“It’s amazing how much he’s getting it already. They are so capable.”
Hello and happy Monday everyone! I hope you all managed to stay cool over the weekend. Looking back on the past week I keep coming back to the time I spent with Discovery Camp and the concept of personal responsibility. As a much smaller group than Exploration Camp, Discovery Camp focuses on getting younger campers (18-36 months) into the rhythm of Montessori education. At first glance it might seem strange and counterintuitive for me to pair the youngest children with what seems like such an “adult” concept. My idea of personal responsibility has previously been defined as maturely acknowledging a wrong. This week, however, my notion of personal responsibility was turned completely on its head. As I walked into Discovery Camp one morning, I was greeted by what can only be described as an overwhelming Montessori energy. I could practically feel the inspiration radiating off the teachers as they moved from child to child, prepared to offer guidance if needed while encouraging the children to move independently. The phrase “in one’s element” came to mind right away. Not long after I walked in, I noticed a child walking with a cup in his hands from the sink with a look of fierce determination. Noticing my interest, the teachers chimed in and told me that he had been working all week to successfully complete the seashell washing work. Wide-eyed with excitement, they explained that he had been learning through watching the other children do the work: taking a cup to the sink, filling it, and taking it to the shell to wash it. I watched as he started to make his way across the room, totally focused. Then, when his legs carried him forward too quickly, water sloshed over the sides of the cup and onto the floor. I tend to keep my focus on the child in these situations, but in that moment I couldn’t help but watch the teachers as they crouched down to meet the child’s eyes and encouraged him that he knew to get a towel to clean up the water he’d spilled. They encouraged his capability and responsibility all at once. As he got a towel and wiped the floor without hesitation, the teacher said with certainty, “It’s amazing how much he’s getting it already. They [the children] are so capable.” It made sense to me then, the way in which personal responsibility is taught as an essential part of capability and accomplishment at Westmont. As adults we tend to think of accomplishment or success as totally separate from making a mistake, seeing that mistake as a failure and the opposite of doing work successfully. From a Montessori perspective, however, this is not the case. At Westmont, making a mistake in one’s work does not mean a child can’t do it; taking responsibility for it is not a failure, but is actually a part of doing the work itself. As a result, personal responsibility becomes part of every action we do. It’s simply part of the process. When the child cleaned up the water and went back to the sink to fill up his cup to try again, I was left in awe and inspired to change my own mindset when it comes to personal responsibility and success. Have a great week everyone!
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