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Dawn Ballard has been working at West Side Montessori for 23 years.  Dawn is passionate about Montessori, childhood, and learning. Check out her spotlight post to find out what fuels her passion for Montessori education!

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?

I have been at West Side for 23 years. I started at the Toledo Campus working with toddlers. When West Side decided to expand and have a satellite location in Perrysburg, they asked if I would like to start the Little House program there. I did and have been in Perrysburg ever since. I have two children, Bradley (20) and Emily (19) who attended West Side. Having them both with me and experiencing the best start of their educational career was more than any parent could dream of.

What’s your favorite Montessori quote?

“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

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What do you love about Montessori?

Practical Life because this area helps reinforce that with practice a child becomes more independent.

What would you tell a prospective family about West Side?

Come to observe the classroom in action and see for yourself the difference in Montessori. I remember the first time I came to observe the Toddler Program in hopes of finding employment.  I was like “wow, what is this school?” I wanted to know more and knew I wanted to be a part of this. After Montessori training, I knew I could never teach another way again.

What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?

Learn all you can to make a young child’s life more purposeful.

What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

Even as a teacher I am continuously learning from my students through daily observations which helps me expand on lessons in the classroom.

How do students inspire/ motivate you?

All these little people have something special to offer the classroom. Sit back and appreciate them all.

-Dawn Ballard.

by June George

Pretend you’re sitting in the corner of a classroom of 30 children, ages 3-6. Everyone is working contentedly at their own tables. There is a buzz in the air, but not one of chaos.

Instead, it’s the quiet energy of independent children, picking their own tasks and following their interests. You’re so entranced, you might be inspired to pronounce “Good job!” to every child who passes by!

But that’s one phrase you’ll never hear in this classroom.

Why? What’s so bad about saying “Good Job?”

The reason adults in the Montessori classroom don’t say “Good Job” is because it casts judgment upon a child’s work. But those children aren’t going about their day in search of an adult’s praise. They are choosing activities ranging from washing dishes to multiplication work because it interests them. They want to do it!

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When we place a label like “good” or “bad” upon a task that a child is doing in order to satisfy their own developmental needs, we take the ownership away from them. All of a sudden their work is about us and what WE think.

Here’s Ms. Wood:

“When a new milestone is reached, the first reaction is often, ‘Good Job! That’s amazing! I’m so proud of you.’ These are really positive things to say, but what do they do to your child’s development?”

How can we respond to a child’s work in a way that acknowledges them, but doesn’t get in the way of their ownership over a task? What’s more powerful than “Good Job?”

How about, “You did it.”

This simple phrase says so much. When spoken warmly and with a smile, a simple “You did it” allows the child to reflect upon their own accomplishments: “I did do it, didn’t I!”

And that sense of accomplishment and pride allows the child to move on to bigger things with a confidence in themselves that no “good job” could ever impart.

Source: Montessori Rocks

june-george_headshot-large-600x600June George is the co-founder of Baan Dek, the first accredited Association Montessori Internationale in South Dakota, and publishes a series of Montessori based children’s books at June Books. This article was originally published on https://primary.community/.

National news has focused on educating children for the jobs of the future with a strong emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Developing habits of mind that will give children the curiosity, confidence, and skills to pursue careers in these fields can be nurtured from a very early age.

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The more opportunities babies, toddlers, and pre-school age children have to explore, problem-solve, and test their skills, the more prepared they are to tackle abstract thinking when formal schooling begins.

As children mature they need constant challenges just above their comfort level but within their ability to achieve. Put a desired object just out of reach of a six-month-old baby and watch problem-solving in action!

Children need to be encouraged to ask questions and take appropriate risks, feel rewarded for their efforts, learn how to sequence, persist, and feel satisfaction as a result of their own actions. Mistakes are important learning opportunities. Confidence grows when achievement is celebrated in the context of the effort expended, not in the context of pleasing adults.

Many children believe they are not good at certain school subjects such as mathematics and science.

By nurturing their problem-solving skills and persistence in all areas, confidence to try subjects they perceive as difficult will grow. Encourage questions. After all, science is inquiry so encourage questions as much as answers. Make sure success is attainable but don’t give in and hand your child everything in life.

Our future depends on the ingenuity, creativity, persistence, and problem-solving abilities of today’s children. Give them the tools to lead us all to a better tomorrow.

Lynn Fisher.

Head of School

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Cindy Weiher has been working at West Side Montessori for 35 years and has no intentions of retiring anytime soon! Check out her spotlight post to find out what fuels her passion for Montessori education!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams.

I will give you a few highlights. I have been married for 43 years, have 4 grown children, and 5 grandchildren. All of my children attended Montessori schools for 3 to 13 years. I have been active in the Montessori community doing school accreditation visits, being a field consultant to Montessori Adult Learners participating on Montessori Teacher Training Program accreditations, being a Montessori Teacher Educator, and serving on the American Montessori Teacher Education Action Committee. When I am not doing my “Montessori stuff” I enjoy quilting, spending time with my family, attending my grandchildren’s sporting events (if it’s not too hot), and getting together with my sisters.

 What’s your favorite Montessori quote?

“All that we ourselves are has been made by the child, by the child we were in the first two years of our lives.”

I think this is very powerful. It reminds me daily that what I say and do every day will have a lasting impact on the life of the child.

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What do you love about Montessori?

The thing I love most about Montessori is the respect. It is so multi-faceted. We respect the children and therefore they respect us. We all respect the earth and all the parts of it and it will in return take care of us. Respecting all people and reserving judgment can lead to a more peaceful and harmonious world. And of course, we must first learn to treat ourselves with respect.

What is your favorite area in the classroom and why?

I love the practical life area because it is real life. It helps toddlers fulfill that need to “do it myself.” It is a chance to introduce even the youngest to care for themselves, work with tools, prepare food, clean, and sew when they are still fascinated in doing everything the adults around them do.

What first appealed to you about Montessori?

What appealed to me was the children being able to learn at their own rate. The freedom to learn what you were interested in at the moment and being able to progress as far as you could at that moment.

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What advice do you have for new parents trying to incorporate Montessori at home?

Put away things that would make you say ‘no’ to a toddler. Make home a place where the yes far outweigh the no. Have a place just their size in every room of the house. Let them help you so they feel like a contributing member of the family.

Why did you choose to teach/work here?

People do wonder why I would still be here after 35 years with no plan on retiring soon. For me the answer is easy. I get to do what I love and that is being with the toddlers. I love their parents and seeing how much they care about these children. I love the freedom I am given to share my knowledge and experience without someone dictating when or how exactly I have to do it. I am given the freedom within limits just as we give children their freedom within limits.

What advice do you have for new Montessori adults?

Keep learning! Learning never ends.

-Cindy Weiher