.
So what does your future look like? For today’s current parents, your time to reminisce will come. Maybe it’ll be next year, maybe in seven. So be sure to take lots of pictures and plan lots of playdates now. For when you become an Evergreen alumnus, you, too will always be connected.
Enjoy these moments. Memories and friendships live on.
There are so many romantic things you can do to improve your relationship with your spouse. Taking a parenting course is not romantic– but it’s more effective than a dinner and a movie. Of the three courses I have taken with my wife, Jane– a premarital one in Cincinnati; a prenatal one in Hong Kong; and a parenting one in Kensington– the life-changing one was the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP). PEP classes helped us get to the root of our parenting styles and philosophies. Our children benefited the most.
PEP often has notable speaker series. Recent speakers have included Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes and Masterminds & Wingmen spoke on the topic of the New Rules of Boy World: Helping our Boys Cope.
PEP classes are staring this week. You can learn more here.
There are so many ways to organize a classroom or school. I prefer one that respects children’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. That’s why our program is designed around a simple principle: if learning isn’t joyful, something’s wrong.
I also love telling parents about our school, Montessori education and why we do things the way we do. Of course I was thrilled to be a guest writer in this month’s Washington Family Magazine Education Issue. What a great opportunity to let parents know what’s possible for their children.
You can see a pdf copy of my article by clicking Washington Family.
Recently, I heard about a new business management book called Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks by August Turak. I immediately thought of Evergreen teachers. If you’ve spend time with them like I have, you will see in them traits like selflessness, devotion and authenticity that make all the difference for the children in their care.
Our teachers are the stars of Back-to-School Night. But before you move on to your child’s classroom, I want to prepare you for some wonderful moments to look forward to. While at Evergreen, your children are going to experience hundreds of firsts: their first loose tooth, first time tying shoe laces, for toddlers: first time using the toilet, multiplying, performing in a play, reading a book, and more and more.
These moments are unbelievably precious. I can’t tell you what a joy it is for us to be part of your son or daughter’s childhood—and to share them with you. These firsts are why Evergreen is such a magical place.
I also know, down the line, there will be other kinds of firsts in your child’s life. There will be set backs and hurdles. Things go wrong, like the Back-to-School Night two years ago when the fire alarm went off… right about now… and we had to evacuate the building for 50 minutes. Things go wrong, you know this. Did you only receive “A’s”? I didn’t. Did you get into your first college choice? I didn’t. Your child might not either.
That’s why our mission is to help children build resilience. Resilience is far more important that grades. Here is how we develop resilience: At Evergreen, we know that adversity does not lead to despair when children believe they have control in their lives. We strive to help children recognize that they have agency in the world. That is why our students have so much choice in their day. Challenges are individualized so every child is working at an appropriate level.
Speaking of resilience, if you saw Alma, one of our Primary students, stoically getting a bandage after a fall on the pavement on Monday, you would well understand the wisdom of Wendy Mogul’s book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee. Adversity gives us the chance to know what we truly can do.
At Evergreen, we explicitly work to develop independent, confident children—not just successful test takers. So tonight, in your child’s classroom, you will learn how our teachers, like Trappist monks, work with patience, love and wisdom to bring out the potential in your child. Enjoy your classroom time. And welcome Back to School.
Being September, I am inclined, by nature, to write about all the joys that await us this school year. We are at the beginning of a great adventure together. What comes next? I am eager to share my excitement about upcoming field trips, festivals, playdates, class curriculum, projects and more. There is so much good stuff ahead.
It takes effort to be in the moment. It can be tough to appreciate today just for today’s sake. But more than anyone, Evergreen students are in the here and now. Their joys are immediate. As I write, they are learning and discovering, exploring and creating. At this precise instant, they are doing what comes naturally—they are growing and becoming. Even our new toddlers are relaxed and engaged. We can learn a great deal from our children.
I look forward (there I go again) to seeing parents at Back-to-School Night. It will be a great opportunity to meet your child’s teachers and learn about what is coming in the months ahead (again). See you soon.
Until then… find peace, breathe deep and smile.
It is nice to know that other people see the same things you are seeing. It helps you feel grounded. And it confirms that you aren’t living a fantasy, in denial or wearing blinders.
Last week, an Evergreen father stopped to tell me what he observed during an after school piñata party. Children showed an extraordinary amount of kindness, respect and thoughtfulness between vicious whacks on the cardboard candy bag, he said. The children’s ability to look out for one another, take turns, negotiate and compromise far exceeded the father’s expectations. And when at last, the candy dropped from the battered piñata, children actually organized the collecting of loot. There was no mosh pit. No flying elbows. No fight to the death over handfuls of dried out Tootsie Rolls and Dum Dums.
It is typical at Evergreen School for children to look out for one another. I believe it is the dynamics of our multi-age Montessori classrooms that teaches children to insist that everyone is treated kindly and fairly. Older children easily assume the role of teacher and protector of those younger and more vulnerable.
When you consider how well multi-age classrooms work—not only in promoting academic achievement—but in inculcating important social values, it is surprising that there aren’t more multi-age classrooms. Why don’t more educators see the same thing that that father and I do?
At a school like ours, we rely on the parent involvement and volunteerism to make us great. Study after study demonstrates that active, involved and engaged parents make the greatest difference for children.
The Evergreen School Parents Association (ESPA) held its final school-wide meeting of the year. Reflecting on ESPA’s accomplishments, it is clear that Evergreen would not be the place it is without ESPA’s leadership and all the significant volunteers efforts of our parents. We all owe significant thanks to the ESPA Executive Committee for a wonderful year.
Just as significant, we give great thanks to all our volunteers. below is a list of ESPA and volunteer accomplishments this year:
- Coffee on the Green coordinators
- Buddy family volunteers
- Room Parent volunteers
- Field Trip Coordinators
- Pizza Lunch helpers
- Picture Day helpers
- International Day presenters
- Classroom craft and auction project coordinators
- Winter Festival Committee
- Open House tour guides and refreshment providers
- Esteemed Elders’ Day Chair and volunteers
- Breach Movie Night Speaker and helpers
- MixedBag Sale Coordinator
- Auction Committee
- Teacher Appreication Week helpers
- Annual Fund Chair
- …and ESPA Executive Committee
…as we say at Evergreen, “You make the world a beautiful place!”
I weighed in (or is it waded in?) with my two cents: For me, the key aspect of Montessori is the belief that children naturally want to be engaged with interesting topics, materials and challenges. They want to have choice and control in their lives. They want to use their hands and senses to explore the world around them. They want to create art and music and towers and castles. They want to be able to work alone at times and with a partner at times. All in all, we see that the needs and desires of children are a lot like yours and mine.
At our school, habits of character, a sense of self and joy in learning are even more important than the academic foundation that develops in each child. It is so important that we provide a warm, safe environment with caring teachers where children can feel secure and grow in confidence.
You can weigh in, too. The DC Urban Mom forum is here.