I began planning this website in India while taking my Casa course, some students who spoke languages other than English struggled to take clear lecture notes and I saw a need to have a complete record of the course. As I was recording for myself it was as easy to share these notes. I am someone who enjoys new material, synthesising it, applying it, but not editing it. To edit this website for you would cost me time I do not wish to give, therefore you will find some mistakes. To share what I have put on the website has been a joy.
This summer I have taken part on a retreat which has changed everything for me and so it will change the website. After being uncertain of many things about how to proceed with what I hope will be the middle chapter in my life I have a new found purpose and set of skills but also a revolution in how I intend to think, teach, write, be. This summer I have also been offered two positions and a training opportunity without having to ask, it supports my belief that this website is not about furthering my career or goals, or making money but about feeding into a community which full of vibrant and engaged people.
The albums you find on Montessori Commons are directly from AMI, with the exception of my errors. I have added a section on Play Therapy and intend to write more on links between Montessori and therapeutic practices from my own reading and interest. These ideas are mine, influenced by astonishing teachers (children, professionals, thinkers and leaders in my life). I am also adding my original dissertation for my MSc which I have just found a digital copy of and some work I have done as part of post-graduate study into children with Special Needs, which I would rather see as a response to questions on how we include children, being honest about segregation which many schools and systems insist is necessary.
A small glimpse of this website will show you that my work here is to challenge the education system and the whole set of global institutions it feeds and is a part of. My subjective experience of education was that of alienation, dissonance and a hardening which has required decades to unpick both in terms of the content that was taught and the ways we were conditioned to behave. Years of study and continued experience within the school system gave me an understanding of why we were subjected to these processes, the difficulties children and adults face when they are isolated individuals working inside they system and finally the difficult faced by adults and children who are seeking a different educational approach but within the confines of larger legal, economic, social and cultural structures. Finally it is difficult as a adult to hold a space for children which you were never given as a child and you may not have experienced until today.
I want this website to be a space for all of the adults and children working to change education into an experience of wholeness, connectedness and beauty for those who work in it, place their children in our care and for children. This is the purpose of the website and I think the gift of many of our great thinkers (of whom Montessori was one) to build a place of inclusion, nurture, safety and creativity in which our work will naturally flow.
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I have been wanting to acknowledge my teachers for some time. People who taught me what I needed to know to be a human being. I’d like to share it as an alternative CV, not great achievements I have made to use to barter for prestige, opportunity and money but to say ‘Thank you’ and to acknowledge that none of us can work alone. I also wish to be reminded that I need to continue learning and growing, not for Professional Development, but as an act of care, interest and love to myself.I hope that in sharing this I will allow you to see my vision for how Montessori work resonates very deeply with other work which lets us know ourselves and maybe there are resources here which will aid others who want to take care of the special gifts they are offering when they present Montessori. In the media and around us we see so much hurt, despair and hopelessness, we need to acknowledge these fully while also continuing to direct our efforts towards that which we want to build.
As a child;
My teachers were my mum and dad who helped inoculate me against the hopelessness and cruelty of the school system and the world. I remained able to be true to myself and find myself after I was lost because of early childhood experiences of love and nurture.
My mum played George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Eric Clapton and John Lennon, these voices were my first experiences that human culture as well as nature can lift us from our lives into a greater sphere, that we are connected to the past and future and people who are far away. My dad would try new art for and crafts for the sake of it rather than to master them, he showed me to try, have courage and that process was enough. They both showed me their love of animals, nature and of walking, hiking, swimming and cycling – achieving something concrete by yourself.
Unexpected friendships, wth people different to yourself, to show you new aspects of yourself and that alternative ways of being can be harmonious, fun, beautiful and surprising.
Stresses of being in school made me so out of touch with my body that I experienced some extreme states of being as a child and teenager. These were frightening experiences and not something that could be discussed at the time, because of labels and judgements we have about ‘madness’, but being afraid opens up possibilities for self-care and nurture, to trust the resilience of your mind and body and to know that the body is a reliable source of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
Festivals, travelling, music and arts have all shown me that when the world seems closed up, rigid, grey and cold there are people having amazing times in astonishing ways. That when you are depleted doing something out of the ordinary can open you up to new confdence, vitality and possibility.
Akong Rinpoche and Tulku Yeshe these brothers, refugees who walked out of Tibet ran Kaygu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Scotland, near to the border of England. If you have the opportunity I urge you to go, visit the cafe, hear the chanting, stay overnight, do a course. I travelled to Tibet and met people who have spent all of their lives under military occupation and still found reasons to smile, to work, to love. In Scotland I learnt meditation, mindfulness, body work from a course Akong Rinpoche devised called ‘Taming the Tiger’ which focused on self-healing and reflection. It was the first time I ever heard the phrase ‘Personal Development’, I found nature, compassion, understanding and clarity here. I wanted to stay and rest forever, but I knew I have work to do ‘out there in the world’. I was trying to teach in a secondary school but experiencing a situation which did not feel physically safe for myself or the children. I had no plan for how I could continue and felt very discouraged, but I knew that other people were continuing to try and so I must. I took a course with Ringu Tulku who works tirelessly, I experienced from him how powerful direct contact with Truth can be (as opposed to all the things we say by habit to keep each other comfortable). The writings of these people and any experience to see them is a source of great inspiration.
I attended the AGM of the Human Scale Education movement in London on a day when I was there to do something else, a man called Andy Ray Taylor stood up at the end with a little book, ‘Life Enriching Education’ by Marshall Rosenburg PhD in his hand. He spent five minutes demonstrating Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and said we could find out more if we wanted. He had books for sale, but I had no cash. I explained that I was doing an MSc in Education for Sustainability and he GAVE me to book. Just like that. The book changed my life. Once I learnt it well I gave it away I hope it changed another. I made friends in the NVC community, it was the model I used for my dissertation, I attended conferences and workshops and helped to deliver them and met three great teachers who I have experienced breakthrough moments with. Robert Gonzales is for me where the spiritual plane meets NVC, his presence grounds me. I have just returned from my second 7 day retreat which he co-led. I attended a 7 day retreat co-led by Susan Skye, she does fascinating work with early childhood experiences, trauma and healing and ‘inner child work’. Her work is influenced by Peter Levine who is a very interesting source of bodywork responses to trauma. Miki Kashtan is a teacher I know through her blog, The Fearless Heart, she puts her energy into institutional as well as personal change. All the trainers in NVC are doing similarly work, but its implications are so profound that it touches every aspect of life, www.cnvc.org provides information and face-to-face and online trainings.
Core commitments http://thefearlessheart.org/resources/core-commitments/
I met two close friends through NVC, Lucy Ascham who is an Alexander Technique (AT) practitioner and Shona Cameron a trainer who I supported bring NVC into my work which at the time was with young adults in the UK. Lucy is a person who lives AT, she shares it with others, she showed me how inside my body is an even taller person who is graceful and flexible, not just the idea of this, but that after a session with her I was more alive, more fluid and open – physically and emotionally. In conversations with Lucy and Shona we discussed body scans and focusing and they helped me see that NVC was a process I could live in my body.
Lucy Ascham http://www.withpoise.co.uk
Shona Cameron http://www.shonacameron.com
AT and Montessori Connection http://www.alexandertechnique.com/amherst/alexander-foundation-school.pdf
I also worked with Vidyamala Burch and Sona Fricker are friends I discovered in Manchester where they ran Breathworks, an organisation offering trainings in managing anxiety, depression and pain. I helped them to set up their space and they allowed me to witness how they held a community place for adults to regain themselves.
I find bodywork (currently yoga and Feldenkrais) and self-empathy for myself during and at the end of the day are necessary for me to attend to my basic needs. It isn’t that these are ‘better’ than the other practices discussed, just that they are available to me where I live and fit my life style.
When I left the UK to study and work in Asia I dropped out of physical connection with the places I mention above, the learning has has stayed with me and enables me to hold the space for children in partnership with them rather than leading because I have authority. Nonviolent Communication and Bodywork enables me to check in with myself throughout the day and to see children’s emotions more clearly.
I do not believe stories such as, children are lazy, manipulative, good, fussy, because I know they are just labels and these labels would get in the way of my observations and relationships. Beginning my Post-graduate study on Special Needs I see that the academic literature finds no consensus on other labels, ADHD, Specific Learning Difficulties, Social and Emotional Behavioural Difficulties, Autistic etc these are just general ideas which point to the same guidance we would use naturally with children – to attend to their basic needs – comfort, food, to help them feel less anxiety and more confidence, to begin with areas of real interest and skills they are competent at and work from there. We can avoid triggering children if we know their sensitivities and add to their delight if we find ways to say, ‘yes’ to their requests. I found that working with a child I currently teach necessities help from outside of the school and in looking for that help I found Play Therapy and I have discussed how it is particularly suitable to support a child in a Montessori setting. I would like to add chapters to the website about NVC, Floortime, Focusing and Bodywork in the coming weeks.
After my amazing Summer with Robert Gonzales and Robert Krzisniik I feel more connected than ever with the intention of Montessori – to be a guide to the interconnectedness of people through time and place, to demonstrate our part in the biosphere and that we do have a potential to contribute as well as take, that we can treat each other and ourselves with grace and courtesy, that when we let children (and adults) make decisions we can trust them to choose well, that we are indeed in co-operation with each other and not in competition. I trained to become a Thai Yoga teacher and I have decided to train to be a Focusing guide as I also want to work holding a space for adults and especially parents and educators. I am looking forward to continuing to practice focusing in Hong Kong with Sean Curran and continue to be involved with Thai massage, taking a course with Jonas Westring in Thai Yoga Therapy next month.
I have also just finished this book and if what I have written above speaks to you I am confident this will too. Charles Eisenstein, who mentions choosing a Montessori Casa for his children, describes this new world growing within us and which we are growing. When the new school term comes and your fears arise this book is a book to calm them.
Miki Kashtan’s books are also invaluable in holding onto our dreams for the future without minimising the scale of the challenge before us.
I have also experienced so much learning with countless friends, colleagues, parents and children, some over years and sometimes in passing. We needs to reach out and connect with each other to do this work. We live in a time of great need and struggle and if we experience the problems that surround us as demands on us we will be overburdened and worn out. Isolated as individuals there is little we can do to protect the children, families, schools and communities we know and love, but together we have hope. We can find someone to help us and the resilience of carrying on. This website hopes to be a platform for us to do that together…even though I don’t know how.
So please contribute your needs, ideas, suggestions, longings by sending messages, by seeking out an idea I mention above which resonates, possibilities in your community with your circle of friends and lets come together globally to take action which dignifies, rather than depletes, ourselves and others.