Why we Take Photographs in the Classroom

When we take photos of our children in the classroom, it’s a very meticulous and careful process. Each photo is taken and shared with a specific goal in mind; to help our parents understand the natural learning process experienced by each precious child that comes to our school. It’s hard to fully grasp and understand all of the magnificent things your young child is learning each day, by a simple, brief conversation with them at the end of the day. Most of the time, they’ll repeat the last thing they did just before you picked them up, rather than highlight on a special memory from the day. It’s hard, as parents, to entrust our children in the care of others for 8-11(+) hours per day, and not know exactly what they’re doing at any given point. That’s why we love to share these memories in photos! Whenever given the opportunity to do so, and depending upon the level of disruption, admin. will try to sneak into the classroom and photograph these special moments; two friends working together, an older child helping a younger child, a classroom celebration, or a child so engrossed in concentration that they don’t even notice we’re there. There is so much that we look for as “photographers”, rather than simply snapping a quick photo of the environment. Our photos are meant to educate, inspire and motivate, all the while helping you feel the natural emotions embodied within every portrait.

We observe and respect the child’s concentration…the child’s concentration is spontaneous and precious. It’s not necessarily “rare”, but beautiful whenever caught on camera.

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We try to photograph periods of “normalization”, when the child, or group of children are under intense concentration, working on something that engages their interest. Through this process, children gain self discipline and peace. This is the work of the materials in the environment; truly something to be captured on film.

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Some children have been with us 5+ years, so we’re able to capture photos from infancy through young childhood. We have the opportunity to photographically document their growth over several years.
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Lessons and mastery. Many of the works in our environment require weeks, even months to master. We’re able to photograph the entire process, from the preliminary lesson all the way to the child’s mastery and application. We focus more on the process of learning, rather than the “final product”. We want to capture the child’s expression when they’ve reached that level of self accomplishment. These moments are extremely precious to us.DSC_0305DSC_0310

On special occasions, we’ll even have the opportunity to capture a child’s first steps, illustrating the child’s new-found independence.

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Dr. Maria Montessori spent a lifetime observing and documenting the developing child. I always tell our families, the best way to truly understand what your child is doing in the environment is to observe. It is so difficult for us as Montessorians, to document their growth in a weekly progress report, because there is so much more depth to it than simply stating what they’re currently working on. Pictures truly speak louder than words! We take photographs to help our parents understand the amazing things their child is doing in the classroom, and to further educate them on the power of the pedagogy.

We thank you for sharing your little ones with us, and giving us the amazing opportunity to witness them grow independently, spiritually, and academically. Our gift to you is these precious memories!

The Importance of the Uninterrupted Three-Hour Work Cycle

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One of our primary community members, concentrating on pin pricking during her afternoon work cycle.

Imagine the start of a typical work day. You stop for a nice cup of coffee, greet your fellow coworkers, check your mail box for anything needing to be picked up; the normal morning routine. You finally sit down at your desk and turn on your computer to check emails, and your day begins. A few hours pass, and you’re deeply involved in your work, concentrating on finishing the task at hand before the impending dead lines. All of a sudden, your door swings open followed by a few of your coworkers wanting to discuss last weekend’s Cowboys vs. Texans football game. You partake in the conversation, knowing all the while that your emails go unanswered. It takes a good 10 minutes to return your focus to your work after they leave. Another hour passes, and you’re interrupted once again by a last-minute office gathering, forcing you to stop your work so that you can participate. You’re frustrated because you know you won’t finish your work on time, not only that, but you’ve lost your focus and concentration, and become exhausted from the constant interruptions.

Now, imagine if this routine was followed by our children at school. How unfortunate this would be if they were provided a few minutes at a time to work, only to be interrupted by families arriving late, other staff members coming and going to/from the room, or unnecessary extra curricular activities. Once the child’s concentration is broken, it is very difficult to try to engage them to the environment once again.

We always stress the importance of an uninterrupted three-hour work cycle, and have followed this belief for many years. We have two cycles: one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. There are no unnecessary extra curricular activities to break them of this work cycle, or do anything that would damage their concentration. Of course, there’s the occasional fire drill, holiday celebration, or group lesson, which are the appropriate exceptions. We want to give our children a fair chance to learn at their own pace, allowing them to concentrate and focus on the task at hand in an uninterrupted, peaceful environment. They’re given the opportunity to choose their work freely, developing each critical skill necessary to the specific sensitive period that they are currently in.

We follow the child’s schedule, not ours.

Dr. Montessori said it best. “Work chosen by the children, and carried out without interference, has its own laws. It has a beginning and ending like a day, and it must be allowed to come full circle.” (Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work p 292)  A child’s work cycle should be carried out in full, without interference. One of the best gifts you can give your child is the opportunity to fully develop their concentration and independence, free from unnecessary adult interruptions. A successful, complete work cycle is one of the best ways to accomplish this.

This is a beautiful article further explaining the importance of an uninterrupted work cycle, as well as a ideas on how you can help your classroom become more normalized in this aspect:

http://www.montessori.org/imc/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=266:the