Saturday, February 14, 2009

february (d)

so, i am not going to retract the things i wrote yesterday concerning brats. but i wanted to clarify it. i don't believe children are ever at the core brats but their behavior can be brattish. the inability to listen, to rise to a challenge, to calm their frustrations. i simply haven't worked with enough young children but i am also a little shocked to be in a room with a child that turns his/her frustration into violent action. who throws chairs, or tears class materials, or hits another child with a book. sebastian or nico have never been prone to temper tantrums. meltdowns, yes. crying, overstimulating meltdowns but it is always very self-involved. of course, now that sebastian is at school he is influenced by others and brings that home to share the good and not so good behavior with nico like a virus. this makes me question my decision to enroll him in school but i feel like for now the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. the idea of socialization is not just for sebastian to learn how to be a "regular" person: no, it includes learning how to deal with others who don't live in the same way because that ultimately is what life in society is about. our main gripe is cultural right now. japanese parents typically don't discipline or correct destructive behavior in preschoolers. jason has a really hard time of it on the playground afterschool when other kids are roughhousing and he is the only parent to take sebastian to the side and explain that we don't hit or treat others like that. then of course sebastian has a hard time because he is the only child to be scolded and he already is different from everyone else. our solution is two-step. starting next month, sebastian will stay at school a few hours longer. if this doesn't change his meltdowns, then we are going to either withdraw him from school or move to a place where he can have an education that includes peace, ideally a montessori school.
as a teacher, though, i have to be prepared to deal with children who are not, to use the montessori term, normalized. i have found a lot of wisdom lately from the book The Tao of Montessori by Catherine McTamaney. this one passage in particular under the tao: "When people see things as beautiful,/Ugliness is created./When people see things as good,/Evil is created".
It is only through empathy that we can understand the child's life. It is only through compassion that we can serve her. We must look at the child who is standing is front of us (or lying on the ground screaming in front of us!) and see the child who is yet to come. We revere the child for her potential. We respect her for her promise. While bearing witness to the normalized child serves us well, encourages us to continue to do this work, and gives foundation to our accomplishment as teachers, sometimes the most important work we do is for the child we never see change.

following this is a quote from the great Maria Montessori herself:
If we have neither sufficient experience nor love to enable us to distinguish the fine and delicate expressions of the child's life, if we do not know how to respect them, then we perceive them only when they are manifested violently.

so this creates a dilemma for me as a teacher at this school. my students don't come to me normalized nor is that the aim of anyone involved in the students' lives. the problem, obviously, is that i am a montessorian at heart and so in dealing with children, this is my approach. is it possible to practice montessori philosophy and use the methods in an unsupported context? the answer is not definite. i can do so to a certain limit and my interaction with the children can definitely carry the influence. it is hard for me though to know about this amazing way of helping children on their way to adulthood and witness so much that discourages this direction.
i am at a junction. i can either commit fully to teaching English using all the fantastic knowledge i am getting through my studies or i can switch and follow my passion.
okay, anyway, that is all for now. time to pick up the legos and work on some sandpaper letters. take care.


Anonymous said...

just wanted to throw my two cents/yen in here. jerome went to the montessori school in nara and i saw the same thing happening there. after school on the playground there was always lots of "roughhousing". jerome was hit, pushed down, stepped on several times. he was fully miserable and terrified there. then he was punched in the face which resulted in a bloody nose and mouth and after that refused to go back. i supported him 100%. the japanese mothers could not fathom my decision to support my child. and their response to the hitting and bullying, because lets be honest that's what it was, was "there just kids. that's what they do. your son will get over it." that is simply not good enough for me. so just because it's a montessori based school doesn't mean it's going to be peaceful.
as for the socialization aspect i completely understand your concern. i have the same for my own children. but i don't think children are well socialised at school. if learning violent behaviour is "being socialised" then i think i'd rather they be unsocialised.
i've watched my children play at playgrounds and interact with other kids and they are fantastic. when they encounter a difficult child who is prone to hitting (which happens every time we go to a playground) they both will say something like, "well, that's just not friendly. please stop." if the child continues my kids will take themselves away from the child and out of the situation. that's not something that's really possible at school. they simply have to endure...or become one of the bullies. neither of which is really a good place to be .

Anonymous said...

by the way, this is in no antagonistic or defensive. it really is just to share our experiences here.