by Karen Federice
We talk about connection all the time in the Elementary classroom. Our cosmic curriculum lends itself to the intrinsically interwoven nature of all things.
Jennifer Morgan says it beautifully in Mammals Who Morph, “Little by little, land, sea and air began to shape the mammals to come – Trees sculpting hands for grasping branches, Land molding paws and hooves. Water forming fins. Air shaping wings.”1
We point out correlations whenever and wherever we see them – equilateral triangles here, compound words there. We celebrate such observations when children make them; encouraging them to apply the knowledge they have learned across contextually different situations.
I wonder, then, why it is that I think I can isolate my emotional and spiritual state from that of the students in my class.
These highly attuned individuals are constant observers, sensitive beings and incredibly curious! Why would I think that my internal world is any less connected to them than the structure of the atom is to the organization of the solar system? Clearly, I’m just kidding myself that our classroom is immune to this rule of the Universe – we are all connected. Intensely, inseparably, eternally connected.
What can we do with this information once we realize and accept this? Here are three ideas that may help you realize and maximize your connection to the children:
1. Lots of mental trickery.
As regular people who have our own array of regular issues (families, finances, cars/houses/computers that break, pets/children/parents who get sick), it is unrealistic to think that we will solve everything and feel completely mentally healthy every day. We can, however (and this is big), be amazing exemplifications of balanced, optimistic, and happy people every time we are in the classroom!
How can we do it, you say? It is a version of “fake it until you make it,” but ours has to be a little more sophisticated because our students are far too clever!
What does work, and work well, is to create a picture in your mind and heart of who you want to be. Who is your best self? What does she or he say as a Montessori Guide? What does he or she do? Craft this person, use your peers as inspiration, and then decide to step into that role EVERY DAY!
It is not fake, it is authentically you; it is just the best version of you that you are consciously choosing to be during the hours of school, regardless of the other circumstances out of your control. (You, if you are like me, will definitely lapse at times. Have grace with yourself, get back up and give it another try!)
2. Spiritual preparation, for reals!
We all studied this in our initial training. We all read Dr. Montessori’s unwavering guidance that our preparation is as important, if not more important, than our preparation of the physical environment. We knew it to be true – her words are still so alive and relevant. And yet, society today doesn’t always give us messages that our spiritual care and maintenance are worthwhile or important things to do. We can get lost in the mistaken notion that more doing is the hallmark of achievement. This is where we, as Montessorians, have to have faith and stay committed to our path. Find what works for you and then make it your first priority. You can tell your loved ones that you are meditating/running/swimming/doing yoga/journaling because Dr. Montessori said to do so!
3. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.
These young human beings in our company are some of the funniest, most open and honest people you’ll ever meet. Appreciating the clever and delightful things they say, do and write brings a ton of joy to every moment. When something funny happens in our classroom, we tuck it in our hearts and recall it fondly during more trying times. Holding onto these special moments, and remembering them together, brings back all of those wonderful, positive and loving feelings on a cellular level; and can instantly shift us into an optimistic perspective.
We are undeniably connected to all humans, and the young humans with whom we spend hours each day share our most palpable bond. They are constantly exploring and experiencing a myriad of deep emotions, and we have the reverent distinction of holding a beautiful space in which they can safely navigate their own inner world. Feeling that connection, and making sure that our end of this sacred bond is as clean, clear and full of love as possible can change everything in our classrooms. Changing everything in our classrooms is how we start to change the world.
Peace and appreciation for all you do.
Karen Rose Federice is a Lead Elementary Teacher at Tuckahoe Montessori School in Richmond, Virginia. She is certified for Elementary I and II, and Early Childhood, by The Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She is endlessly grateful to her beautiful mentors at CGMS for their exceptional wisdom, guidance, love and support.