I always thought of blogs as being narcissistic, business related, or as my sister's, a way of keeping in touch or memorializing.

But, by necessity, I am learning a lot about myself. I find I need to get my thoughts out, and it helps me to know that someone else will read them. So I have created this little space for myself, to express the things I have trouble saying (be it emotional or physical trouble), to share what I'm going through, and what I'm learning through it.

I absolutely welcome comments. It's nice to know how people relate to what I'm saying.
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Tuesday, 12 June 2012


This time of year is always emotional at every school. I, being an emotional kind of person, have always wanted to make the most of it, and help my students see how moments like these, of endings, beginnings and in-between moments are so very ripe with opportunity for growth and self-exploration. But this year I have no students. So I guess I'll have to do it for myself.

The 4 boys who started the Middle School adventure with me are, however, on their way out of our cocoon of a school, and about to learn how to fly.  My son is moving from the Lower Elementary to the Upper Elementary, and my nephew is moving from the Casa to the Lower El. I may have no students, but I still have plenty of transitions to feel my way through.

The furthest from my daily life are the Middle School boys. At this point, it has been one and a half years since I was their teacher. And yet. And yet I've been involved in every major decision, and several smaller ones regarding their education during that time. I've been apprised of their progress, and kept abreast of their development. I still feel a very strong emotional attachment, and I probably always will. One of the things which makes a Montessori Middle School, and especially ours, unique is the intense focus we place on two things: self-reflection for both students and teachers, and the mentoring relationship. When these are in place, a bond will develop. And since I am personally so intensely self-reflective anyway, and so highly empathetic, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I formed very deep bonds with these students, even though I had them to myself for only a few months. I was their music teacher for several years before that, and music, when taught Andy-style, well, yeah, it tended to lean towards self-expression and (dare I say it?) self-reflection, so over the years they came to trust me, and when we opened the Middle School, we were ready to open our hearts.

Now they are moving on, and while I am sad that I will see less of them, that I will no longer be able to keep tabs on them, or know how they are handling their biggest issues, I do know one thing; they will be ok. It's hard to express the pride and satisfaction I feel in knowing that this program that I spent so long designing stood and supported them even when I personally could not, and through a parade of teachers, not all of whom believed in it, or in the goodness of these students. But they are graduating knowing what they need to know, and having grown in every way. I read their reflections on finishing Middle School, and was really moved by how much they appreciated the opportunity to be a part of such a different classroom, and how they were able to express their own growth and learning. I hope to run into them one day when they are all grown up - I'm pretty sure they will become very interesting men.

The transition closest to home, or rather, technically speaking, in my home, is my son's. It doesn't seem like much, moving from Lower El to Upper El, turning 9, but it is. A really big shift is happening, and it's time for me to adapt once again. In Montessori terms, he has entered the second phase of the second plane of development.

Last night, this child announced that he is ready for me to stop tucking him in at night. That it is ok with him if I go to bed earlier than him. Well that's great, but I'm not sure it's ok with me! Moments like these are so intense. I am proud that he is so confident and able and independent - I worked hard to instill these qualities in him. I am proud that he can think for himself, and ask for what he wants - and I am touched beyond words that he trusts me to listen to him. I am not so sure, however, that he is quite ready to handle the responsibility of turning off the computer or television just because it is 9:30. Last night was a wonderfully (and as expected) disastrous experiment, conducted purposefully in the Montessori way, giving the child just enough freedom to see what he does with it, through which I was able to assess the kinds of boundaries we still need to have in place. So we have some working out of details and structures to do, but I am sure we are on our way to creating a new routine, which is very bitter and very sweet.

What felt strange was for the first time in 9 years, going upstairs and through my bedtime routine while he was still downstairs. It just does not jive. It felt so wrong, to be going upstairs with a cup of tea, when usually I am getting my tea after I go make sure he is already asleep. And of course, thinking about it makes me all nostalgic for the hundreds of bedtimes we've shared, all the talks, books, kisses and really close moments that happen at bedtime, especially for parents who co-sleep, which we did on and off for many years. (Tangential thought: funny how through those years many people judged me for allowing him to sleep in my bed, told me I was really messing him up by not letting him cry it out, that I was ruining his life by cosleeping, and yet, just a few years later, he himself is showing how easily he can not only make, but ask for, this kind of change when he is ready for it.)

In two weeks, my son will leave his Lower Elementary classroom behind, and with it, two classroom teachers who guided him for three years (this is not uncommon in Montessori schools, but also an experience neither he or I ever had as teacher turnover was high in my school, and his Casa teachers kept getting pregnant) and his French teacher of seven years. Seven years with the same teacher - that is really something special. I want to make sure that he and I mark this moment in some way. Next year he will be with a teacher whose classrooms I have always loved, and who truly inspires her students, and his future French teacher is a good friend of mine who also inspires her students, and believes in the value of experiential education (and happens to be a loyal reader - *hi! I'm so happy he's going to be your student!*), so I know he is going to be in great hands again, and will continue the incredible path he has started. But again, I am nostalgic, and I can't help remembering my first interview with the French teacher, who was so taken by the tiny curly-haired blond angel with the huge blue eyes who wouldn't leave her side while she was in his class. The number of times I have discussed his growth, his achievements with these women - there really was a strong parent-teacher partnership I will miss there - I have personal/professional relationships with them as well, which makes it all the more intense - but damn, I'm going to miss that! These three women have given so much to us, treated us both with immense respect and caring, understood the complex situation in which we find ourselves and provided an environment in which he has thrived through the roughest moments either of us have known. It is in large part, thanks to that stability they provide that my boy has adapted so easily and seemingly effortlessly to life with a spoonie mom.

But transitions are a necessary part of life. And every transition is what it is. Transitions bring moments of uncertainty, worry, fear and discomfort, along with anticipation, nostalgia and excitement. But it's the acceptance of the transient nature of time and life and moments and stages and relationships - no matter how long or short they are - that I'm working towards that is helping me to approach these transitions and moments of change with greater confidence, more peace, and less drama. I know I will adapt. I know my son will adapt. I know my students will adapt. That's one thing we Montessori kids are great at. We will all be ok. When I look back, there are things I wish I could change, but not only do I know those things were crucial in getting us all to this place, this here and now, but overall, I am happy and satisfied, and proud of myself and the choices I have made that have helped these wonderful young men shape themselves. I look at them - all 5 of "my" boys - and I see good-hearted, empathetic, smart, confident, responsible, innovative, happy human beings with solid morals, integrity and a really solid sense of self. What more could I want for them?

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