Meet Primary ROLO Teacher Rebecca Giddens
What do you wish people knew about Montessori or your classroom? I want people to think of the classroom as a children's laboratory, a place where children come looking for ways to experiment with the materials in their environment. We prepare the classroom environment particularly for this purpose, making sure to include small yet rich details that we know the children will appreciate. Children are given lessons and then invited to work with materials. They don't always do exactly what we show them because there is so much to discover in each Montessori material and because they are natural-born explorers. They are allowed to reach their own conclusions which makes them feel they are in charge of their own learning. Often, if you ask a child "Who taught you that?" they reply, "I taught myself!" You can see a certain peaceful expression in their faces as they make discoveries and satisfy their craving for learning.
This year, I am teaching virtually. The environment is certainly different but the children's innate needs and tendencies are not. In my virtual classroom, I have emphasized that our mistakes are there to guide us to answers. It is so much more important to keep alive the flame of exploration than to come up with "the correct answer" or replication. Exploration leads to deep thinking and learning.
Do you have a favorite area of the classroom? I believe in the power of Practical Life. Practical Life activities lay the foundation for what society considers "academic" while providing children with independence and a sense of pride in their capabilities. Practical Life is care of oneself and one's environment--it is the heart of peace education. I love that the other areas (Sensorial, Language, and Math) are inherent in the qualities of this work. For example, when I think of cloth scrubbing I see the iridescent soap bubbles, I hear the language (wring, squeeze, rinse), and the careful estimation that comes into play when pouring a large bin of water into a bucket. Finding the Practical Life activity that delights each child according to their interests brings me joy. If I can find the thing that provides inroads to concentration, I feel I have done my job.
What is a special interest you bring into the classroom? I love nature, and I believe that an early appreciation of the natural world can help create generations of peaceful stewards of the Earth. Values are learned, and children are naturally inclined to stop and look, to listen, and to enjoy their world. When we give them the vocabulary about nature and stop to enjoy it with them, they feel a connection with the Earth and remain dedicated to caring for it.