Sunday, August 2, 2015

Travels Within, Travels Without

I have always loved to travel. The world offers adventures and experiences. It deserves to be explored.  Every year Bill and I would load up the car and set out on a road trip. I have seen most of North America because of him. I am grateful that we had the chance to explore everything from the deserts of the southwest, the coastline of California, Victoria BC, the Canadian Rockies, Across to Maine, down to Florida and everything in between.

This year I ventured to the beautiful country of Italy. I went with a friend and we explored from Lake Como to Verona, Venezia, Pisa, Firenze, Assisi, and Rome. I could not have packed more into the trip if I had stayed there for 3 weeks on my own.  I appreciate the expertise of Insight Travel and our wonderful guide, Chris.

I have to admit, it was scary to venture out without Bill.  We enjoyed planning and taking trips together.  Every time I do something by myself that we used to do together it takes my breath away for a minute and I deeply feel his absence.  So although I traveled without him, the trip was one of travel within myself and learning to trust my choices when out in the world.

I am grateful for my friend, Sany, who came with me on this adventure.  We were two widows winding our way through the world.  Talking about the husbands we missed and having memorable adventures on  our own.
So what do I take away from this trip.  We made new friendships, experienced laughter and discovery of new vistas, inner strength, inner peace, and self actualization.  All the things I hope my students take away with them at the end of each year.  So as I get ready to start another school year, I will remember that we are on a journey in the classroom together.  Let's make it memorable and let's discover our hidden strengths.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What's Your Purpose?

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a workshop that helped me define my purpose in life.  I found this a valuable exercise.  There are so many people who are wandering around day to day, moment to moment without a true purpose.  This gives me pause. Are we doomed to randomly live our lives like two atoms floating in space until we bump into each other in order to fulfill our true potential?

Part of the job of the educator in a Montessori environment is to guide her students to move with purpose, to be intentional about their choices, their associations, and their movements.  Much of this work happens in the Early Childhood three year cycle.  The Practical Life lessons help a child develop her will, her focus, and her readiness for future learning.  These lessons give the child a gift. The gift is that each activity results in an accomplishment of which the child can feel satisfaction.  Shouldn't our lives be filled with accomplishments in which we find satisfaction?  It is that simple, having a purpose and living your life in pursuit of that purpose is the way to intentionally reach your true potential.

As an educator of older students, I was able to encourage each of them to start defining their purpose in life.  I was in awe of some of their ideas.   All the statements began with "I want to contribute to a world where..."  The students took this lesson to heart.  Some expressed wanting to contribute to a nonviolent world. Others focused on a world where children and animals have happy homes. A few of the students expressed their wish to contribute to a world where there was peace between all countries.  I loved reading their work and was so proud of their thoughtful responses.  Wouldn't you want to live in a world where all children felt purposeful. It gave me confirmation that I am on the right path. I know that my purpose is clear and I am working toward fulfilling my potential.

What is my purpose? I want to contribute to a world where children are educated to be self actualized humans who take care of the earth and it's living things and to have fun while I do so!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Different Year

It has been a year since my heart attack and triple bypass.  My life has changed completely in many ways.  My dear husband Bill passed away after I was able to go back to work.  I miss him more than I can say.  My family and friends have gathered around me, helpful, protective, loving and kind. I would not have gotten through this year without their support.  It has been a year of changes, a year of growth, a year of grief, a year of learning, a year of vulnerability, a year of strength, and a year of blessings.

Most of all, it has been different.

There are things that truly surprise you after you lose a partner of many years.  Coming home to an empty house (even though my dogs are barking to greet me) shakes me to the core.  Even now.  Cooking for one is not fun at all.  And I love to cook.  Not having someone to talk to, laugh with, argue with, and share with makes me very lonely.

But through it all, I am grateful.  I am grateful that Bill was part of my life for so long.  We loved to travel together and saw many beautiful and memorable places. I miss that.

Most of all, I miss the things that used to annoy me.  These are things I didn't understand at the time but now have a greater appreciation for his fears, his anxieties, his point of view.

It used to annoy me that he would only dry his hands with paper towels.  Now I miss seeing the paper towels on the counter.

It used to annoy me that he wanted to know when I would be home and if I wasn't there he would call me 5 minutes after the time I said I would be home because he was worried.

It used to annoy me that he would call me every day at lunchtime.  I miss this most of all.

I miss that I don't have him to take care of and that he can no longer take care of me.  I miss his love and don't quite know what to do with my love for him.

Most of all I don't think I appreciated him as much as I should have, let that be a lesson to all of you.  Life can change in an instant. 

Bill brought many lessons into my life and I am blessed and grateful that he was my friend, my partner, and my love.

I am moving on with my life.  Ready for new adventures and new lessons, new teachers, new vistas, and new experiences.

So I will start writing again.  I am getting to know my new students and enjoying their ideas, personalities, and smiles.

Life goes on, it just takes a different or new direction.

An oldie  but goodie, 1087

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Affairs of the Heart

There was no pain at all.  But I knew something was not right. 

  I was short of breath walking from my classroom to the parking lot.  I was more tired than usual.  I had gained weight for no reason at all.

But there was no pain.  There was no racing heartbeat.  There were really no warning signs other than the vague symptoms mentioned above.

I didn’t want to miss school so on Saturday, August 24 I went to a walk in clinic.  I could not find the first one I looked up so instead of going home I went to a second clinic.

I described my ambiguous symptoms and the Doctor said she wanted to take an EKG.  There was one little blip that was not right.  She would not let me leave.  She called an ambulance and they took me to the emergency room.

I was admitted on a Saturday.  They told me the cath lab would not open till Monday unless someone had an emergency and then they would get me in.

I settled into my room.  My husband was there and my sister.  The next thing I knew, I threw up.  After that I became the emergency.

I had a heart attack.

I don’t remember much about that day.  The surgeon did open heart surgery, a triple by pass.  There was a 90% blockage in one of my arteries, the other two were 70% blocked.  My endocrinologist told me I broke his heart because he thought they were going to lose me.
Turns out, I was one sick puppy.  My kidneys stopped functioning too.

I was in Cardiac Intensive Care for 9 days.  My legs were so swollen I could hardly bend them.  I was full of fluids and had all sorts of tubes coming out of me. I was delirious from some of the medication and imagined seeing things on the ceiling.  That was the scariest time. The nurses were extremely compassionate, gentle and caring.

I had dialysis 4 times.  The dialysis team was wonderful.

I was in a room for 9 more days, waiting for the kidneys to kick in.  They finally did and now I am home.  The nurses, once again, epitomized caring, compassionate individuals.

I had many visitors.  My husband, my family, and my friends made an effort to come see me.  They certainly kept me cheerful and hopeful.  Friends sent gifts.  There were lots of flowers from family and friends.

 I had over 100 cards from family, friends, and students.  I have read them over many times and am grateful for each visit and each card.

My chest is twist tied together with metal bands.  I am building up my strength.  I started walking 5 minutes 3 times a day and am now up to 11 minutes.  I am on a low salt, low fat diet.
But there was never any pain.

I am deeply grateful to be alive.  I am amazed that I followed through and went to the walk in clinic, if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be here.  I have immense love and appreciation for my family.  It brings tears to my eyes when I think of how much we all care for each other.  I am so grateful to my husband who came to visit frequently and took care of the dogs for 18 long days.

My priorities have shifted.  My family is number 1 and I intend to spend more time with all of them.  I miss the kids at school and am grateful to the school for making this as easy as possible.
Hard work is ahead.  They say every week in the hospital will take you three weeks to recover, so I have about an 8 week period until I feel like myself again.  I probably won’t be ready to go back to school until Thanksgiving.

So please take this away from my story.  There was no pain.  If you don’t feel right, get it checked out.  Don’t put if off.  It saved my life.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Should School be FUN?

Did you enjoy school when you were an elementary student?  Did you have wonderful experiences that helped you connect what you are learning to the world around you?  Were your favorite subjects recess, PE and lunch?  Did you look forward to going to school every day because you knew there was something interesting waiting for you?

Well, if you went to a Montessori School this may have been true for you.  For most of us, school was a time to be with our friends, not to experience the world.

Learning should be natural.  It should sweep the learner into a flowing stream where time and space do not exist and where the learner is one with the lesson.  This happens in Montessori schools because students have uninterrupted time to engage with the lessons, they have freedom of choice within the limits of the environment, they have encouraging adults who observe the students and bring them the right lessons at the right time.

If a child comes home and you ask what he learned today, you will often hear the response, "Nothing."  In a Montessori school that means that the learning was just the natural part of the day and life unfolded in a seamless and smooth way bringing the appropriate lesson at the right time.

Laughter should be part of every day at school.  Lessons should delight the student.

If this is missing from your children's education, send them to a Montessori school.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What I have learned this week

It has been a tough week.  Ziggy, my 3 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix had an accident.  It was my fault.
Ziggy is an energetic personality.  He loves to be outside or go for car rides.  He is happy, protective of his family, and adventurous.
We were at a friend's house.  She has a lot of property so I thought it would be safe to let the dogs off leash.  Ollie stayed near me and Ziggy kept venturing a little further every moment.  I had to stop to pick up Ollie's poop and Ziggy got too far away.  I called but something was more interesting to him and he kept going.  Before I knew it he was under the fence of the corral.  I didn't even think that the horse would be out.  Ziggy saw this big animal and started running.  The horse started running, Ziggy got under his feet and before I could get there he screamed.  
The gate was locked so I climbed the fence and picked up my baby to check for broken bones.  All seemed fine until I saw his right eye.
It just started to swell and I knew it was filling with blood.  Ziggy would whimper if anything got near it.  We headed straight to the vet.  She was in surgery but the tech took Ziggy in and they sent us right to the ophthalmologist.  After a look over we knew he would lose his eye.  It has been a week and he is recovering nicely.
What is most amazing is that Ziggy is still Ziggy.  He leads us down the sidewalk as fast as he can.  He hops up onto the back of the couch so he can see everything that is going on, and he is first into the kitchen for a treat.  

It makes me think about the students in my class.  We put them into this situation called school where they are expected to conform to the rules of education.  They are expected to all be on the same page at the same time.  They are expected to all know the same things.  How crazy is this?

Personality does not change it adapts.  We need to allow for this in schools.  Children will learn the things they need to live a successful life.  This is inside the child from birth.  Ziggy is still Ziggy and has adapted to his new field of vision.  

No matter what, your children will be fine.  They will adapt to the expectations of others.  But think of the possibilities for your child in a school where they can construct their own learning, where they can fulfill their own potential and not be judged in relation to others.  Where they are accepted for who they are.

I know you would all accept Ziggy without his eye, so why not accept children with differences and adjust to meet their needs rather than forcing them to fulfill someone else's expectations.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cursive Handwriting

From what I understand, many school districts are no longer teaching cursive handwriting.  I find the sad, and frankly a mistake on the part of school boards who continue to add curriculum that can be tested to the school day.  (But that is another story.)

Learning to write in cursive, is so much more than having good handwriting.  Here are a few example:

Concentration - lack of focus and concentration have always been issues.  Maria Montessori even wrote about children who are labeled as "naughty" because they are unable to concentrate on anything.  Like any skill concentration needs to be practiced.  Cursive practice gives students the space and time to develop focus which can then be transferred to other lessons.

Directionality - Rarely do children write their letters backwards while using cursive.  The letters are always formed left to right.  In print the letters begin in all sorts of different places and you may have to go left or right or up or down.  This can be confusing.  In cursive all the letters start on the line and you then move to the right.  

Reading skills - Cursive can improve reading skills.  It practices seeing words from left to right.  Cursive letters are connected to form words.  In print the letters are spaced and then there is a larger space between words, this can be confusing to a child.  Children can read cursive words because the letters are connected to form a single word.

Perseverance, Patience, Pride - Cursive practice teaches children to persevere until they master the correct formation.  Patience is developed by working at something that becomes easier over time.  Pride in one's work and finished products are internal motivation.  We do it because we want it to be beautiful not because we want a sticker.   These three benefits are often overlooked by school boards.

I think cursive should be taught when the child is learning to write.  It is easier to learn.  Many people many say but we need to teach print so children can learn to read.  Well that is true.  But learning to read and learning to write are actually different skills.  We can teach children to read print but to write in cursive with no detriment to the child.

There are many fun ways to learn cursive too.  

Sand Tray - Using a tray of sand or oatmeal with a pinch of cinnamon is a fun way to  practice letters.  It engages sight, smell, and touch.

Painting -Writing with a paint brush and water on the side of the house.  Make the letters and swoops really large to get the movement into the shoulder muscles.

Rainbow writing -  using highlighters to trace cursive letters or words.

So we do need to have a signature, this means we must learn to write in cursive.  Writing in print is actually becoming old fashioned as we use computers to compose, complete application, and send mail.

Cursive is a necessary art form. Young children want to learn how to write in cursive, it is mysterious and very grown up.  If you wait until 3rd or 4th grade it could be too late!