Remember the 'Bigger' Picture

This article originally appeared in a 2012 issue of the OakHaven Compass.

As I sat down to write my first compass article of the year the only thing I could think about was the stack of observation narratives next to me. Since my mind could not move past preparing for conferences, I started to write an article that focused on helping parents prepare. I made clear bullet points and corresponding paragraphs detailing everything. As I continued to re-read the article out loud and it started to sound like this, “We can’t wait to talk to you, we love meeting with you, read through the observation narrative, ask questions, and share your observations.” After about the fifth point on the list, the article started to sound obvious, boring, and a little like a homework checklist for parents. I began to feel very frustrated. I stopped myself and started to contemplate less about our preparation and more about the purpose of conferences.

After a nice conversation with a few staff members, I realized that the problem with my initial draft was not the information, as I had previously assumed, but it was the entire focus. I had made an entire article focusing on the parents and teachers when really it’s not about us at all.

There can be such a strong traditional understanding that conferences are about teachers telling parents what their child can and can not do academically. It is also easy for many of us to see the observation narratives and summaries as an evaluation of what is going well and what is not. You may even find yourself attempting to relate the information to the traditional means of letter grading that we find so familiar.

If you find yourself feeling this way, I invite you now to embrace a new view of conference time. As you read your observation narrative and meet with your child’s teacher remember the ‘bigger picture’. One of the many reasons I find Montessori education so wonderful is that the focus is on the child as a whole person. This means, our mission in guiding the child during the primary goes beyond cursive letters and numbers 1-10 and embraces the child’s greater mission.

Maria Montessori wrote in Discovery of the Child, “A child is constantly being pushed on by his great mission, that of growing up and becoming a man.” It is not our responsibility as adults to grade, rate, judge, or ‘fix’ our child and make him into our vision of what is ‘good’. Our role is to guide him in developing his own unique personality as he constructs himself through his experiences. Each child is on his own individual journey as he works every day to adapt to our world and find his place in it. Conferences are a time when we can come together to share how we can best support your child in his intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual growth and development. While we share our observations together, let us remember that we are here for a wonderful and vital reason, to aid your child in his great task of self-construction.