Building Community within the classroom and within the school –Children should feel honored, recognized, respected, validated, given time to develop, given reasonable tasks, trusted to be independent, unafraid to make mistakes, are allowed to learn from mistakes, and able to work to their level of satisfaction. These are the words that describe how children feel when we prepare a physically, academically, and emotionally safe environment which is supported by the adults in the community.
Recently, several of our staff members participated in a day long workshop conducted by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) – trained Andrea Fleener. As she spoke about the role of the adult and the environment to support the child and the community, I associated this to the school and how the families and the staff support the child and the community.
One of the aspects of her talk that resonated with me was clear communication and setting limits. She stressed the importance of saying what you mean not what you want the person to hear. The tone of voice that is used and being non-judgmental are very important when setting limits. Especially with the young child it is important to first validate feelings, set clear limits and model appropriate behavior and then utilize redirection towards a more positive result.
Our toddler and primary children are in the process of constructing themselves as individuals. At the toddler level they are given freedom with choice – would you like to have this or that? At the primary level children are given freedom to promote self-discipline. They are practicing managing themselves and learning to manage friends. The elementary children are developing freedom and responsibility for the greater good of the group. This is when the moral and value systems are developed. It is important to connect actions to the good of the community – even if you didn’t leave that pencil on the floor.
Children feel honored and respected when we speak in a non-judgmental way and they understand our expectations. When feelings are validated, they feel recognized. When given the freedom to choose from special materials and are able to work independently, they are learning to manage themselves. When children are given the opportunity to act responsibly and allowed to learn from one another they will feel unafraid to make mistakes.
And if we apply these concepts at the adult level, to communicate clearly what we mean and in a non-blaming voice, validate the feeling of others, set clear limits and model appropriate behavior imagine how strong our community can be. P.S. We are allowed to make mistakes, too!
Image Credit: Montessori Community School