My last post on this page was October 2014……not sure how the old blog got so dusty, but, dusty it has been. I haven’t been sitting back eating popcorn smothered in butter and parmesan cheese all this time. I love the stuff, but, no, I have been busy with life and living and growing my little corner of the universe. I want to get caught back up to speed so the old blog is the current blog, and the dust bunnies stay at bay and not on these pages……
After I graduated from The University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Education in 2013, I took the year off to catch my breath and decide what my next adventure would be. I had fallen in love with the Montessori educational philosophy while working on my M.Ed. and spent several months researching Montessori and how I could best present this method in my preschool and teaching methods.
I began work on an international teaching certification through The North American Montessori Center. Their on-line program best fit my needs of a deeper study of Montessori, the Montessori materials, and how to teach the lessons in a primary classroom. It is done entirely on-line without any student teaching or time required in a brick and mortar building. This perfectly met my needs and so, I sent off my tuition checks and their student materials arrived, and in a year’s time, I became an accredited Montessori Primary Lead Teacher. The Master’s was the foundation of my academic journey, but the Montessori training is without a doubt, the true meat of my academic journey and my passion.
I had the privilege of being involved in a local professional development co-hort in 2016 and 2017 and zeroed in on organizing the business aspects of running my preschool, being intentional in my environment design, and in adding various tools and equipment. The trainings were phenomenal and I ended up earning a level 6 (out of 7) on the Business Administration Scale (BAS) and a level 5 (out of 5) for the Family Child Care Credential.
Although these two years were very beneficial, I often found myself at odds with trying to “fit” Montessori in the cookie cutter expectations and requirements of the typical family child care culture. By the end of 2017, I was in such a stew of being torn between both philosophies, that I have taken five months to work through my own professional development plan to try and figure out where both my preschool, The Patch, and I could find rich soil to finally drop some roots down and grow that allowed “us” both to finally feel we were in a good place and able to feel confident in how Montessori is fleshed out on a daily basis without having to compromise in order to appease an outside agency.
Best five months ever…..EVER……I started with a personal reflection of who I am and what I really and truly believe about preschool and little kids and how I related to them. Bottom line: these little ones, that I call treasures, are capable of so much and I am the most happy and fulfilled when they ask questions and we seek the answers together.
No more trying to stuff this and that into our “curriculum” because its traditional or expected. We don’t work on letters or phonics in order any more. We take whatever we are learning about and add phonics to the current content. During our Bird Unit, we focused on the letters B (for bird), N (nest), C (cardinal) and R (robin). Their retention was unbelievable and so was their joy for learning.
The Patch’s environment was next. Our room was full to the brink with stuff. Teaching stuff, art supply stuff, various “centers” stuff, any “stuff” that had been set down and not put away…..we had become use to living in a very crowded space and I was feeling it and the treasures were reacting to the clutter and we were all feeling closed in and on top of each other……
I spent a month searching for examples of Montessori room pictures. I printed the pictures from small classrooms that I found on-line and hung them on The Patch’s walls so I could really study why I was drawn to them and what was realistic for my budget and space limitations. The treasures got in on the discussion too. They loved the extra floor space and being able to see their works on the shelves. Our bookcases were dark and often times works would get hidden in the back. They wanted more color on our walls.
I posted pictures of The Patch on a Montessori Facebook page and asked the teachers for their input on how I could decongest the room and lighten it. Their responses came pouring in. Their pictures were beautiful and helpful. I spent the weekend taking things off the walls and off of the shelves and…..I’m just gonna say it…..at first I was very sad because all of our “joy” stuff was removed and the room felt bare and very very very “unsparkly”. I decided to live with it for a couple of weeks and see what would happen as we went through our days together…..
Here’s our “before” pictures……it is a warm and cozy environment and filled with lots of things that brought joy and comfort of being at home…..it is also waaaaaay toooooo crowded……materials were squished onto the shelves and there was no keeping the “subjects” and “sequence of works” in the right order as the treasures would get works down and return them. By the end of the day…..it was chaos to look at……I was constantly sorting and returning Practical Life and Sensorial and Language and Math and Science back to where they belonged…..too many choices and too many works made too much work to keep it all together for young treasures and their “not so young” teacher……
Here’s a peak after the initial removal of the “excess”……. its very bare looking and feeling, but, I did see that fewer materials meant more space and the treasures were spending more time on their works, which is the goal……after a couple of weeks living in blah-blah-ville, I began to get excited about how living with less actually means “more” of what I was aiming for in an environment revamp…….insert happy face and happy dance for full effect!!!!!
The wonderful Montessori teachers who were helping with this assessment and revamp, suggested getting rid of the dark bookcases and installing shelves lighter in color and directly on the wall. I went to Lowe’s and with great excitement, I put the materials on my Lowe’s card with a promise to pay them off as quickly as I could. I also bought new paint that was several shades lighter and painted the room first.
Here is a before picture of our “unit” wall and an after picture.
First off, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new shelves. They are four foot craft planks that are sanded and ready for projects. I hung them on the adjustable tracks and they are secured by brackets and screwed into the brackets. They are adjustable and solid and they hold as much as two previous bookcases. I just love how bright the room looks and how the works are so visible!!!!
I added color to the fireplace wall….totally warmed up the room. I also moved our belonging chandelier to the other side of the room where it was more visible and it didn’t clutter up the fireplace hearth anymore. I took down the certificates and the memberships because they were “eye clutter” to me. I know that I belong to these organizations and that I’ve earned these certificates, but, do I really need to display them to validate me? No……I didn’t. Down they came and down came my uneasiness about trying to “fit” when I don’t need to anymore……..I kept my M.Ed. and my Montessori Teaching Certification because those say enough about my qualifications and that I take my profession seriously.
After almost a month, I was able to remove the other bookcases from our works wall and install the new hanging shelves…….I JUST LOVE THEM!!!!
I have two more bookcases to transition out, and then, I think The Patch will finally feel and work as a Montessori environment. We are enjoying the lightness and the openness that removing the excess has gifted us.
I learned a valuable lesson on this environment journey……the room is not the joy…..it may be filled with objects that are deemed lovely and are enjoyed, but, real joy comes from the treasures who bound through my door every morning asking to learn more and be invested in……I am such a lucky lucky Montessori teacher!