Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grace and Courtesy; or, why my Mother called me "Grace" as a child.

A part of Practical Life in every Children's house are the lessons of grace and courtesy. These impart to the child various skills of physical and social grace, and are, in a sense, the "social lubricant" of a classroom. These lessons, given to the children in small groups, include things like: How to passby, how to greet a guest, how to answer a phone, how to blow one's nose, etc.

I have always considered myself at least (relatively) courteous. I know how and when to say excuse me. I know how to introduce myself. But grace? I don't know if grace is something I've ever had.

When I was little, My Momma would call me "Grace" for my utter lack of it. I am doubtful that any child fell, tripped, tumbled, bumped, bruised as much as I did. And every time, without chiding, my Mom would patch me up and ever so lovingly call me her Grace. Dance classes as I got older certainly helped, and getting to dance in our high school production of "The Secret Garden" was a surprise and joy. It's been a few years now since I've fallen and scraped myself up. But being in an environment with a million materials that are out of scale to me has made me feel bumbling. Holding the spoon is hard. How can I sit in this chair? The bowl is too small for me to grasp. Slow down, I remind myself. Slow. down.

My classmates and trainer defined grace together: fluidity. precision. purpose. exactness. organic. natural. internal calm. internal peace. lightness. a beauty that is owned. the essence of movement taken to a level of elegance. The finest of movements, where precision becomes natural.

It is the guide's job not just to model grace, but to own it, to make it incarnate, a part of ourselves. So I ask myself: do I move and live with fluidity? With precision? Is there purpose? Am I exact? How do I incarnate something which I've never...embodied before?

I am working to embody grace. I am working to own it, so that I can offer it to the child. Remind me, if you see me, to slow down; you may be unconsciously assisting me in my goal.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My First "Shelf Ready" exercise!

I promise to write a real post tomorrow. In the mean time, though, check out my first bit of material making! These are nomenclature cards, and I collected the leaves of "Trees of GA" and labeled and laminated them. This nifty folder is one I made out of a re-purposed place mat! The button helps to identify the work within the folder.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monsoon season in Atlanta; or, Why Large Montessori Classes shouldn't do "The Rain Song"

I should start this entry by saying that while it is true that Atlanta has seen some grizzly storms this week, and while I was exposed to the rain, and the thunder, and the falling trees, and the flooded roadways, I am fine. My home didn't flood--my complex didn't even flood, although the roads getting back to it were dicey.

Atlanta saw an absolutely amazing amount of rain this week--they say it was the most in 30 years. We were given a "rain day" from school--in fact, the montessori school that operates in the other part of our building saw some extensive flood damage and was closed today, as well. About a week ago, we practiced "The Rain Song", all 33 of us. Did it cause the deluge? Doubtful, but it was an amusing coincidence.

This week has begun our study of the area of Practical Life known as "Care of Self".

It contains activities like the button frame and hand washing, pictured above. These are things I do every day, right? And at some point in my life, someone taught me *how* to button. How to use a zipper. How to tie bows. Someone did it for me, clearly, step by step. They must've, otherwise I wouldn't know.

This week, our trainer gave the lesson on the Buckle Frame, and I got to be "the child". To be "the child" in our classroom means you get the best seat in the house--the one a child would sit in if they were receiving the lesson. With grace, precision, and so few words, she taught me how to buckle. I had known, certainly, how to buckle--but I can't say that i've ever thought of the process of how I unbuckle and buckle. There is the guard, which holds the strap in place AFTER one buckles, and the buckle itself, and the pin that engages the strap and keeps the belt secured. Your hand has to do specific work to make the belt come undone--to release the pin, to remove the strap from the buckle.

Maybe this seems inane (it is certainly tedious). I have a lot of respect for the process, though--and what it means to be a child that learns how to do something in a SPECIFIC way, a way that allows you to operate more independently. And I certainly feel success when I've nailed down the movement of unzipping and zipping a zipper--there is grace to it, and satisfaction when through repetition, you are able work toward mastery.

More soon, friends.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week Two: In which our Heroine comes to terms with the task at hand.

Whatever I might have said last week about excitement hasn't changed; but it is certainly tempered with a subtle, lingering tiredness. It is Friday, and I left the training center approximately 8 hours ago...and yet, it already feels dangerously close to Monday, when my second theory paper (The Four Planes of Development) and my first set of Practical Life exercises (Preliminary Exercises) are due. I've worked ahead and thought that I would have time this weekend to continue to do so, but I think that this is it: I think I've gained all the time I could.

This is nothing, compared to next week, when we have two theory papers, a set of exercises, and a material (Native Leaf Cards!) due. So, now we are down to business. Now is when every single moment of my time becomes completely occupied. And yet, this is the first time in a LONG time where just one thing was allowed to be my focus. So, I am rejoicing in that, and planning on many late nights.

We began work in Practical life this week--a not-so-subtle introduction to just *how* your body and movements change when you become a guide. I sat with two lovely, white porcelain bowls in front of me on a tray, one filled with mustard seeds. "Goodness," I thought to myself, "Spooning mustard seeds is very hard!" It's difficult to help the child perfect pincer grip when you yourself have never perfected pincer grip, and so, while I sit around, reminding myself to sit up straight and be aware of my surroundings, I also remind myself to take notes holding the pen in the right way, and to readjust the spoon so it is sitting correctly in my hand. It is enough to make even the most graceful swan seem....not graceful (I am completely out of adjectives, forgive me). The entire experience is humbling. My Trainer and Assistant Trainer are gracious in their supervision and comments, but it certainly lends perspective, sitting next to my friend Julia at a table, discussing exactly how the bowl should or should not be tilted to remove the final seeds. (Note to self: hope to find a tray with legumes the next time you practice.)

Other questions, like just what I need to buy for various material making projects (extra wide double fold bias tape, tea towels, elastic, cardstock), what kind of binders I should purchase for my albums, whether or not I need to buy a home laminating machine, and when my roommate and I will find time to eat float in the periphery of my mind as I try to evaluate my movements (do I turn the doorknob to the left or the right? do I grasp over or under) and record them on paper for my exercises.

Here we go, ladies and gentleman. Seatbelts should be fastened. I am praying I continue to love and appreciate the ride I am on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My First Week of Primary Training

I am finally connected to the internet, and able to post about the enriching, exhausting, awesome first week of classes that I have.

I am in a class with 33 wonderful women, hailing from 12 different countries on 5 different continents. Some have just finished undergraduate studies, some have just started their families, and some have adult children older than the younger participants in the training. Some of us are just learning to speak english; reading Montessori Theory in Russian, or Spanish, taking lecture notes in a foreign language just to translate them back to English for Theory papers. Some of us are well read...and some of us have not even yet started to read. And yet, here we are, all together, learning about Maria Montessori's beautiful life work. The room is totally full and there are barely enough tables and chairs to fit us all. We are a class twice the size of the one that came before us.

Lectures are incredibly interesting, and well-spoken. The Assistant Trainer lectures approximately twice the speed of the Trainer, but both of them share theory eloquently, with wonderfully chosen quotational support. I leave lectures with cramped hands, but high spirits. At some point, I mentioned working at Hershey, and now, there are a lot of questions about "The School I read about on the internet". But I am happy they are being asked, and glad to know that people see the work of the our community and are inspired...I know I am.

I have been reading a lot, and started working on my first Theory paper last night. It is due Monday. Human Tendencies. I am, I laugh to admit, excited to write this paper. Why? Well, I am sure it won't last, but for now, I can say "I've been waiting for this opportunity!" and mean it. I wanted this. I asked for it. And I am ready to dive headlong into the Great Work that is ahead of me this year.

All of that being said, I am very homesick. I miss my boyfriend, my cat, my family and friends. I can only hope that, if I stay busy, I'll be distracted from it until it is time to see them all again.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Atlanta

This was originally written on August 8th, and was simply a delayed post.

Classes start tomorrow morning. I am posting, currently, from a Dunkin Donuts at the corner of Lavista Rd. and North Druid Hills. Our apartment does not have internet, and AT&T wasn't able to schedule an appointment for us until Thursday. I am embarrased to admit that I feel a little lost without the ability to check my email. Oh well, life goes on.

I've set myself up a decent workspace and have spent a few days nesting. I am, for the most part, unpacked, and have set about the work of rereading the first two pieces we are covering in the training: The Human Tendencies and Montessori Education, and The Four Planes of Development. Reading them makes me miss Hershey, but feel enthusiastic to begin training. Reading them also makes me wish that someone would dedicate themselves to a smoother, more unified and correct translation. On occasion, the direct translation is so jambled that it takes four readings of a paragraph to sort out exactly what is there. Nathaniel, write a grant.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I am approximately two packing days from moving. Today, and tomorrow. It's amazing to think that so soon, I will be in a new home, in a new state, going to school to study something I am incredibly passionate about...something I believe in. This year is a dream come true for me, and so, as afraid as I am (and I would be lying if I couldn't admit my fear) I am hopeful and enthusiastic to begin my journey.

As I pack my things, I find myself running through an entirely different set of questions than when I moved from college into my first apartment. This time, I ask "Is it useful? Do I need it? Is it lovely? Do I have space for it?". I separate my belongings according to room and use... my Mother could tell you that packing for me in the past was always "How many different things can I fit into this box?" But not now. I get rid of old clothing, T-shirts that I love but that aren't destined for adult life. I throw away old paperwork that I don't need, all those bic pens that still "sort of work". But the tiny objects I find? The really small spool in my sewing box? The scraps of fabric--from quilts and clothing and bridesmaids dresses? Those are packed so I can take them with me. I packed "The Little Prince" but selling my copy of Bertolt Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle". I am changing and evolving already...and I haven't even left Ohio yet.