Monday, November 7, 2011

Teach Before You Ask

I found this post that I'm going to copy here (and give the link as well). It really brought home the lesson to me. After the article I'll give you a personal story that goes along with this.

Care of Self: Nose Blowing

Providing a mirror for young children to admire themselves is a good way to buy yourself 5 to 10 minutes of time :)
Seriously, there is nothing my Little One enjoys more than checking himself out in the mirror!

When I brought this mirror out yesterday, my little guy had a bit of a runny nose. Upon noticing this in the mirror he got himself a tissue and wiped his nose, he then checked his reflection in the mirror to make sure his nose was clean. As I observed him I was reminded of a story:

One day, when Montessori came to see how the children where getting on, she decided to give them what was at that time a rather unusual lesson--on how to blow one's nose. After explaining first of all how it should not be done she showed them how to do it as politely as possible, with as little noise as one could, and taking out the handkerchief unobtrusively so that the action remains more or less unnoticed. The children followed her demonstration with silent interest. When the lesson was quite finished they all together broke into a burst of genuine and heartfelt applause, clapping their hands "as when in a theatre a great actress evokes an ovation repressed with difficulty." she later said.
Montessori was completely amazed at this sudden demonstration of emotion, until all at once its true significance dawned on her. The question she had touched upon--keeping one's nose clean--was one which children too often associate with discipline and humiliation. People are perpetually complaining to children about their noses being dirty. Making remarks, such as "Blow your nose, Billy." "Why don't you use your handkerchief, you dirty boy," etc. But no one had ever quietly and calmly taught them how to do it, without attacking them or criticizing them at the same time.
I have a confession, when I ran my child care center in Massachusetts I kept the box of tissues on a high shelf in the bathroom. I did this without giving it much thought. I expect I just thought it was my job to recognize when the children needed a tissue and to care for them when they did. I would provide the older child with a tissue, and assist the younger child with their nose, by wiping it for them. I really don't recall giving this much thought at all. I will say when I began working at a Montessori School the fact that each room had its very own tissue box on a low shelf, was one of the very first things I noticed when looking around the classroom.
I remember noticing this and mentioning it to the Director; she went on to explain the story I have just shared with you. I left that day full of so much new and exciting information about Montessori and this new school I had found myself teaching art at. My head was spinning and I was so happy to be part of a place that valued children so much. But, a three year old blowing his own nose impressed me most of all!
Later, during my formal Montessori training when the instructor began sharing the "Nose Blowing Lesson Story" with all of us, I smiled to myself already knowing what she would say.
Now my not yet two year old can blow his own nose! I've come a long way in my own learning, as a mother and as a teacher. As Montessori would say, children are the true teachers.
So here is my story:
The other day I read an interesting post on Montessori Mama . It brought home the thought that we do tend to ask kids to do things without showing them how: putting books away, picking up toys, blowing noses, putting clothes in the dresser......

I have been guilty of this and now try to think ahead a bit. After reading this and seeing the mom's story about putting books away I went home and tried it with my daughter. We spent 10 minutes taking the books off, I explained about the spine and how the spine needs to look out of the shelf so that it is easier to find the book you want then we worked together and put the books back. Now, when she has to put books away she mutters to herself "the spine looks at my room". Sometimes she needs a reminder and I usually say "where is the book's spine?" and she flips it right around before putting it in the shelves.

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