Values education for children and young adults

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Building Community of Learning
at Montessori Charter School in Newton Massachusetts

On September 20th in the evening both parents and teachers at a Montessori Charter school serving 300 children ages 6 months old to 12 years old met to share a potluck dinner and discuss the importance of living values in shaping the lives of young people. Parents were given an overview of what their teachers would be doing over the next two days while the school was closed. There was a lot of support for the teachers and gratitude for the initiative. Everyone was most pleased at the parent turnout for this event and it was clear that the events of September 11 were weighing heavily on all.

Several key staff members had attended the Peace Village Teacher Retreat in August and were consultants to the facilitators on what would be most useful to their colleagues at the school. The staff of this school were a representation of what makes the U.S. so unique with all its diversity. There were at least 7 nationalities represented on the staff. Many on the staff had come from war torn countries. Forty teachers and administrators attended the two-day training. The facilitators were: Ed Wondoloski, Liza Haddad and Anne Rarich. 

Although a two-day agenda had been planned, there was a real need to take the listening exercises more seriously than ever before. As the use of the Emotion Landscape were introduced, people began to get in touch with negative feelings that had been bottled up inside for ten days. The facilitators acknowledged that feelings were not good or bad but just are. People had been trying so hard to shelter the children that they were surprised at the opportunity to get in touch with their own feelings and how raw they felt. There had been bomb threats made on the city of Boston and people were feeling exceptionally vulnerable. Throughout the first afternoon, the facilitators worked with the staff to both acknowledge then look for what the strengths of being part of this teaching community could offer. As a result of the work done on the first day, teachers were more enthusiastic about returning on a Saturday, which is usually devoted to time with their families.

On Saturday, we resumed where we had left off the day before and introduced everyone to the Living Values books and had them plan activities in their work groups so that they could take their planning and implement it in their classrooms the following week.

Everyone felt that the time had been well spent and that they had learned some practical lessons both for themselves personally as well as for their classrooms. There was a renewed sense of how each staff member has a unique contribution to make and that it was valued. There was a heightened awareness of shared support for one another not just age group but across the different work groups.

Submitted by: Anne Rarich


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