Voice of Hershey BlogThoughts, Insights, and Experiences from the Hearts of Hershey
Adolescents need us to remember that they are fundamentally human beings who want to be respected and treated with the same level of dignity with which we treat other adults.
Montessori education recognizes that we all share the same human tendencies and basic needs throughout our lives—and that as children grow through stages of development, particular needs and characteristics are highlighted and need support to build the potential of adulthood.
In a time of instability, it’s important to remember what’s fundamental for all human beings—and then consider particularly what is important to teens right now.
The need to Orient: We are all experiencing new and changing schedules as well as significantly restricted environments. Adolescents suddenly have limited access to peers and adults other than parents and family members. They will GRIEVE this loss on some level. Not having their peers and their “tribe” close by will be impactful for them on a social/emotional level. Sensitivity to that loss is paramount. They are also going to experience different kinds of expectations from everyone than is usual—from teachers, from parents, from friends. And those expectations are likely to change as everyone follows a learning curve and responds to unpredictable events. Expectations of them might also go unarticulated or ineffectively communicated. They need the people in their lives to help them orient to the changing conditions of their lives right now. Clarity, patience, and kind honesty need to rule the day.
The need for Order: We all need enough order and some level of predictability to stay healthy and functional. Everyday chaos is overwhelming. Routines will be helpful—just as long as the routine considers the adolescent’s needs as well as everyone else’s. Their need for order will be more internal than external, while the adults might cling to external order as an anchor. Give them some space to own their own disorder (like in their rooms) and express where order is helpful to them. Lovingly explain how order helps each person in the family to feel safe and secure—but perhaps in different ways. Offer to help them keep order from time to time—rather than demanding it.
One idea: Have regular family meetings to check-in with everyone (even if there are only 2 of you!) What’s going well? What’s challenging? What are everyone’s current needs? How can we help each other? How can we paint a picture of a hopeful future with each other? How can we share some quality time together to be fun, joyful, playful? What will make us laugh?
The need to Imagine positive outcomes: Adolescents need a certain level of consistency and assurance from adults about the future; we will get through this! Help them imagine what that will look and feel like. Invite them to consider positive changes for the future based on what they are experiencing and perceiving. They need messages of hope and regular assurances that their needs are being considered and attended to as best the family can. But beware—they can tell if you are lying—so this means incorporating hope and faith in the future into your own outlook.
The need for Work: “Work” is what we all do to contribute to the sustaining of our lives and our communities. Humans work to adapt to the environment and improve life. Work gives us purpose and meaning. For an adolescent, work needs to feel relevant and valuable—not just something to keep them “busy” or “out of people’s hair.” Work needs to feel either like a valuable step toward their future or like a contribution to the community’s needs. Their school work should feel like it has a purpose in their lives. The work they do for the family needs to feel like a contribution. Can there be a family rotation of chores, menu-planning, cooking, etc. that includes the adolescent—but also considers that their timeline for getting things done might be a little different than adults? (If they don’t get something done until later in the day or week than you would like—be patient and let the timeline be theirs, if possible.)
Is there community service work they can do in their families or for their community while still maintaining social distancing? Can they write letters to elderly relatives? Can they make babysitting kits for families with young children? Can they record story-telling or reading aloud sessions online for the children of busy working-at-home parents? Can they make board games and mail them to children of family friends? Can they sew protective masks? Can they put together simple building kits for children? Use some of their own Legos to create unique construction kits? (Disinfect and mail or drop off outside the door?) Can they put your family budget on a spreadsheet to track expenses? Organize music playlists for people? Can they work in the yard or take on repair or maintenance projects like painting or building?
The need for Communication: Communication may be humanity’s number one need right now on the planet. Adolescents need LOTS of communication opportunities—lots of opportunities to share what THEY are thinking and feeling
- Communication from parents: regular, short meetings and check-ins that ask them how THEY are doing and feeling (not just TELLING what the adults need and think); honest, clear information about what is happening in the world (but not so much that everyone is swirling around in the worst-case scenarios); lots of “I” statements from adults: “I think this is what is happening;” “I think this is what we need; but what do YOU think?”
- Task and responsibility charts for the family—where everyone gets to choose several tasks from a list and they commit to a time frame for getting them done; a sense that everyone is partnering in the situation and no one is shouldering the labor for everyone else.
- Communication from peers; peers are an adolescent’s primary need—so making sure they have access to friends and classmates is crucial. Seeing their peers face-to-face online regularly would be helpful. Relaxing the phone and tech rules a bit for now makes sense—but not at night when sleep is still the primary mental and physical health requirement for adolescents.
- Examine your own expectations for your adolescents—what are you expecting them to take on (like care of siblings or housework)? Has that been articulated? Have they been diplomatically asked and negotiated with? Do you know how they feel about that? Adolescents are often very willing and able to step up into adult roles as needed—but they need to feel treated with respect, and they need to feel their perspective is considered.
The need for Self-Expression: Adolescence is a time of life focused on identity formation and internal processing. Self-expression happens through open dialogue with others but also through the arts and physical activity. Being restricted from playing sports, going to music or dance lessons is going to be painful. How can they continue to be involved in their chosen forms of self-expression? What space and materials might they need to set up a studio or work-out space at home? Are there online programs that can keep them motivated? (Don’t be surprised if they feel the need to have a digital connection with friends WHILE they engage in self-expression activities.)
One of the insights of a Montessori approach to education is that whatever a child/adolescent might be doing in the moment (that may look questionable to our adult minds), there may be a very important human drive or developmental reason behind it. We try to stop ourselves from reacting, observe and consider what that need might be, and respond by supporting. Knowing that our Human Tendencies are always an active force in our lives—but may look different at different times—helps us to consider our own humanity and the humanity of those around us. We will all be compelled to orient, order, work, explore, communicate, abstract, imagine, self-express in the coming weeks and months—but those tendencies will look different for each of us. Our everyday work will not only be to remain consistent, calm, and flexible, but to work at truly SEEING each other and LISTENING to each other.
By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director
Acceptance and courage are two traits that we all have had to foster in these challenging times. But as we continue to accept our new daily “normal,” our courage, resilience, and community shines through. And WE ARE HERE FOR EACH OTHER! Whether it is for the best Montessori remote learning experience, keeping the connection with the students alive and personal, supporting families (especially those in need), and working together to redefine our own personal strengths — we are here. Please continue to remain patient and accepting — with yourselves as well as your children — while maintaining the courage that we all need to move through this challenge.
While the core of Hershey Montessori School is community, ‘distance learning’ is teaching all of us new ways to think, new ways to connect with each other, and innovative ways to bring Montessori education to our students! Our community is built on those strong connections even during a global pandemic. Following all federal and state guidelines for distance learning and maintaining social distance means we adapted during this global health crisis in ways we never imagined. Classes have resumed for students utilizing technology platforms that are enabling our guides to continue their work in this 4th quarter. Connecting again as a community has been empowering and rewarding.
The global situation changes weekly — if not daily — so we will keep moving forward based on the current status. At this time, we are excited to reconnect with our students, see their faces, and dive into new projects with them.
During these uncertain times, please know that while our campuses are closed, our minds and avenues for continued Montessori education are open. We are resilient, adaptive, and community strong!
By Tierney Dewan-Saperstein
Here we are, together, navigating remote Montessori learning. Let me begin by saying, I am choosing to see this period in life as a gift…the gift of time that many of us seldom have.
Looking ahead, we want to give you a “primer,” of sorts, so that you can assess your spaces, actions and expectations. What are the most important things you can do as parents to help ease some struggles and give some great opportunities to your children?
- Give them time. You aren’t having to rush the morning to get to school, or hurry home for lunch or dinner. Instead, you are free to let your child take as long as possible to focus on the daily life tasks. Your children can work through their frustrations and you can observe patiently as their tenacity comes forth.
- Let them concentrate. If you find that your child is focusing their attention on something (as long as it is not hurting themselves, hurting others or hurting the environment), let them work. This means don’t say anything to them – even if it is to celebrate them or encourage them.
- Assess your spaces. Are there ways in which your child can be involved in family life (towels for drying a spill, putting laundry into the washing machine, a stool or such to reach the kitchen counter)? Are hooks low enough (for coats and brooms)? Can they reach their things (dishes, clothing, work)? Undoubtedly you’ll find opportunities to make changes to your spaces to fit your child’s needs.
- Observe your child. They show us what we need to know! This will be extremely helpful to you when you choose to make changes in the spaces or with your child’s daily life activities. It will also be lovely to share with your child’s guide when you connect next. You can share your observations and can talk through them.
Keep checking back. We’ll be offering more encouragement, support and even a little entertainment.
Please know, we are here for you, and we are wishing you all the very best during these “interesting” times.
Hershey Montessori School’s Upper School students recently welcomed local guest speaker Marvin Montgomery, a motivational speaker and sales trainer with more than 30 years of experience.
Hershey students were enlightened as Montgomery shared insights throughout his presentation, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Montgomery demonstrated how having a positive attitude can change a person’s outlook on life. Students and staff alike enjoyed his inspirational speech as they laughed and participated with Montgomery’s examples and provided stories of their own.
Students were able to see how their outlook impacts their outcome. If they wake up in a bad mood and expect to have a terrible day, that is most likely what will happen. However, if they wake up expecting to have a great day, it is more likely to be a great day.
Montgomery stressed the importance of looking on the bright side and finding the positive in every situation. The students were able to relate to how their outlook on events in their life had impacted the outcome of a situation.
Hershey Montessori School staff and students thank Montgomery for his simple, yet profound, tips. Everyone walked away with food for thought on how to approach each day and the events of their life.
“Change is a great thing,” Montgomery said, “Don’t just go through the motions. If something is bothering you, change it.”
Members of the graduating classes of 2018 and 2019 recently returned home to Hershey Montessori School for its annual Alumni Day.
The graduates hosted a panel discussion with current students where they reflected on their time at Hershey and answered questions about life after high school. The graduates went on to share valuable insights regarding their transition to college, making new friends, and various tips to help students as they continue their own journey in the years to come.
The alumni were also gracious in their time as they participated in a Q&A session with Hershey parents via video conference.
We are grateful to all who were able to join us for this informative, heart-warming, welcome home event.
Many thanks to Mathematics, Business and Microeconomy Guide, Jennifer Snead, for organizing this event, and to all of the alumni for taking the time to share their wisdom with the Hershey community.
A Close Look at Immigration
Immigration has been a central focus of media outlets everywhere. Reporters, commentators, and the general public are expressing views and interpretation of law. Hershey Montessori Guide, John Buzzard, saw the opportunity in seeking greater understanding for his students as they are preparing to enter and contribute to society as young adults.
When law meets humanity
John began by extending an invitation to George Koussa to visit Hershey students at the Adolescent Campus in Huntsburg, Ohio. Mr. Koussa, who is a Syrian immigrant, accepted and openly shared his experience as an immigrant, along with his thoughts around current immigration policies in the United States.
John additionally spoke with Hershey Montessori students about their perspectives and thoughts on having Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) come to speak to them as a group. The students were supportive of the idea, knowing that hearing from different perspectives is beneficial, and that this particular perspective is extremely important given it is representative of the U.S. Government.
John and his students extended an invitation, which then led to an informative visit from Valentina Seeley and Kris Crowley from ICE. In spite of the many controversies currently surrounding ICE, Mr. Seeley and Mr. Crowley were gracious and kind as they presented a wealth of information and documents to help inform and illustrate the challenges and protocols of immigration. The students respectfully asked challenging questions of Mr. Seeley and Mr. Crowley. Hershey Montessori School has nearly two dozen boarding students from countries outside the United States. Students saw value in the opportunity to meet with ICE, and several committed to continue their own research on some of the more controversial topics.
Both guests expressed how impressive Hershey students were and how much they appreciated having a reasoned conversation around their work, which is not always the case in their professional work.
A short time later, Hershey students embarked on a trip to Downtown Cleveland to observe a Naturalization Ceremony. It was an invaluable experience that put faces to names and envisioned real lives over simple stories. It allowed students to experience the immigration process as both a logistical matter and a personal one.
Hearing about life-changing issues is important, but immersing ourselves in the process allows for greater comprehension. As adolescents take their place in the next generation of influencers and decision makers, they must be properly prepared and ready to tackle global concerns like these.