Twin Parks Montessori - Largest Accredited Montessori Program in Manhattan

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Why Montessori? …A Father’s Perspective

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One of our very observant and involved parents at Twin Parks Montessori Schools, Matthew Mandelbaum*, has shared his observations about his children and our program. His insights are included below.

Why did you choose Twin Parks Montessori School for your child?

I became a teacher, so I could learn to be a father. I became a psychologist to help others reach their full potential. When it came time to choose a program for our daughter, our first child, my wife, a reading specialist, and I knew first hand of the responsibility and the impact that a school and its teachers could have on children and parents. We chose Twin Parks because we were looking for a true school and not a daycare, even for a 9-month-old! We admired the school’s nurturing and academic capacities.

What have you learned about child development and Montessori as a result?

Twin Parks Montessori offers the combination of excellent teaching, curriculum, materials, and mixed-age groupings that allow children to explore their world, develop trust in themselves, and build a firm foundation for now and the future.

How has the experience helped you as a parent?

After our daughter finished four years at Twin Parks, our son spent three years at Twin Parks, too. There is no doubt that as parents, we have to help children make a bridge between home and the surrounding community. Twin Parks does a good job at doing that.

What about Montessori has been most surprising to you?

The most surprising things are the little insights and nuggets of knowledge and skills that children bring home showing what they understand and what they can do. These basic building blocks are so important to them feeling curious and competent. Twin Parks does a great job getting children started in many areas of life and school.

What would you tell a parent who is thinking about enrolling his or her child in Montessori? 

Don’t just think about what the future can offer with a Twin Parks education. Think about your child’s growth and development each and every day. Think about how they can come to enjoy and appreciate the present moment as they come into their own. Think about how much you will grow and change as a person and as a parent while your child matures.

How has your child flourished since attending our Montessori school?

Both children are interested in a variety of ideas, subjects, and hobbies.  They love learning and are kindhearted people.

Anything else you would like to share?

I believe that Twin Parks has been a good investment, both during their tenure and beyond.

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*Dr. Matthew G. Mandelbaum, PhD, MSEd, MA, New York State Licensed Psychologist   http://www.psysoed.com

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School Improvement Through Accreditation: Twin Parks Montessori School’s Experience

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Twin Parks Montessori Schools (TPMS) are in a mode of continuous school improvement. Once an accreditation cycle is completed, the strategic plan incorporated and the recommendations from the visiting team of educators in followed, we begin the process all over again. TPMS is accredited with the American Montessori Society and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. We compiled two self-studies, which involves a thorough examination and documentation of the schools’ governance, curriculum, fiscal and personnel policies, facilities and health and safety practices. Throughout the self-study process I remind our various work groups that this is not my self-study, but theirs; this is an opportunity for teachers and administrators to represent Twin Parks, using their collective knowledge and observations about who we are, and to have their voices and passions heard. We reflect on and write about the characteristics that made our school unique; this moves us from regurgitating “Montessori-ese” about what Montessori teachers do and what our environments provide to digging deeper into the heart of our work and what our programs mean to the families we serve.

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We examine the organizational health of TPMS. A school does not grow in a tidy, linear fashion. Like relationships among people, schools can be messy and frustrating as they develop, change, and blossom. Our school has three campuses, which means three groups of teachers and administrators. At various times during the year, these groups share professional development opportunities and our administrators meet to discuss and plan for our future. Dr. Brené Brown writes, “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment, and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship” (2010, p. 19). Our teams of administrators, whether they focus on admissions or on curriculum programs, must share objectives and must really trust one another.

Each section of our self-study leads to reflection on what we do well and what needs improvement. We focus on three major aspects of our school that we determined needed improvements: student programming and curriculum, professional development for faculty, and building community within and outside of our school. These objectives were written in our strategic plan, which clarifies our primary goals and keeps us anchored, preventing too much valuable time spent on tangents. Communicating this focus and timeline requires reminding everyone about what is really important and what connects to our mission. How many of you have learned that most teachers and parents have to hear what leaders are communicating at least seven times? The key is consistency over time.

It is essential that our employees understand our primary focus and be given a reasonable timeline to complete their work. Just as our students need repetition in their work to internalize concepts, our teachers need to hear the same message in a variety of ways from a variety of people over time to achieve success.

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In our school community, accountability can be a challenge. In an educational setting that serves young children, most of our teachers are compassionate, nurturing, empathic, and gentle. Teachers with these traits have a hard time holding each other accountable for the daily work of a school without guidance from a coordinator or director. To assist with this, my administrators and I disseminate the message that holding people accountable means that you care enough about them to understand they maybe defensive regarding their insufficiencies. As Brené Brown says, “One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable” (2010, p. 16). Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity and are able to accept others for who they are while holding them accountable for their behaviors and work habits.

Work on our self-study is rewarding in many ways. It gives purpose to our conversations about our future. It is a difficult process but very rewarding in the end. It also reminded me of Dr. Ned Hallowell’s message about innovation: select the right people for the job and give them responsibility; strengthen the connections of people on the teams; make time to play; deal with frustrations and grow from them; and use the right rewards to help people shine and want to excel (Hallowell, ).

The final phase of the accreditation process is hosting a team of education peers at our school for several days. Visiting educators become a part of our community and daily school life during their visit. They validate that we do what we say we do and they will find evidence of our self-study document in our work at our school. The team also enjoys learning about what makes us unique. We look forward to this visit with pride for the opportunity to display our school and demonstrate what we do in our classrooms and in anticipation of the recommendations the team offers that will help guide us into our future. TPMS has already begun collecting materials for our next visit in 2019.

 

References

Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Hallowell, E. M. (2011). Shine: Using brain science to get the best from your people. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

 

 

 

 

 

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Announcing Our Newest Program: The Nurture Center

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We have had so many parents ask us about pertinent information or online resources regarding newborns and toddlers. In particular, we noticed that so many parents, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds within our community, had similar questions surrounding the care and development of their young children. These included questions about learning, feeding, toileting, social skills, talking, walking, exercise and others. We realized that there was a huge need for a new kind of class that focused, not just on the young child’s development, but on the development of the caregiver’s ability to provide and care for the child in the most advantageous way possible. A class where the child and caregiver could grow together in a learning environment that was nurturing, developmentally appropriate, and provided a positive educational and social experience for both the child and the caregiver.

We Are Pleased To Introduce The Nurture Center

The Nurture Center is an exciting new program we are offering at our Riverside Campus. This program is for infants (newborn) through 3-year old toddlers along with a parent, caregiver, nanny, grandparent or anyone who is providing care for a child.

The Nurture Center’s program is specifically designed to assist parents and caregivers with developmentally appropriate activities for babies and toddlers. Our Infant and Toddler Coordinator, Jenna Dabney, MEd, will introduce children and adults to the developmentally appropriate practices and methods of teaching with carefully chosen materials.  Adults will bond with their children, network with other adults, explore Montessori materials, and collaborate on a variety of topics related to child development.

The program format will include:

• One (1) morning a week for six (6) weeks beginning October 2016

• 90-minute class, one (1) day a week

• 0-36-month-old children in a carefully prepared classroom

• Three  (3) 90-minute parent discussion groups

• Led by an experienced, Montessori certified teacher

**Open to dads, moms, grandparents and other caregivers**

During the class children will explore in a nurturing environment, choose from the materials provided, and learn at their own pace.  Caregivers can watch their children’s exploration, observe their discoveries and come together for music, stories and a community snack. The parent discussion groups offer adults the ability to share ideas and questions about eating, sleeping, toileting, discipline, and many other topics.  The Nurture Center offers parents and caregivers an important opportunity to meet other parents for sharing and networking with one another.

Click the image below for more information.

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Join our community, create friendships and build a strong network of mutual support for children and caregivers.

Space is limited!

Apply online today at TheNurtureCenter.nyc or call 212-665-1600 for more information.

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What is Montessori Peace Education?

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There is a saying that “history repeats itself.” Many people are equating past times of social concerns about violence, ethnic hatred, racism, and abuse, to the current unrest in our country and others. It is a confusing, frightening time to live and raise children.

How can parents and educators teach the next generations about peace?

Peace truly begins in our homes and in our classrooms. The basics of peace include providing day-to-day environments which operate under an umbrella of respect, where members can freely share concerns, be productive, be creative, and enjoy one another without punitive or violent results.

Between the First and Second World Wars, there was a movement to teach more subjects about international relations so that students would not want to wage wars against people in other countries. Perhaps this was the start of educating “global citizens.” It was a time of teaching tolerance that had the potential to contribute to peace. During this time, Maria Montessori was instructing educators throughout Europe to replace authoritarian pedagogies and replace them with a curriculum that allowed students to make choices. She saw authoritarian teachers like some rulers, and she believed if children had choices, they would not automatically follow rulers who waged war.

Montessori’s philosophy of education was the first that demonstrated the importance of freeing the child’s spirit, to promote love for others and by developing prepared classrooms to remove unnecessary restrictions. Her initial work in the slums of Rome facilitated a love for learning for children while they were living in extreme poverty. It was not just about teaching peace it was about changing the paradigm for the way teachers teach and the importance of the prepared classroom. In addition, Montessori encouraged teachers to nurture characteristics of a healthy family. Montessori found that if parents, children, and teachers all work together to help develop the child more consistent progress will follow.

Montessori teachers are instructed in the importance of preparing the classroom to ensure that each child has activities that provide comfort, creativity, challenges, and joy. Children are able to move about the classroom freely, make choices, converse with peers and teachers, immerse with concentration in meaningful work, and to relax at will. Children are taught important executive function skills such: as how to wait, persevere, how to watch, how to interrupt politely, how to take care of their belongings and the classroom, how to plan, and how to solve conflicts peacefully.

Using a peace rose and peace table in a Montessori classroom

Using a peace rose and peace table in a Montessori classroom

Impromptu lessons in grace and courtesy happen throughout the day. Grace and courtesy impact all interactions in life – with the environment, with peers, with adults, with family members and new acquaintances. These lessons empower children to be self-aware, empathetic, responsible and independent. Again, the umbrella of respect is ever present.

Many Montessori scholars believe that lessons in grace and courtesy are just as important as lessons in math, language, or music. Children in a Montessori school help to establish and keep the ground rules of the classroom. When undesired behavior does occur the manner in which this is handled involves honoring the humanity of both the child who exhibits the behavior and any victims. Children are taken aside, spoken to in a calm manner, given an opportunity to reflect on what could have been done differently and then showing compassion and kindness towards any who have been mistreated. Montessori teachers are role models of the expected behavior with all classroom community members. In addition, mistakes are considered opportunities for learning to take place.

Maria Montessori not only produced the theory of peace education but she also made major contributions to concrete lessons for peace. Montessori education is still thriving after 110 years and continues to grow in popularity throughout the world. Her focus on the development of the whole child including creative and critical thinking skills as well as interpersonal skills leads to the development of people who are equipped to enable lasting peace.

Maria Montessori said, “Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of educators.”

Children around the world in peace

Children around the world in peace

Resources

Duckworth, C. (2006). Teaching peace:  A dialogue on Maria Montessori. Journal of Peace EducationISSUE NUMBER  39-53.

Harris, I.M., 2002.  Peace Education Theory. Available online http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED478728.pdf

Lillard, A. 2005. The Science Behind the Genius. Oxford University Press.

Miller, A. 2011. Cultivating Peace in the Classroom.

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Kathy’s Insights