Tuesday, March 29, 2011

School business

Sean's teacher mentioned she was attending a seminar on children and trauma, and I was anxious to hear how it went. She sent a newsletter home with information about it, and asked for anyone who could teach the children stretching exercises. She said she learned in the seminar that it helps the children come back into their bodies.
So I suggested to Sean that he could teach some Yoga because he had it at his previous school. He wanted us to teach them together. So I cleared it with the teacher and we did an hour or so of Yoga with small groups last week. Some of them were more receptive than others.
I want to continue to do it as long as they are interested. I believe it is beneficial in so many ways.

We reached a crescendo last week so I was really ready for Spring Break.
We've been unsure of the status of the new school. We were scheduled to break ground on the new building on our site this month. Now there is talk of other alternatives, and it has everyone really stressed and concerned about where our kids will be attending school, and whether the public Montessori program will fail.
I really don't think it will fail, but I'm also concerned about too many moves for teachers and students.
As chair of the site council I invited another school's site council to join us for a joint meeting, and also invited the superintendent of the school district to come talk with us about dreams for Montessori in the district.
Both meetings went well, and I hope we can begin to collaborate more with the other Montessori public school. I also hope to invite the superintendent to more discussions as well. He is very approachable, open to suggestions and willing to explore new ideas.
It looks as if we will probably move to another school for a year, then hopefully move back to our site and into a new building.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"The Trouble with Black Boys"

When I first read that title I was shocked. It brought up a bit of defensiveness within me, but it also intrigued me. I decided it would be a good fit. It's the book my boyfriend and I are reading as part of a project within the school district Sean attends. Community Awareness for Student Achievement is designed to bring together community members to study the impact of poverty and race on student learning.

I wanted to be part of it for a variety of reasons. First, I'm a white mom raising a biracial boy. I invited Chuck to do this with me because he has become a big part of Sean's life. He really is helping me raise him and I think it's important for both of us to know more about the issues facing biracial boys these days.
I'm also very passionate about education and believe we should all be doing more to figure out why these boys, especially, are falling through the cracks.

Last night was our first meeting at a high school in the city. We were served dinner, received our books and were put into book club groups. Child care was even provided by the YMCA.

There are nine in our group. We met our facilitator and went to a classroom and got to know a little bit about each other. We then decided to divide the book into chapters, with a couple of people taking each chapter as a focus. Our next meeting will focus on the first half of the book. We will meet one more time to finish up the book.

These nine people are from different ethnic and professional backgrounds. I think we all have a unique perspective and it's exciting to be part of this project. Our facilitator was in high school during desegregation in the South. There are two biracial participants, one is a teacher and the other works with at-risk youth ages 16 to 24. There's a woman from Cambodia who works with at-risk students, an Asian principal of an elementary school, a white principal, a white nutritionist who visits elementary schools to teach nutrition, Chuck who grew up in a diverse environment with friends of all colors, and sees all types of family situations as a firefighter,  and myself.

We will read this book as other groups read other titles: "Teaching with Poverty in Mind," "Can We Talk About Race," "The Global Achievement Gap," "Lessons from High Performing Hispanic Schools," and "Whatever it Takes."

Each group will share how new ideas from these books can be incorporated into the way the district educates students.

This district does seem to be very forward thinking and willing to embrace new ways of teaching. There is a renowned psychologist and doctor who is talking tonight about the differences between girls and boys and how best to educate them, and this idea has been implemented at one school in the district.
I won't be able to attend, but I'm hoping to hear from either a parent or teacher who is going.

Maybe it's a coincidence, but it does seem to me the movie, "Waiting for Superman," has gotten the attention of educators and parents. This district, at least, is trying to look at ways to improve.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A glimpse into a Montessori Classroom

Every week Sean's teacher sends home a newsletter of what they've been doing in class that week.
It's really amazing. I've shared my amazement before and liken it to a Christmas letter every week. I always feel like I've been there when I read these newsletters.
So here's a little taste of what's been happening in Sean's class:
To officially start our Africa unit we danced to South African music. I was so happy when I saw a large group of students grab hands and dance in a circle together. They did this without my prompting. This pleased me to see the high level of cooperation. Caleb also wanted to model to us some Ehtiopia dance moves and many I remembered from my travels. We mirrored what he taught us with big smiles of joy spread on our faces.
We started by looking at a piece of fabric I bought while vacationing in Accra, Ghana. As we passed it around we took time to smell, touch and examine it. 
Later in the week we combined our counselor topics of needs and wants with our African study. After reading part of a book and talking about the deserts in Africa we brainstormed which kind of needs and wants they would have.
We got some great penpal letters in the mail from Nigeria and separated in the class to silently read them and cherish the words we read. Afterward we talked about what type of needs they might have. Jayla suggested an envelope because they sent their letters in our envelope that Rowan had decorated.

She always includes something on each subject, and provided a lot of information on what she has presented for math.
Most of the children have not had Montessori before, so she is teaching small group lessons about the geometric solids. She also introduced fractions.
They worked on poetry, sentence structure, wrote letters to their penpals and did a lot of work with water through a science program and played in the snow.