New Year’s Resolutions for Teachers

I just spent three months renewing my dedication to children while teaching in a Montessori toddler classroom. Based on that transformative experience, I want to suggest, once again, this list of resolutions for teachers (and parents).

  1. Stay positive and loving, come what may.
  2. Listen carefully and try to hear the hidden messages behind words.
  3. Never hold a grudge for anything a child has done.
  4. Keep the boundaries for good behavior firm, but in a loving way.
  5. Praise good behavior more often than saying “don’ts”.
  6. Don’t blame yourself for meltdowns. This skill is an acquired one.
  7. Take time out to study child development.
  8. Take good care of yourself.
  9. Follow the child into amazing landscapes of their minds and hearts.
  10. If you find you don’t really enjoy children, change your profession.

When they hug you, it is a gift from God.

Photograph by Tom Miller

Photograph by Tom Miller

Happy Holidays to all

Friends,

I will have the great pleasure of having a full family contingent arriving very soon for the holidays and thus, Mrs. Claus has much to do to prepare.  So, I’ll be back on line in January.  Thank you for your understanding. Tom is preparing a Christmas Card for you which we will send to our subscribers when it is completed.  In the meantime, enjoy this picture taken in Egypt a few years ago.

To me, it represents the statement, “A little child shall lead them.”  My hope is that there are many little children being born again this winter all over the world who, when they grow up, will inspire mankind to take one step higher in the spiral of evolution.

Celeste A. Miller

JPG+Child in front of Sphinx & Great Pyramid-1

Make Learning Experiences Exciting and Real

 

The brain likes to solve problems and an exciting classroom would have a variety of problems to solve.  In order to prepare children to deal with a world that is becoming increasingly more complex, we need to allow for children to solve problems in multiple ways. Experimentation with various materials would allow for this.  For example, math problems can be solved in multiple ways, obviously artistic drawings can be done in multiple ways, storytelling can be done with variations in script, and learning can be shared in a variety of ways with one another.  These are activities which help children to problem solve from multiple perspectives, which will in turn unlock individual gifts and creativity, and train children to apply their creativity to deal effectively with change and crisis.

Encourage Scientific Inquiry

Education should encourage scientific inquiry because scientific inquiry is a natural innate ability in the brain of even the youngest baby.  Scientific inquiry could be considered dependent or independent learning based on the type of study, the numbers of children involved, and curriculum organization.  Scientific forays into the environment are what develop the concepts of object, space, time, and causality in the brain.  Science experiments can help children to develop thinking, reasoning, and decision-making skills.  These skills are developed through the ability of the mind to concentrate on completing tasks with specific steps and procedures which need to be followed –basically, the scientific method.  The focus required to complete a sequence of events with precision develops this ability to focus and concentrate.  That ability in turn later helps a child apply this focus and concentration on more complex learning experiences.  This is why we provide children with step-by-step instructions for some tasks, but not all.  If we allowed for choice in scientific exploration, we might find that our students are not ranking anymore near the bottom of the list of those countries that test children in the knowledge of scientific principles.

Utilize the Multiple Intelligence Theory

The educational model of Multiple Intelligence Theory (Gardner) has given education a big boost in incorporating problem solving strategies into the curriculum.  Gardner identified eight and a half basic types of intelligence: language, mathematics, spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, naturalistic, and the half – spiritual (He’s not positive yet there is a spiritual intelligence).[1]   He has shown us how we can teach by utilizing multiple problem-solving strategies using these multiple intelligences, multiple learning styles, and multiple ways of representing knowledge.

Explore with the Laboratory Approach

Another type of exciting learning is called the laboratory approach with field study.  In this case, teacher instruction happens concurrently with an activity out of which the teacher pulls the appropriate subject-matter material.  The teacher takes the children where the action is (children visit courthouse) or brings the action to the children (a courthouse is created in the school).  The learning process occurs as the child interacts with the stimulus of the experience and organizes his own impressions and sensations.  These activities are designed to involve the children directly in hands-on experiences.  Field trips, books, films, slides, filmstrips, tape recordings, bulletin boards, pictures, and other visual aids would be supplemental.  In addition, children can learn how to problem solve by observing how others demonstrate their mastery in the giving of their gifts to their respective community of learners. This might be by tailing community workers on an 8-hour job, or attending planning sessions, or conferences related to their area of interest.  All of this could even be done online with technology, and students would not even need to leave the classroom.

Base the Curriculum on Themes

For older children, the curriculum could be organized around general themes to include a number of subject areas.  Efforts would be made to expose children to areas of learning such as:  anthropology, art, astronomy, biology, chemistry, economics, foreign languages, geology, home economics, health, history, literature, music, physics, sociology, and zoology.  For example, the theme of cycles could be studied by delving into the seasons, weather patterns, temperature, animal migrations, human growth, holidays, ecology, food, or planets, to mention a few areas.  From such a study, the child would learn that cycles are one of the underlying themes of our existence on Earth, affecting us personally and impersonally and overlapping into every area of life.  This type of study favors divergent thinking, problem-solving, and gives choices.  Potentially, the environment in the classroom can actually consist of the entire world through the wonders of modern technology.

Example: The Micro Society Concept

I am reminded of the micro society concept used with middle- school children, where every child has a job within a functioning micro society that mimics the real world. During the half day devoted to this model of educating, teens are constantly solving the problems of finance, marketing, retailing, management, etc. as they play act with storefronts, money, and materials used in the real work-a-day world.  There is choice, freedom of movement, responsibility, and many opportunities to use writing, speaking, mathematical, planning, analysis, and research skills. This type of exposure has relevance to teens and preteens because someday they will be active in the real society.  I think it’s also a great way to teach part to whole and whole to part concepts as well.  This method also parallels the research stating that interest is essential for learning to take place because students choose which role in the micro society they want to take on.

Dr. Celeste Miller (Educating the Reincarnated Child).

[1]Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences.  NY, New York:  Basic Books

Photography by Tom Miller

Cactus flower – Tucson

Supporting Emotional Intelligence in Two-Year Olds

I have just completed a 14 week experience teaching two-year-olds in a Montessori-style classroom and interacting with their young parents.  “The terrible twos, how could you?” said my friends.  Today, I am very grateful for this concentrated glimpse into the world of these fourteen very individualistic two-year olds (and I didn’t find any of them “terrible”).

This age bracket is the beginning one for the development of emotional intelligence.  Many children are struggling with their emotions in a public setting (day care) for the first time and learning how to get through it all.   Already, I could see the previous social conditioning of their parents playing out in their personalities and orientations to other children.   I observed these children navigating for the first time with how to play in meaningful ways with others– copycatting was high on the list of observable play behaviors. If one child initiated a behavior, others would follow suit—usually these were with undesirable behaviors.  Some were transitioning from diapers to the toilet—those that had made it were in a different “older kid club”.  There was pride in this membership.  They were all learning how to be independent with opening lunch boxes, throwing away their left overs, cleaning their work areas, taking work off the shelves and returning it to the same location. Some days, all the children worked so diligently on their lessons with enthusiasm and joy.  Other days, they were more apt to throw themselves down on the rug, roll around and “space out”.   Sometimes they just got in trouble.  The head teacher called this “making a bad choice”.  This seemed to work.  I could see them categorizing these infractions in their consequent actions.  They certainly knew when another child made a “bad choice” and were happy to share that information. When they didn’t make good choices, they had to be carefully explained to as to why their choice wasn’t the best one.  Negotiations were often difficult.  There was occasional biting when “no” didn’t seem to cut through, there was hitting by those who didn’t go as far as biting, and there was a lot of touching, and not much hugging.  Crying was the easiest way to express their frustrations and disappointments.  I found all of these behaviors mark the beginning emotional life for the two-year old who is attending day care.

If your child is in day care and this age, you may be interested in exploring with your teacher the ways your child is developing emotional intelligence.

Parents are advised by experts to:

Become aware of the child’s emotion.
Recognize the emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching.
Listen empathetically and validate the child’s feelings.
Help the child verbally label emotions.
Set limits while helping the child problem-solve.

I was able to sharpen my teaching, listening and caring skills through this “in the trenches experience” and I have a new found appreciation for the amazing minds of two-year olds– their capacity for order and cleanliness, their curiosity about the world, their attention to detail, and most especially the emerging independent spirit that comes from wearing underwear and being able to do things for oneself.  Pay attention.  There is a genius stirring in your two-year-olds mind– even if you can’t quite see it yet.

Dr. Celeste A. Miller

Photographed by Tom Miller

Kwan Yin – Ceramic – Taipei