By Savka E. Wisecup, Glebe Montessori School’s Educational Consultant

 

It’s easy to talk!    Since a very young age, we have learned to talk, but do we know how to listen?   Listening has to be learned, practiced and recognized as an essential tool in everyday communication.

Dr. Maria Montessori included, in her educational curriculum, lessons for children to learn positive communication skills. These grace and courtesy lessons are practiced daily in Montessori classrooms, along with listening games, such as her well-loved “Silence Games,” which may even challenge children to concentrate on hearing falling snowflakes!  Children learn to listen, take turns, problem solve, negotiate, follow directions and respond respectfully with empathy and compassion.

Dr. Montessori highly valued teaching constructive communication to young children, as she saw this as an essential tool in the preparation of future global citizens.   She believed “the child is both the hope and a promise for mankind.”

With difficult conversations, the intention is often to validate one’s own opinion, leaving no space for compromise and understanding.  This can result in confusion, anger and mistrust, combined with feelings of being misunderstood, judged or defeated.  When utilizing listening skills, one opens the door to a two-way conversation that facilitates positive exchanges.

Best-selling author Harville Hendrix states, “We have a culture of people who have been shaped to talk, and no one rewards those who listen well.  Often, we actually don’t know how to listen. They say talking is active and listening is passive.” Hendrix disagrees, maintaining that “talking is active, but listening can be very active, too.”

When applying listening skills in conversations, one needs to engage with an open mind.  Hendrix created an effective three step process, outlined in his theory of “How to Listen.”  These steps are called “mirroring, validating and empathizing.”

Mirroring is affirming, for the person speaking has your trust and attention. No judgement or opinion is made when mirroring, only requests for clarification and better understanding. “Let me repeat what you’re saying, so I hear you correctly.” Listening is the positive intention of showing the other person respect and acceptance.

The second listening skill is validating.  By simply asking, “I want to make sure I understand; is this what you are saying…?” validates the other person’s opinion, even if you agree or disagree.  To validate is an invitation for more discussion.  “Be patient and non-judgemental, and the person who’s being heard will feel understood and safe.”

The third listening skill is empathy. With empathy, one is reflecting the emotional feelings of the other person.  By acknowledging the other person’s feelings, you are putting yourself in their shoes.

When using the tools of mirroring, validating and empathizing, we are also enacting the wisdom imparted in Dr. Montessori’s quote, “Everything you say to your child is absorbed, catalogued and remembered.”   Adults are important role models for children. They observe our body language, listen to our tone of voice, watch our eye contact and notice how we focus our attention. The benefits of learning how to listen, especially at a young age, are significant in building language skills, reading skills, social skills and self- confidence—all valuable qualities for a successful life.  Dr. Montessori reminds us, “Learning to listen and to speak, therefore, with the power it brings of intelligent converse with others, is a vastly impressive further step along the path of independence for the child.”

“Of all human needs, the most basic is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” (Ralph G. Nichols)

 

We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy New Year! We embrace the New Year with hope and optimism, even while presented with the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. We are happy to reconnect with our students, in class and through remote-leaning, and continue to be grateful for the active partnership between our staff, students and families.

The GMS community raised over $2000 and helped five families in need in December with grocery and other gift cards requested personal items and additional gifts.

GMS teachers look forward to discussing students’ progress with parents at our Parent-Teacher Conferences this month.

Our students have enjoyed many interactive science workshops in the past and look forward to learn more about Slime, Wacky Waves and Atoms and Molecules during the interactive virtual workshops presented by Mad Science in February.

February brings us Valentine’s Day and Friendship Day! On Valentine’s Day, students enjoy many fun-filled activities in class. Students are encouraged to participate in Friendship Day by wearing pink, expressing how we value our friendships with each other!

The year 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of Dr. Montessori’s birth. Her legacy is as relevant today as it is was a century ago, enlightening parents and educators world-wide with her profound educational insights and deep respect for the young child.   “Each child is truly a miraculous being and this should be felt deeply by the educator. Children are human beings to whom respect is due.”

Valuing the uniqueness of every child, Dr. Montessori insisted education must be individualized, to meet the child’s needs and interests. Dr. Montessori applied her scientific observations and research to form the basis for her “Montessori Method,” guided by the child’s developmental stages while supporting “experiential, hands-on” learning. “The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn.”

Dr. Montessori viewed the child as both the hope and promise for mankind. “If education recognizes the intrinsic value of the child’s personality and provides an environment suited to spiritual growth, we have the revelation of an entirely new child whose astonishing characteristics can eventually contribute to the betterment of the world.” She believed “the greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

As we honour this 150 year legacy of Dr. Montessori, her methodology continues to successfully educate children around the world. “It is not true,” insisted Dr. Montessori, “that I invented what is called the Montessori Method. I have studied the child, I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that is what is called the Montessori Method.”

Child psychologist Dr. Jamie Howard, Director of the Trauma and Resilience Service Child Mind Institute, offers some valuable insights on how to talk to children about COVID-19 in a way that is reassuring during these stressful times.

These excerpts were taken directly from the Child Mind Institute website: https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/ 

  • Encourage children to ask questions and try to answer with fact-based information that is reassuring.
  • Don’t avoid questions you cannot answer. Be comfortable with saying “I don’t know.”  Teaching children how to tolerate uncertainty is key to reducing anxiety and helping them build resilience.
  • Be developmentally appropriate. Don’t volunteer too much information that can be overwhelming. Try to answer your questions honestly and clearly.
  • Invite your child to tell you what they know about coronavirus and how they feel. The goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
  • Deal with your own anxiety so you can respond calmly when talking with your child. Be reassuring.
  • Help children understand that very few kids are getting sick, and that they are unlikely to catch it.
  • Focus on safety measures. Kids feel empowered when they know how to keep themselves safe, especially by wearing masks and washing hands frequently with a 20 second song they can sing while washing. Keep talking.
  • Let your kids know that you will keep them updated as you learn more. Most important is keeping the lines of communication open.

GMS staff greatly appreciates parents’ support in helping our school community stay safe by ensuring children are tested and will remain at home if there is any health concern related to COVID-19. 

We’re delighted to see new and returning children enter GMS with smiling eyes, which even their masks can’t hide.  Once they have said their difficult goodbyes to parents, the hum of children actively engaged in lessons, working with Montessori materials, and socializing with classmates can be heard in classrooms throughout the school.

We are so proud of all our students– toddlers, casa and elementary! The children are adjusting with such grace and a positive attitude toward the new protocols and changes in the school environment due to the Covid-19 policies and regulations. Hands are washed regularly, and face masks are kept on while casa and elementary students are indoors. Even the 3 year-olds are keen to wear masks, some quite innovative, featuring cats’ noses and whiskers or mighty dinosaurs! In classrooms, each child has a designated workspace, with class supplies provided for individual use only. Montessori materials never fail to spark the children’s interest while engaging them in “hands on” learning.  Once they have finished working with specific materials, students responsibly return each item to a central station to be disinfected for another classmate to use.  

Every effort is being made to keep our children physically safe, with separate cohort groupings, physical distancing, masks, frequent handwashing, routine disinfection of the physical environment, plexiglass partitions in elementary classes, air-purifiers and round-the-clock janitorial services. Lessons and activities take place outside as much as possible, so children can get lots of fresh air while weather permits.

Our staff continues to focus on supporting our children emotionally, making sure their individual needs and voices are constantly heard and acknowledged. Even with physical distancing, the community spirit within each classroom and our school remains strong. “Taking Care of Each Other,” is the theme we are highlighting this year. Through practicing kindness, responsibility, empathy, integrity, respectfulness, cooperation and fairness, we are imparting to students those qualities and actions with which we can best support one another.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact Ontario and areas throughout the country, we wish to reassure our school community that the health and safety of our families, students and staff remain a top priority. In support of Ottawa public health containment measures, GMS will follow the Ontario government’s directives and remain closed until further notice. We will keep you updated.

Once GMS reopens, we will require that individuals returning from high risk areas or who have been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, inform our administrative office and remain out of school for 14 days, following the date of return or contact. This includes all staff, children and family members, individuals with drop off and pick up privileges, and visitors.

GMS teachers are providing home study lessons and guidance to our students during the extended break. We will continue to monitor phones and emails on a daily basis, and reply within 24 hours.

We hope everyone stays safe and healthy.

Sylvie Rankin, GMS Director

How to Talk to Children When the Grown-Ups are Scared –  A Montessori Foundation Webcast

We must prepare ourselves:

• Self-regulation-awareness of feelings, stressors and ways to self-calm

• Self-calm helps us listen, reflect, and respond to the needs of our children

Steps to a positive conversation – with an understanding of your child’s developmental level:

1. Start with questions – What have you heard? What do you know? What are you wondering about?

2. Listen to your child – maintain eye contact, observe your child’s facial expression and body language.

3. Reflect on what you think you heard; mirror if necessary, to ensure you heard correctly.

4. Ask, “How do you feel?” Listen, reflect, validate, empathize.

5. Ask, “Is there more?”

6. STOP – (gap) Reflect on what you have heard, how your child has said it, what does his/her behavior tell you. THINK – What response does my child need from me? CHOOSE.

7. Conversation: Be factual but simple, direct but give limited information. Use developmentally appropriate vocabulary. Be willing to pause to let your child respond.

8. Main message to your child should be reassurance of safety, health and care. “I love you.” “The grown-ups are going to manage this.”

9. Share what each member of the family can do to stay healthy:

• Wash hands often.

• Keep hands away from faces.

• Develop a daily schedule and routines.

• Stay in contact with friends, family, classroom and school.

Be open to having versions of this conversation multiple times. Be prepared to be flexible. Give your child lots of affirmations and encouragement and express your love often.

GMS takes this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy New year!

Our Senior Elementary students enjoyed a day of Skiing at Ski Vorlage this week. The weather and ski conditions were perfect and the students had a very enjoyable day. Two more ski-days are planned for January and February!

The Museum of Science and Technology will welcome our Senior Elementary and Casa students over the next few weeks. Senior Elementary students look forward to creating a complex chain-reaction machine, using familiar materials in unusual ways and casa children will discover how daily and seasonal cycles of the earth affect everyday life.

The junior elementary students’ field trip will take them to Ottawa’s beautiful National Art Gallery. Students will explore Inuit prints, and printmaking, as they prepare to create their own printing plates and prints in the studio.

Parents will enjoy a coffee or tea and treats when they browse through the many wonderful books on display at the GMS Scholastic Book Fair Café next month. Proceeds will go toward purchasing books for the classes.

Winter is here and GMS is bustling with activity!