April 27, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
With the burst of heat and wildflowers, I hope you feel an injection of hope and optimism. As we continue the journey working together to find success and balance in your child’s Continuation of Learning plans, I wish to stress our collective power to adapt. As a species over the millenia, we spread out across the globe, and we have survived countless disasters and challenges. Of course, this fact doesn’t necessarily make this particular moment any easier when our children may be struggling with Zoom mute buttons or pushing back on your request for them to clean up their make-shift bedroom cubby! However, reminding ourselves that we will get through this together can definitely be one powerful vitamin.
The week prior to closing our campuses, our Middle School students were very vocal with their concerns about how our school will handle the seriousness of COVID-19. After their elective class one day, they essentially cornered me in the MP Room and asked really difficult questions about our school’s official stances. Remember, this was prior to local schools being closed, and states had not given official clarity on what was best. I was thrilled that our MS students were engaged in the debate, and that they didn’t hesitate to ask tough questions to the Head of School. As you’re aware, new questions keep coming, our circumstances keep shifting, and so we adapt.
We are in the midst of formalizing plans for the future. We have pathways through the immediate crisis for this year, and are finalizing what graduation will look like in June. We are coordinating with our teachers and health officials to prepare for what is possible for our summer programs. All the while, we are using our shared values, strengths and unique characteristics as the foundation for building incredible possibilities for the upcoming school year.
As we hear about various states opening up, with varying degrees of ‘business as usual,’ schools have a special role and challenge. As an institution, Casa di Mir Montessori is in a sound place, making plans before they’re needed, and ready to keep our programs and community together. We will absolutely keep you informed with decisions and schedules as soon as they are set for the upcoming months.
As always, I have gratitude for the teachers, staff, parents, and extended family who engage in this work with children. Many lessons learned from this experience will likely come from our youngest watching our responses to this challenge, and I’m thrilled to see such positivity and resiliency. Thank you!
April 20, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
For many of you, this may be the moment when the novelty of staying home starts to wear thin. This week marks a month of operating within our Continuation of Learning plans. While this is not where we pictured ourselves in April, we’re glad to be safe, continuing work with our community, and we can see the light at the end of this tunnel. Interestingly, the allure of using technology, from connecting with friends to even grocery shopping, seems to be less fulfilling each day that we continue sheltering in place. You’re likely experiencing young people at home, who are sorely missing the physical and real-world connection of other humans. From time immemorial, this need to connect in the same space to giggle, share, and co-exist has been the standard, so it is no wonder why this moment is a challenge.
In talking with many of you, the honeymoon of learning at home is evolving into a new normal. Much like coming back from a honeymoon, you have dishes, errands to run, and all of a sudden – you have a new routine. As a school, our goal is to work with each of you to support and sustain what can be successful for your child. To be clear, this goal must also aim to achieve a balance with your family structure, schedule, and what you’re able to provide in your household. Some of you are juggling twice the amount of work needing to be done at home, given the circumstances stated by your employer. Some of you are out of work, and are devoting your energy to helping your child succeed with their school plans, while simultaneously trying to find other employment. Whatever your circumstance, these are not easy times, and our hearts go out to you.
As we tinker with how our systems can work better for our families, you may see changes in various areas. We have adapted several of our schedules, as we’re constantly revisiting how to utilize our tools to maximize the ease for our various programs. Know that we’re evolving with what works for all of our stakeholders: students, parents, and teachers. With all our lessons happening on-line, we’ve asked Rose Chang to be our 1:1 contact for questions about Zoom meetings. You’ve been sent contact information to reach her, so please do connect if you have questions about Zoom or other technological troubleshooting during this period. We hope this provides clarity and helps to resolve some of the challenges of the moment.
This moment is particularly difficult when trying to help your child follow up with the guidelines published by classroom teachers. To this end, I’m reminded of Choose Your Own Adventure books! Do you remember these from the 1980s? These books were designed for readers to make choices, turn to a particular page, and conclude with either riches, mishaps, or otherwise (depending on the choices you made).
While I am not suggesting that working with your child will result in a pirate’s booty, I am wanting to stress that you have the power to make a variety of successful decisions – and all are acceptable. You are working with a set of classroom expectations, your own work and family needs, and lastly, the powerful will of a child. Each week, our teachers are sending out Weekly Updates and Schedules from which you’re asked to help your student direct their activities for the upcoming week. When you consider how to unfold what Casa di Mir looks like in your house, please know that there are many answers to the same question. All are acceptable and require you to give yourself a huge pat on the back. Here are some possible paths:
Do you hear the refrain? What you are able to sustain is wonderful and applaudable, and communicating with the teachers about what works for your student is critical.
Our best to you and your family as we work together on this!
April 13th, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
You know who isn’t following the governmental ‘shelter in place’ orders? Hummingbirds, bluejays, fruit blossoms, and the monstrous bean plants in our raised beds on Lower Campus. They have no regard for such official declarations! Honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful to see them, and to be reminded that the world is still rotating on its axis, as usual (humans aside).
Over the past week, our administrative team has been reviewing, planning, and learning how to better our systems during this era of COVID-19. I recognize that these systems are not infallible and I want to stress that we’re doing our best to evolve with the times and context. Many of you have reached out and offered suggestions, guidance, and have even offered to help – especially in regards to using technology. One of the most frequent discussion topics is our use of the on-line meeting platform, Zoom. Over the past month, they have been hit with a number of challenges with so many schools using their tools. Because of these concerns from schools, they’ve made changes and have stated official guidelines for institutions like Casa di Mir. While there will be more challenges to meet, these guidelines will help us all be safer and have more effective meetings together on-line. Please understand the steps we’re taking for best practices using Zoom:
1.All meetings are defaulted to waiting rooms, so the host has to let each person in. This requires some patience, as the teacher will need to let you in- so hold tight!
2. All student and parent names need to be recognized, otherwise you will not be let in.
3. We will disable ‘annotation’ as our default, so that students aren’t writing on the screen, etc.
4. Teachers who are using their meeting ID # for Zoom meetings will require a password now. Moving forward, for all of our faculty, this will be the first name of the teacher (Ex. Tyler).
During our Continuation of Learning period, what is logistically reasonable and successful at home is going to look different for each level, family, as well as child, yet we can promise that we are continuing to study how to improve, where needed. Thank you for your ideas, creativity, and energy!
April 6, 2020
Dear Casa Families,
While our students and teaching faculty take a much deserved Spring Break, I’d like to pause to thank you all for your perseverance. Assuming that many people had plans, be they travel or rest, interfacing with a break can bring the realization of how this moment really feels.
Our lives and normalcy have been disrupted to an extent, and you have likely begun the routine of limiting, interrupting, or letting go of non-essential expectations. What could have been a trip to a long sought after destination, may now look like baking drop cookies with a couple improvised ingredients! While adapting brings challenges, this is something that our species particularly excels at! In hearing how your families have sought to make the most out of this time, I’ve found inspiration and guidance in your actions and communications.
I’m grateful to be on this journey with you, and want you to each understand how valuable your efforts at home are. You’ve brought calm, creativity, and engagement to your children, and in sharing your experience with us, you’ve gifted everyone a lens on this success. These connections across classrooms, parents, students and teachers are what makes this work, and to see so many pictures of smiling children and parents is undeniably supportive to all.
For this upcoming week, I hope that all of the adults in our community find a way to play, give yourself some downtime, and connect in a precious way to your family. Our best to you all!
Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori
March 30, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
Today marked the beginning of our second week with our Continuation of Learning plans! First and foremost, I want to express all of our gratitude for the work you parents are doing at home. We are a school whose pedagogy is based on concrete experiences, with scaffolding to help all learners develop their independence on their own developmentally appropriate timelines. In normal times, we have classroom systems and expectations to aid us towards these goals. However, these are not normal times, and much of the time management support needed will be tended to by you, the parents at home. We understand this challenge, and please know from our view – you’re all doing beautifully.
I have seen pictures and heard stories of small nooks taken over by children, schedules rewritten by older siblings, and lovely messes where work has clearly taken place! Many of you are even offering lessons to other parents, connecting about ways to help each other navigate these times, and being amazing community leaders and collaborators! Others of you are trying to make the weekly classroom schedules work for your homes and personal schedules, while also managing the need to work from home and support your child in this new, but temporary, period of distance learning. Whatever your lives look like at home, I hope each and everyone of you knows that you are handling this as best you can, and that our teachers are happy to be with you on the journey of making it work. It will look different for different families, yet we will all get through this together. This is not an easy task, and we definitely understand the challenge of navigating and supporting such work with young people! If you’re struggling to support your child’s expectations for school or schedule, just know it is alright to simply do what you can.
Remembering who we are and what we value is so important during this time. As our name implies, we are a ‘house of peace,’ though our current circumstances suggest that we’re like a village of condos, apartments, yurts, and houses who function in and work towards peace! While that doesn’t roll off the tongue, this ‘village of peace’ is what I hope you’re experiencing from your households. To this end, I ask for your help with a challenge…
Every one of you is doing your part to make this
work. What your spaces look like at home is perfect for you and your child. We
are in this together, and in order to act with solidarity, I’m hoping that you
could each send us a picture of your child’s workspace at home. This picture
could include schedules, desks, coffee tables, whiteboards, an epic pencil
sharpening area, or just your kitchen table! No children are required, just
materials and space. The objective of
this picture is to show how you’ve made space for Casa di Mir in your home. We
know it takes a lot to make this successful, and the work you’ve done should be
celebrated! You’ve welcomed our groups of online learners, schedules, and Zoom
meetings into your homes, and that clearly has an impact. Please take a picture
and send it in- (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In order to help share information and answer some questions, I will be hosting Community Level Meetings throughout this week. Please find the dates, times, and links in our Weekly Announcements from today. I hope to see you there!
While our teachers are the best people to ask specific classroom questions, please know that I encourage you to reach out to me with ANY question, if you’re needing help. Either I can help you, or I can direct your question to the right person. Please don’t hesitate!
Please feel free to reach out and ask questions, and if I don’t see you in our Community Meetings, I’ll see many of you on Friday for our Materials Exchange!
Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori
March 23, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
Welcome to the first full week of operating under our Continuation of Learning plans. Let me shout from the rooftops to all of you parents, “We see you working hard to make this successful! We hear your challenges with space, devices, and time at home! We hear your need for a vacation!”
Learning happens everywhere, so when you feel stressed about this moment, I would encourage you to relook at your laundry, for example. As one of our parents said, “You could fold together with your child, and choose the best sock for a sock puppet play!” One of our biggest hopes is that you help to engage their curiosity, celebrate learning, and help them to create calm during this time.
While this week will include a lot of troubleshooting as we bring everyone on board with our classroom plans, please keep a few general things in mind.
Our community continues to show our colors during this emergency, and it brings me such joy! I have seen people offer tech help, watched many classes be offered to everyone, and caught glimpses of the great projects that students are doing at home! Keep those stories and pictures coming, and please send them to your child’s teachers directly. As you envision building on our community connection during this virtual period, please send your ideas my way. My sincerest gratitude goes to each of you!
An update on our Continuation of Learning plans:
We’ll be sending
out Weekly Announcements, as usual. Every Monday, these will be sent
out, and they will contain general school information. If you’re not receiving
this on Mondays, please reach out ASAP to s email@example.com to
let her know. We are not holding public office hours at our campuses, but
please know that our administration is operating fully, just more remotely.
We’re doing our part to stay distant and flatten the curve.
Additionally, every Friday, we’ll be sending out Weekly Friday Updates to each classroom’s families. These Updates will contain information about the past week, and specific needs and schedules for the upcoming week. The format of which we’re sharing our schedules/links via these updates may change in upcoming weeks, and many of you have offered ideas on how to do this differently. Your feedback continues to be helpful as we navigate this together.
With so many people moving to on-line platforms right now, we’re in good company while we work through logistical challenges! Here are several tips to make your remote-lesson experience more successful using Zoom.
Also, Zoom has a lot of functions that we’re not utilizing right now. While we’ve considered the option to record lessons, so we can offer them to families who weren’t able to attend, there are challenges with this. Please know that until otherwise shared, we are not recording lessons, and that we’re expecting that you don’t either. Thank you for understanding and following this directive.
Please feel free to reach out and ask questions. We are in this together, and we are here for you.
Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori
March 17, 2020
Dear Casa di Mir Families,
Our faculty have taken Monday and Tuesday to collect our thoughts and materials in order to implement our Continuation of Learning plans. The information for each program level will be sent out to the appropriate families following this communication, and will contain specifics about these plans for each level. This information is to give you clarity on how we, as Casa di Mir Montessori, will continue to support learning at home, maintain a schedule, and sustain clear and accurate communication about our school and community status. As this is unchartered territory, please be aware that the moment requires flexibility and consistent reassessment.
Keeping that in mind, this is how our school community will operate during our shift into our Continuation of Learning plans:
Office and Administrator Support:
We are no longer holding static office hours, but we’re happy to support. Our staff are continuing to work, so please email the appropriate administrator directly, and we’ll respond promptly. Email is ideal, as leaving a message on our phone-systems may delay a response.
Health and Safety:
Any person entering the school, including staff, is required to enter from the front door, and will be asked to sign in at the Front Office. This is to ensure we’re doing our part to monitor our risk factors. You are welcome to let us know of your need, stop by and pick-up items. School closures can be effective in ‘flattening the curve’ which allows our community to more successfully manage the illness and its spread. However, closures are most effective if we all choose to adhere to social distancing guidelines as best we can. To this end, we hope our families immediately limit their personal interactions and social gatherings, as defined by our government and scientific officials. If you are a) experiencing flu-like symptoms, or b) you have a household family member who has tested positive for COVID-19, we expect that you will communicate directly with firstname.lastname@example.org. This again is to help monitor our risk factors. Many of you have already been doing this, including your travel information. Thank you for helping us stay aware and on top of this! Fortunately, we have still not had any reported cases of students or family members testing positive at this time.
On Mondays, we will be sending out our weekly communication with updates on the health and safety of our community. This is simply continuing our Weekly Announcement routine!
In addition to these status updates, we look
forward to also sharing the many positive stories and acts that have already
taken place in our community. As mentioned, this is a time to act thoughtfully
and responsibly. In hearing from many of you and watching what is being offered
and done on social media
platforms, such as our Parent-2-Parent Facebook page, I’m struck with gratitude. Please send any and all ideas regarding what our school community can do to support within and outside our family population to email@example.com.
Continuation of Learning Plans:
This letter is coming to you as a part of a series, and what follows in your email will give you guidance for your child to continue learning at home. As a Montessori school, we have put creative thought into solving the challenge of supporting both parents and students, in a way that aligns with our mission, and also is sustainable during a dynamic time. Within this packet, you will find various methods and expectations for our plans. Most of our approaches rely on your home having access to the internet and a device. If you need support finding such technology, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org directly.
With regard to technology, we realize this will be something of a challenge to work through at this time. Shortly, you will be receiving schedules, ideas, and meeting times that we hope you can support your child to follow, and I want you to know this…
Give your family and this system time to settle in. Do what you can, and build on each step. It could be that both parents are at home, both are needing devices to work, and now your two children are being asked to use devices at the same time to attend different meetings! As teachers, we will be happy to work with each of you where you are, and with what you’re able to manage.
While each program level will look fairly different, based on the developmental needs of children, you can expect each level’s work to include-
Please feel free to reach out and ask questions. I continue to hold gratitude for our strong community, and how we’re pulling together to make this period as successful as possible.
Take care, Tyler Bourcier Head of School
Casa di Mir Montessori
By Anne Nguyen, Director of Admissions
February 11, 2020
Let’s face it, making mistakes is not fun. Owning mistakes is even harder. It isn’t surprising that kids, like adults, want to be seen as competent. They don’t want to feel embarrassed, and they definitely don’t want to disappoint important adults in their life. The truth is that mistakes are uncomfortable! So, when children do make mistakes, they sometimes deny it in an attempt to stave off that discomfort. They might try to shift the blame, or lie, in order to avoid getting “in trouble” – and to evade unwelcome consequences. This is a prime opportunity to support their learning and development.
We live in a society that puts a lot of pressure on children, especially here in Silicon Valley. In some ways, they’re expected to do it all: be hard-working students, get good grades, earn high scores on tests, and get into good colleges (preferably with scholarships). They’re expected to start businesses, find internships and give back to the community. On top of this, many children also participate in non-academic pastimes – like soccer, ballet, robotics, music, and gymnastics – either by choice or by parent directive. These high expectations can lead to kids feeling like they have to be perfect. And if you’re supposed to be perfect, it can be difficult to admit mistakes.
Some mistakes that happen at school are related to learning or work. These kinds of mistakes are generally easier to navigate. If a child makes a mistake in their work (e.g. incorrect computation, a misspelled word, incorrectly identifying the parts of a volcano) it’s a matter of identifying the source of the mistake and correcting it. In an instance like this, there is no other person involved, so no interpersonal problem-solving is required. However, there are children who can be very hard on themselves when they make mistakes. Again, this is the time to help children see that mistakes are the BEST part of learning because they help us grow!
Mistakes that happen in social situations, which are inevitable when children interact, are generally more complex and challenging. But they are also opportunities. In this realm, when we help children own their mistakes, we’re helping them to hone important problem-solving skills. When a conflict occurs, we guide children to reflect on and process what happened. We help them look at the situation through observations, rather than judgement, in an effort to remain objective. It can be helpful to consider the feelings and needs of those involved, before thinking about how best to move forward. We want kids to know that mistakes are OK! It’s how you respond that’s important.
Owning the mistake is often the hardest part, and it can actually bring some relief. Understanding the why behind the mistake is also important. Once those things have been figured out – and this can be a process – the child is encouraged to decide how to try and make amends. Children (and many adults) tend to quickly leap to, “I’m sorry.” But an empty or forced sorry is meaningless, and kids know it – so that is a trap to be avoided. It can be helpful to think about the situation from the perspective of the other person or people involved. What is it that they might want? What will make it better for them? How can trust be rebuilt?
When children gain practice in owning their mistakes and solving problems, whether in the academic or social realm, they begin to develop trust in their own abilities. And, when children feel more confident in their ability to handle mistakes, and they understand that mistakes are OK, they tend to be more willing to take risks.
Parents can sometimes get in the way of this learning unintentionally. Ever run home to get your child’s Friday Folder, backpack, lunch, jacket, etc.? It’s completely natural to want to support, nurture and protect your child. It’s instinctual. Sometimes, this instinct drives parents to solve problems for their child, rather than supporting the child to work through the problem. Another common tendency is for parents to shield their child from the natural consequences of a mistake. These actions can take away the opportunity for learning and growth.
Mistakes are an inevitable part of life – so how can you support? When your child makes a mistake, try to approach it as an opportunity. Provide guidance in processing what happened, if needed. When your child owns a mistake, acknowledge their honesty and courage. Allow them to experience consequences (within the bounds of safety), and encourage their efforts to make things right. And finally, model taking responsibility for your own mistakes. Modeling is a powerful teacher.
By Tyler Bourcier, Head of School
January 21, 2020
The first time I ever worked in an elementary school was as a Kindergarten class intern within the public schools in Washington state. Over that year, I was asked to take on more responsibilities from the Lead Teacher, so I’d slowly grow more comfortable with the increased expectations of guiding and supervising a classroom of students. There were ample reasons to love the experience: joyful children, supportive faculty, and the space to ask questions and experiment with ideas.
Every day, around 9:30, the entire class would transition to “reading time,” which the students seemed to enjoy. Well, most of the students enjoyed the time, save one. For this story, we’ll call him Tucker! A few minutes before 9:30, the bell would ring for a transition that the teacher had planned. Over the weeks, Tucker had developed a pattern of coming to school, participating in Circle, and then immediately heading to the block area where he would create elaborate cities and buildings. These structures were magnificent and his friends would often collaborate with him, resulting in even more extensive civilizations. Tucker soon learned that this bell meant that he needed to put away his work, and join everyone else in the same activity- reading.
The pattern was soon set for Tucker to hear the bell, and reliably become very upset that he had to put away his work to make space for the next thing. Prior to the bell, Tucker was in “the zone,” “concentrating,” “self-regulating,” or any one of many terms used to describe an individual who is humming along with their work. This bell told Tucker that his work was not as important as the schedule, and that the needs of the teacher and group out-ranked his sense of order. The transitions did not go well. Eventually, Tucker would join his peers in reading, but he wasn’t too keen on investing his focus in reading after such an emotional experience. The interruption of Tucker’s work, as well as its message, sticks with me as a meaningful lesson.
Not much later in life, I became an assistant in a Montessori classroom. This kind of general interruption did not occur, and more to the point – breaking a child’s concentration was frowned upon. It was there that I found a new direction to head in the world of education, one that increasingly supported and honored the child as a critical and dynamic part of their own education. With a major goal of helping children to develop and strengthen their ability to concentrate, a tenet of Montessori’s philosophy was to never interrupt a focused child. To honor that focus is to honor the internal work of the child. There are few more powerful messages that we can stress to our children, no matter the age- putting energy and attention into work is valuable, and each of us has the right to direct and follow this energy.
At Casa, I’m grateful that we honor each child’s intention and work. Like a family, we are a community of individuals, which suggests a need for flexibility and compromise at times. However, the importance behind allowing work cycles to be completed and attention to naturally shift is still a critical piece of what creates our ambiance. This patience and understanding is yet another building block to how Peace Education is modeled and implemented at Casa di Mir. At this point, Tucker is old enough to have conversations with his own children about cleaning up for transitions. Unbeknownst to Tucker, he taught a lesson that I’ve carried for 20 years. As educators, it is part of our perspective to keep this sensitivity for interruptions in mind as we operate through the school day. No matter the role you play with children, the power of allowing children to complete their work before moving on is easy to witness, as it usually results in smoother transitions and an increased willingness. Who doesn’t want that? Plus, your patience may result in an even more amazing civilization (in blocks or otherwise)!