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Guided by the Nature of Parents. In a sentence, what’s the one issue with parents that brought you here today. Turn to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Tell them about a child you care deeply about. What are your hopes and dreams for that child?.

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turn to someone you don t know and introduce yourself
Turn to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself
  • Tell them about a child you care deeply about.
  • What are your hopes and dreams for that child?

Our paradigms are the source of our attitudes and behaviors.

We seldom question their accuracy; we’re usually even unaware that we have them.

We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are.


A ‘paradigm shift’ is a change in the basic assumptions, or paradigms, within the ruling theory of science. (Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions)


Have you ever met an adult who doesn't really love what they do, but just goes through the motions in their job and everyday life? Have you spoken with men and women who constantly complain, showing no visible passion for anything in the world? I'm sure that, like me, you have met those people.


I've also seen the making of these adults in schools across our country: students who are consistently being "prepared" for the next test, assessment, or grade level . . . only to find out after graduation that they don't really know what they are passionate about.


These are the same students who are never allowed to learn what they want in school. Forced down a curriculum path that we believe is "best for them," they discover it is a path that offers very little choice in subject matter and learning outcomes.


We spend 14,256 hours in school between kindergarten and graduation. If we can't find a time for students to have some choice in their learning, then what are we doing with all those hours?


What 20% time allows students to do is pick their own project and learning outcomes,[20% of the time] while still hitting all the standards and skills for their grade level.

maria montessori understood this
Maria Montessori understood this

“The first step an intending Montessori teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive; for whilst, in traditional schools, the teacher sees the immediate behavior of her pupils… the Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a child who is not yet there….


She must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself through work.

She must free herself from all preconceived ideas concerning the levels at which the children may be. The many different types of children (meaning they are more or less deviated) must not worry her.

In her imagination she sees the single normalized type, which lives in a world of the spirit.”

so why is he talking about paradigms when he s supposed to talk about parents
So, why is he talking about paradigms when he’s supposed to talk about parents?
  • It shows what we’re up against with parents: overcoming the commonly held paradigm of childhood
  • It poses the question: could we also have a faulty paradigm, but of parents?

Give us your children.

  • And have absolute faith in what we do.
  • Now, go away!
maria montessori understood this1
Maria Montessori understood this

“The first step an intending Montessori teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive; for whilst, in traditional schools, the teacher sees the immediate behavior of parents… the Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a parent who is not yet there….


She must have a kind of faith that the parent will reveal himself through work.

She must free herself from all preconceived ideas. The many different types of parents (meaning they are more or less deviated) must not worry her.

social outcomes
Social Outcomes
  • Empathy and a desire to stand up for the disadvantaged
  • Communication skills: confident and articulate at self-expression; also an effective listener
  • Relationships: good at making and keeping friends
academic outcomes
Academic Outcomes
  • Solid fundamentals, but also a depth and breadth of knowledge
  • Critical thinking skills
  • An ability to learn
personal characteristics
Personal Characteristics
  • Adaptable and Resourceful
  • Kind and generous
  • Independent
  • Genetic determinism: your grandfather did it to you
  • Psychic determinism: your parents did it to you
  • Environmental determinism: your boss, your spouse, your economic situation – someone or something in your environment is responsible for your situation
Reactive statement


I am determined. There’s nothing I can do about it.

I’m not responsible

Something outside me – limited time – is controlling me

Someone else’s behavior is limiting me

I’m not free to choose my actions

  • That’s just the way I am.
  • He makes me so mad.
  • I can’t do that. I just don’t have the time.
  • “If only my wife was more patient.”
  • “I have to do it.”

I am going to submit, that we can choose how we look at, what we expect from, how we relate to children AND parents


You can’t change children or parents; but, you can change yourself.

And, you can create environments conducive to change


Whether you call it parent outreach, parent partnerships or parent education, it’s about creating environments conducive to growth, development, self-discovery and transformation.

And that’s something we know quite a lot about.


Since it is also about putting them in a frame of mind receptive to a new paradigm, it will need to help them disconnect from their conscious thinking, judging, criticizing mind, and allow their intuitive creative self to emerge.

It will also need to be disarming, and help them set aside their anxieties and defenses

practices that help
Practices that help

Make it experiential

Create opportunities for self-awareness and awareness of surroundings

Pay careful attention to creating an emotional climate that is welcoming and non-threatening.

Include elements of surprise, lightness and humor, story and song

Incite the imagination

What we know about creating environments conducive to growth, development, self-discovery and transformation

Although they are in a different plane of development, adults still display the same human tendencies that we observe among the children in our Montessori classrooms.

That shouldn’t be too surprising since they may be older but they are still human, after all.

fundamental montessori practices
Fundamental Montessori practices
  • Adult humility
  • Belief in the innate potential and goodness of each
  • Respect for self-direction, self-motivation and choice
  • Take into account natural tendencies, developmental characteristics, sensitive periods
  • Teach by teaching, not correcting
  • Allow time for self-paced development
  • Provide opportunity for active engagement
  • Get out of the way, and let them do for themselves
  • Treat them as individuals
  • Observe, listen and prepare to respond
respect for choice
Respect for Choice

From the first, let’s be careful not to sell our Montessori programs to parents, but instead to inform them and then respect their choice.


Our job with prospective parents is to answer their questions in a way that describeswhat we do, fully and completely and unapologetically, but without selling.


Let’s respect the fact that although Montessori might be right for every child, it might not be right for every parent.

It’s the parents’ job to choose; it’s our job to make sure that their choice is a fully informed one.

take into account the sensitive periods of parents
Take into Account the Sensitive Periods of parents

Before their child is born and continuing through the first two years of life.

Prenatal classes and parent/infant classes are a wonderful opportunity to reach parents when they are at their most open.

Beginning with their first observation as a prospective parent and lasts through their child’s first few months in a Montessori classroom.

new parent orientation
New Parent Orientation
  • Introductions: “What did you see in your first observation?”
  • Edison’s Day: “What did you notice?”
  • What aspects of the home environment allow Edison to be a full participant?
  • The components of a Montessori lesson
  • Brainstorming ways to involve their children
  • Practical advice for the first day
  • I’ll be there for you
  • Orientation to the school, it’s mission, governance and history
  • What to expect as a new parent
actual quotes from new parent orientation
Actual Quotes from New Parent Orientation
  • “It wasn’t chaos! Each child did as he wanted but without disrupting anyone else!”
  • “The toddlers were so focused, it kind of freaked me out!”
  • “Quiet, well-organized, with such respectful teachers.”
  • “The children were happily on task. I was surprised at the level of activities available.”
  • “From the youngest age they get experience in problem-solving. You let them figure it out on their own.”
  • “The children have the opportunity to explore with what appeals on any given day.”
  • “I noticed how the older children take care of the younger ones.”
  • “The teacher wasn’t involved with every child, but I had the sense she knew what each one was doing.”
teach by teaching not by correcting
Teach by Teaching, Not by Correcting

How often do we forget this dictum when dealing with parents? Too often we stand with arms crossed, glaring at a parent who is late, or doing too much for a child, or behaving in some other way that offends our Montessori sensibilities.

allow time for self paced development
Allow time for self-paced development

In general, we are much more patient with the children in our care than with their parents, aren’t we?

provide opportunity for active engagement
Provide opportunity for active engagement

Another human tendency is exploration, and we fully acknowledge the importance of it for children. And yet, how many of our events for parents are mostly lecture?



















connecting brain research with effective teaching by dr mariale hardiman johns hopkins university
Connecting Brain Research with Effective Teaching, by Dr. MarialeHardiman, Johns Hopkins University
  • The brain constantly searches for meaning and context
    • Start with ‘big picture” ideas, then break these into connected concept pieces
    • Relate students’ prior knowledge and understanding to new information to be processed
designing the learning experience
Designing the Learning Experience
  • Concepts and skills taught in isolation are meaningless to students
    • Integrate disciplines
    • Devise meaningful ways for students to apply knowledge
get out of the way and let them do for themselves
Get out of the way, and let them do for themselves

Ask rather than answer. If a child asks us a question, how do we respond?

After their first observation ask: What did you see? What were your impressions of the classroom?

After an activity or experience at a parent night, ask them what they learned from the experience


“A sense of calm overlay the busyness. There was this peaceful sense of order underneath all of the activity that was taking place in a communal way. There was a rhythm to the classroom that I’ve never seen before. It was like a beautifully orchestrated dance.”

let them speak first
Let them speak first.

At New Parent Orientation. By the time they finish sharing, they feel confirmed in their choice, and their minds are open to receive information.

At the beginning of a parent evening on mathematics, I might ask each parent to talk briefly about their own experiences with math as a child.

opportunities to talk to each other
Opportunities to talk to each other

Helps parents combat the pressure they feel from friends, relatives and neighbors to conform

Parents will believe one another much more readily than they will believe us, and in this way they support one another’s decision.

Parent event focused on particular groups

Informal sharing

treat them as individuals
Treat them as individuals

There’s no one-size-fits-all way of reaching out to them. I never feel that just because I wrote a good article for the newsletter that my work is done.

Parents expect a higher level of individual consideration from a Montessori school than from any other institution with which they interact.

observe listen and prepare to respond
Observe, listen and prepare to respond

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They are either speaking, or preparing to speak.

seek first to understand then to be understood
Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Understanding a parent’s situation and point of view first puts us in a better position to communicate effectively and with relevance.

Once a person feels understood, he or she is much more likely to let go of preconceptions and be open to new ideas.

complaints about parents
Complaints about parents
  • They don’t listen.
  • They undo everything at home that I’m trying to do at school
  • They have unrealistic expectations
  • They just don’t get it!
complaints about parents1
Complaints about parents
  • They’re always late.
  • They don’t appreciate how hard I work
  • They don’t appreciate their children
  • They are demanding and difficult
complaints about parents2
Complaints about parents
  • “They don’t listen” becomes, “I will seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • “They just don’t get it!” becomes, “I am being creative in finding alternatives to reach the inner parent.”
  • “They have unrealistic expectations” becomes, “let’s look together at what we really want for our children and find our common ground.”
complaints about parents3
Complaints about parents
  • “They’re always late” becomes, “I’d like to help you figure out a difficulty you’re having in your life.”
  • “They don’t appreciate how hard I work” becomes, “I choose to work really hard because I believe in what I’m doing.”
complaints about parents4
Complaints about parents
  • “They don’t appreciate their children” becomes, let me show why I find your child so amazing.”
  • “They are demanding and difficult” becomes, “How can I help them reduce their anxiety and stress?”
the transition person
The Transition Person

I believe that giving wings to our children and to others means empowering them with the freedom to rise above negative scripting that had been passed down to us.

I believe it means becoming… a transition person. Instead of transferring those scripts to the next generation, we can change them

the transition person1
The Transition Person

In a very profound sense, we ARE transition people.

Let’s help each parent become a transition person too