Dear Mangrove families,
As the end of the year approaches, we begin to remember what the classroom environment looked like at the beginning of year to reflect on just how much each child has grown in the process. How did we get to this place of such intense growth? A combination of consistency, routine, structure, empathy and struggle.
Not struggle, in the sense of, feel bad for the teachers because it was a struggle. Struggle as in, humans learn in the struggle, the difficult moments, the times where we move from the comfortable to the unknown, we have to grow.
As the Primary program invites parents to attend the Follow The Child Event next week, I am reminded of some insight I gained as a parent around this idea of struggle while attending the event with my then kindergarten-aged son. Follow the Child is a special opportunity designed for the Primary students at our school to present lessons to their parents in their classrooms on a weekend morning.
I started off FAILING Follow the Child.
Yes, a trained Montessori guide, a staff member, an attendee of this event for 3 years, a ‘humble’ Montessori Mom.
I began by whipping out my camera to document my son as he made ‘big numbers.’ I was so impressed and I had never gotten to see him do such intense lessons, so of course I took out my camera – I needed to have video of this.
My son’s guide, quietly and kindly came up next to me and sweetly whispered in my ear with a smile, “I have asked parents not to take photographs. You are here to watch him. Watch,” I That is when I realized that I was missing the experience. I was missing the moments and focusing on the wrong thing.
When I put down the camera, I was able to see all the purposeful movements he made as he completed the work. That he tapped the wooden numbers together on the ground in order to straighten the pile before placing the stack into the wooden box. That he wiped the small drip of glue off the table with a sponge before continuing to glue tiny pieces of paper together. That he readjusted a puzzle piece, realized that although it appeared to fit, it wasn’t the correct piece. That he slowly rolled his working as tight as he could possibly roll it in order to keep its shape. I was able to see ALL the work that goes into each lesson when I simply watched. I was also able to see my own impulse to put my hands on his work when I was asked to simply “Watch.”
When I’m in the Mangrove environment supporting the toddlers, I can observe without interupting all day long. Yet, sitting in front of my own child, my hands wanted to move, my mouth wanted to open, and when he struggled I wanted so badly to reach out and fix it for him. But I remembered my child’s guide saying, “Watch.” So I watched.
He struggled and I watched.
He never asked me to help.
He struggled and I watched.
I watched and he struggled through it.
He was not angry. Not frustrated. He was satisfied in the struggle.
And he did it. Without any guidance from me. He did it.
He completed the work from start to finish, even when it was hard, he continued and he did it. It was hard for me, I struggled with his struggle, but I was able to observe as the struggle turned into a success, I watched as the experience taught him how to problem solve and push through a difficult time resulting in a success that he earned all on his own. A success that produced such a sense of pride in himself, something I could not give him, that he couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear.
We work hard to provide safe opportunities in the school environment for our students to struggle because we know that learning takes place in those moments of struggle. But when it comes to our children, watching them struggle can be hard for us. I want to remind you that it can also be the best feeling. Being present in the moment when your child goes from not knowing, to struggling, to succeeding is priceless. Your face will mirror their own as their smile grows from ear to ear.
Enjoy the photographs of the Mangroves, who worked through the struggle and earned their smiles.
Ms. Liz and Ms Sonia