Hilltop Montessori School's mission is for students to practice responsible independence in a caring community of curious, critical learners and thoughtful citizens.




Friday Newsletter / February 9, 2018
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Thank you to all who attended Curriculum Morning!
For all who attended, here are some summarizing notes.
For everyone else, a taste of what you missed...

Hilltop has had a strong and meaningful mission statement for the past 15 years. We all have loved that it has “responsible independence” at its core and that most students, parents, and certainly teachers, have it guide our daily activities. 

We have taken the American Montessori Society accreditation self-study process as the opportunity to revisit the mission statement and make revisions. Staff, board members, and parents began meeting last spring to initiate the mission statement discussions. Five staff people from the initial mission statement development process were still part of our team, and we appreciated their efforts, as we worked to make updates and improvements. 

The discussion focussed around wanting:

  • “responsible independence” to still be at the core of what we do and what we say
  • needing to get “community” into the core statement also, to better reflect how we work together within the school and with the broader community and world
  • wanting to focus on “practice” rather than “attain”

We put practicing independence at the center of our mission statement because a Montessori education isn’t just about learning long division, writing a complete sentences, or understanding the periodic table. A Montessori education is preparation for life. As parents moved through different classrooms last Saturday morning, they saw lessons and works that teach children the skills of independence that they will use and need throughout their lives.

Independence begins with learning how to meet your physical needs- getting dressed, toileting, getting snack. Independence also involves learning how to access and take care of your physical environment - knowing where to get what you need, putting your materials away after a work, cleaning up after yourself if you spill.

Here at Hilltop, students practice organizing their time, making a plan for their day, and planning out the steps of a big project. As adults you know that these are skills that we all have to use everyday to do our jobs, take care of our family, and to meet our own goals in life, whether it’s planning a garden or writing that great American novel.

Understanding yourself as a human and a learner is fundamental to being independent; to help ourselves, we need to know ourselves. So, we ask students to reflect on their work, to think about what they have done well and what they can improve upon. We ask them to think about what helps them meet their goals and what gets in their way.

As you know, it can be a lot easier to be independent in a space that is familiar and safe than in a space that is unfamiliar or a whole lot bigger than we are used to. As students get older, we give them opportunities to practice being independent in bigger and more varied communities outside of the classroom walls. 

Our new mission statement reads, “to practice responsible independence in a caring community.” We added that ‘caring community’ part because independence doesn’t mean doing everything alone or by oneself. We believe that only within a community can we learn some of the really important parts of being independent - understanding how our behavior impacts others, accepting limits, and resolving conflicts peacefully. It is only by working with others that we learn how to be flexible, how to be humble, how to be compassionate. It’s only through practice within a community that we learn how to use our voice even when we feel unsure or nervous. You can’t learn to be a leader by living alone in the woods. Finally, true independence can only be learned within a community because it is, in large part, through our interactions with others that we learn about ourselves.
Parent Testimonials...
"Just a note to say how valuable I found the curriculum morning. You and your staff managed to transform my thinking on education. Transformation is a process of profound radical change that orients an individual in a new direction and at the same time takes them to an entirely different level of understanding. I can honestly say that you achieved that with me on Saturday. I got so much out of each session. From the Toddler Program I saw how the foundation of trust and confidence building was set, from the Children’s House I realized just how the culture of responsible independence is imbued and how children are made aware of each other and how observation forms an important part of the learning process. In the Lower Elementary I was impressed at the detail of subject matter at hand and how children were involved at every level, walking around reading the work jobs was particularly enlightening. The short walk to the Upper Elementary classroom was where my blinding light came, here was true preparation for the actuality of life. Self assessment, peer assessment, the sharing of experiences. That you engender such trust one to another is amazing, true interdependence and the confidence to be independent really grows here I believe. And finally, the Middle School was for me the icing on the cake. Here was tangible evidence of all you strive for. Young adults ready and prepared to contribute to the world. Obviously, both eager to learn and to share with others what they have learned. Caring, responsible members of their community and hopefully the world at large. Well done. Please thank your staff for me.”
- Paul Locklear (Children’s House parent)
“Even as a parent of two ‘lifers’ (students for 11 and 12 years at Hilltop) I am wowed when I say YES to invitations from the school to come and learn what my kids get so intuitively every day at Hilltop. That ALL of the teachers would take their Saturday morning to prepare such a round-the-school, deep dive experience for parents, reminds me that in order to get the whole educational experience at Hilltop, the complete picture, I too have to show up as a parent. And when I do, I am never, ever disappointed. I left reenergized and more sold than ever on this commitment that my family has made to our childrens' elementary education. It was wonderful to see such great attendance, and I encourage those of you who missed this one to try to come to parent events in the future, it is time well spent.”
 - Mel Kahn (alum and Upper El parent)
“This past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Hilltop’s parent meeting. We explored how each program embodies the Hilltop mission of supporting children practice responsible independence in a caring community of curious, critical learners and thoughtful citizens. Going through each program and experiencing how the teachers guide students in practicing responsible independence was incredible. From the time they are toddlers they are learning how capable they truly are. They are learning how to take care of themselves with the support of their community all the way up into the middle school where this responsibility for self care and responsible independence continues to deepen and develop. They become part of an even bigger community of people in the world as well as learning how to support each other and help one another become their best selves. This meeting really opened my eyes to how our children are being given an incredible education that most people don’t have the opportunity to experience. They are learning how to be in community with each other in a genuinely loving and caring way. These crucial lessons are intentionally taught here in such a loving, thoughtful, and mindful way. This was eye opening to me, the experience has helped me so much in my own parenting. This meeting has helped me to slow down, and think about life through the child’s perspective to better support my children’s growth and development. These children are being treated as fully capable, lovingly inspired, and motivated beings that have all the potential to change the trajectory of this world.”
- Amber Mosca (Children’s House and Lower Elementary parent)
Upcoming Events...
February 14: UE Poetry Performance 1:30-2:30 p.m.
February 16: February Break
February 26: No School/In-Service Day
March 1: Last Winter Sports
Toddler Program
During the presentation given last weekend we endeavored to explain why independence is so important to toddler development and what independence looks like in the Toddler Room. 

***

The Toddler Room is often the first community experience a young child in our classroom has outside of their families. Profound things are happening here; it's not just a place to come and play. Children are learning much about their environment and themselves, constructing their essence through their experiences. (Dr. Montessori used the term "work" to describe what they were learning because of its importance and value. At the time, play was not seen as valuable and important as work.) The Toddler Room is a place where young children begin to construct their foundations for self and future learning. This is primarily achieved by teaching them to be independent.


Here are 3 points to think about when considering independence:  
 
1) Teaching children skills to be independent fosters self-confidence, self-reliance, and sense of belonging. When children feel good about themselves and have skills to offer their community, they feel a sense of belonging. We often consider the adult perspective when a task needs to be done; for example, a child getting winter gear on to go outside. The adult may think it’s so much quicker if I just do it, BUT if we consider the value of the long term gains - the child learning to do the task independently, gaining self-confidence and therefore a sense of belonging - it's clear that adults need to allow children the time and space to practice doing things for themselves. In this case, when children can dress themselves to go play in the snow, and perhaps even help other friends get ready to go out too, they feel a profound sense of confidence and belonging. 

A favorite Dr. Montessori quote is, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” We know we are doing our job well as adults when children demonstrate how independent they are. 

2) Practical Life exercises are central to teaching independence. 
There are 2 kinds of Practical Life exercises in the classroom: care of the self and care of the environment/community. Their space is set up so they can successfully take care of their own needs. each other and the classroom, and to instill a sense of belonging.

3) Keep these things in mind:
  • Set the child up for success. Make their environments appealing and accessible. Provide clothing and shoes that make it possible to dress and undress themselves.
  • Show "how-to" very slowly and deliberately (without superfluous movements)
  • Don't underestimate their abilities! Stand back and observe. Children will demonstrate their readiness to do things independently, we just need to be willing to see it.

The Montessori philosophy is absorbed and lived through their everyday lives. Toddlers own that sense of self-confidence, feel proud of their capabilities, and feel they belong. We often hear stories from the children about setting their parents straight on this point.

Here's an example:
Marco has a conversation one morning with a child after arriving at school.
Child: "Marco, I can't do it [take off my winter clothes]."
Marco: "I know you are capable; you are a big girl."
Child: "No I'm not. My mom says I am a baby."
Marco: "You are not a baby - you can walk, you can use the toilet, you can talk - and you can say no! Babies can't do those things."
A few days later...
Child: "Marco, I told my mom I am not a baby anymore!"
 
Toddlers demonstrate their Independence through self care, care for their environment and community, their concentration and even their play.  Here’s a video we've put together of toddlers being independent and, of course, their love, exuberance and joy for life.
Children's House
Dear Families, 

Thank you to all who came to the Curriculum Morning last Saturday. We enjoyed exploring "responsible independence" in Children's House, including an array of other small subjects. Some of the key points discussed included: 

Prepared Environment:  A carefully designed and maintained classroom (or home) environment that allows children to access learning tools successfully. There is beauty, order and, of course, at the child's level! 

Control of Error:  A self correcting part of each material. It may be as obvious as a hole that fits only a specific size cylinder, or more abstractly, a answer to a math problem that can be checked independently without the need for teacher support. 

Grace and Courtesy:  We model careful and intentional movements, slow pace and soft tone. We also practice basic manners, and respectful behaviors. This closely connects with our Peace Curriculum and appropriate tools for conflict resolution. We model the behaviors we wish to see in our children. 
  
Independent exploration within a classroom community:  Although children primarily work independently, and develop skills for self-sufficiency, we are a community of learners. There are opportunities for group lessons. Older children are also models for youngers, developing peer to peer connection and support. This is also directly connected to conflict resolution in which older children help to model appropriate language as social and emotional support. 

If you were unable to come to this event, and would like more information about how we embody the mission statement in the Children's House, please contact us and we can offer more supporting information. See you at the next event! 

Lastly, we will be gently observing Valentine's Day on February 14th by exchanging cards. Children will have an opportunity to distribute cards in the cubby area during the morning. We ask that the cards DO NOT have candy and NO names on them (for easy distribution). Please make sure there are enough for all children (18). Home-made cards are recommended, and may be a fun pre-Valentine's Day family activity. If you have any questions about this, let us know! Each child will have their own bag, which they may take home at the end of the day.   
Isaac and Asha join Willow room friends Harper and Amir as they arrange dinosaur cards by size.
Exploring the knobbed cylinders together.
Elijah and Odin share some “space food” while their friends stock the “spaceship” behind them.
Lower Elementary
Last Saturday, our Curriculum Morning focused on how each program helped children to work toward "responsible independence". In Lower El, this is carried out in numerous ways. We used the Timeline of Life study to demonstrate this, playing the role of students using the charts and command cards. We were inspired by our students, who can be observed helping each other out with various works on any given day. 

In our presentation, a younger student sees "Timeline of Life" on his work plan and is introduced by an older student to a new work, the "mute" charts of the Timeline of Life. The control of error for this work is the original chart, with the pictures and names of the plants and animals, so he can check to see whether he is putting them in the right place. While he begins to work on this, the older student reads him a selection of command cards that she is looking through, to decide which one she wants to work on next. She already did all of the first-level cards and some of the second-level cards last year, and now she is trying to decide between the remaining second-level and the most challenging cards. She reads him a few cards that are for his level, as a new and younger student. His interest is piqued, and he is inspired to take on this more challenging work. The older child is nearby if he has any questions. 

The work plans, in conjunction with our assignment board, help the child to plan his day. If a student is a Younger, a teacher will be doing most of the filling in of this plan, with his input. As she becomes older or more proficient, she will take on a greater role in planning her daily schedule. While the teachers are on hand to help, there are plenty of "experts in the room" who can help, too - older students who were once new and unfamiliar with the Lower El classroom routines and works.
Addy and Lydia design a “Who Came First” guessing game
using creatures from the Timeline of Life.
As part of our study of Economic Geography, Nora Gordon took a break from Middle School on Thursday morning to share her knowledge of yarn spinning and the history of spinning wheels with us. It was a fascinating presentation that helped us be mindful of all the many people (and animals) who made our clothing possible. Thanks, Nora!!!
Ask your child who Carl was, and how he was important to Nora's sweater coming into being! 

What was the book  Measuring Penny  about? Is a ruler always the best tool for measuring?
Upper Elementary
Last Saturday morning, we focused on the major jump in students' responsibility to participate in their own education that takes place in the Upper Elementary years at Hilltop.

At this stage, the community plays a bigger role in the learning. We are now doing a poetry unit, so our parent activity was to demonstrate how we teach some of the skills for peer conferencing about student writing using a poem Tom had written. By asking the students to peer conference, we are telling the students:
 
"You are capable of listening, forming an opinion, giving and receiving feedback, and doing it with kindness and sensitivity. You don't need to rely on adults for approval of your work, or means of improving!”   

In the process of teaching and practicing peer conferencing skills, we are building a trusting community. This is one of the places the three-year curriculum is so helpful, as our olders know the process and are able to lead. We recalled with the Saturday visitors one of Dan's introductory comments, that independence cannot happen in a vacuum; you can only practice listening and asserting your voice in the context of community, which lets the students exercise independence in a responsible way.

A second aspect of participation that we discussed was the self-evaluation process. Students need to know themselves as learners in order to be able to set goals. We shared the poetry rubric for our current study that includes not only poetry writing skills, but some reflection on overall strengths, needs and recent growth in this area. We also described some of the many other spots for self-evaluation, including reflections after group projects, individual research projects, portfolio preparation for the student-led conference, the feedback each student gives us regarding our our own reports on them (they each read their own report in class and let us know in writing what they agreed with, disagreed with, wish was included), as well as their end of year self-assessments.

It was great to have the chance to hear your questions and ideas on all of these topics, and to share some examples of how this has worked in the class recently.
Middle School
We appreciate everyone who was able to attend last Saturday’s exploration of the newly revised mission statement. At the middle school we decided to use a recent selection of Finn’s photo archive to illustrate how we live the mission statement. As participants were watching the slide show we asked them to reflect on these questions:

1) What does responsible independence look like?
2) What is the culture that supports this level of independence?
3) Is structure necessary to foster responsible independence? 
4) What does the prepared environment look like outside the classroom?
5) Where does accountability come from?

After each presentation there was an enthusiastic discussion. Preparing for the morning was a wonderful opportunity for us to articulate our belief that building the skills of critical thinking is the foundation of responsible independence, which in turn is an education for life.

Watch the slide show here !
Kid's Block Party was a hit!
Winter Sports
Community Events
Don't miss your chance to go an a peach-tastical adventure this spring! 

Auditions for New England Youth Theatre's production of  James and the Giant Peach, JR  will be held  this Sunday, February 11, from 3-5pm.  With fabulous music and lyrics and a hilariously quirky script, the show features tons of outlandish characters and great opportunities for every actor to shine!

Directed by Katrina Spenceman, with Hallie Flower and Danielle Sessler, this promises to be an amazing show.

Auditions open to all performers ages 11 and UP ; just bring a song and a monologue and be prepared to have FUN! For more information about auditions, please visit  www.neyt.org  or call  802-246-6398

New England Youth Theatre is located at  100 Flat Street, Brattleboro, VT
Skate the Night Away
with
Brattleboro Figure Skating Club
Sunday March 4, 2pm
Nelson Withington Skating Facility
Adults $7 - Students & Seniors $5 - Children under 5 FREE

Talk to Luci in Lower El or email Vanessa !
Punch and Judy On Ice    by Modern Times Theater 
Sandglass Theater’s Winter Sunshine Series 
Saturday, February 17
Public performances at 11 AM and 2 PM at Sandglass Theater in Putney
 
Mr. Punch is trying to beat the winter blues. With a rollicking cast of characters, live music (played on everything from the ukulele to the bicycle pump) and a hilarious story, this skillful performance brings a puppet classic to life with a contemporary vaudeville flair and a modern family-friendly sensibility.  Hand puppets.     Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Winter Sunshine is a series by Sandglass Theater committed to wonderful puppet shows for family audiences. 

Tickets are $9/ticket
Reservations highly recommended: 
info@sandglasstheater.org   or   802 387 4051 or visit our website .   
Brattleboro Outing Club JR. Ski Jumping Program

• Jump Facility – Vermont Academy 10m, 20m, 30m jumps. (Saxtons River, VT)
• Practice held 2x per week (Mon, Thur or Fri. 6:30-8pm.)
• Must be Intermediate level downhill skier.
• Start with downhill equipment. Jumping equipment is available to borrow/rent at VA. 
• Regional tournaments scheduled (calendar available by request)

Todd Einig  – Organizer & Coach.   Home    802 254 4447    Cell 860 990 5536 
Girls on the Run / Heart and Sole
Southern Program Registration has Started!
We bet your GOTR or H&S girl is anxiously awaiting for you to register her for the 2018 spring season! We are pretty excited to unleash girl power too! More than a running program, being part of our Girls on the Run or Heart and Sole team will help your girl learn more about unlocking her limitless potential to be her best self, navigate her relationships and community, and change the world for the better.

Registration for our region opened o n January 30, 2018 and will end February 21.

Our coaching team at Hilltop for  3rd-5th grade Girls on the Run  will be: 
Kathryn Einig , Jennifer Griffith, and Debra Rosenzweig.

The coaches for  6th-8th grade Heart and Sole  will be: 
Alix Fedoruk , Sarah Levine, and Shawn Magee.

Both programs will meet (separately) on  Mondays  and  Wednesdays  at Hilltop, from 3-4:30 pm,  starting the week of February 26th.

SAVE THE DATE:

2018 SOUTHERN 5K
Saturday, May 12th in Brattleboro

Call our office at  802-871-5664  or email us with questions.
Register online here .
Competition
February 17–18, 2018

You don't want to miss this exciting event! You can also BE A PART OF THE TEAM that makes it happen.

Kathryn Einig (Lower EL parent) is  seeking adult volunteers   for 2 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, February 17 and 18, at the Harris Hill Jump. Participation gets you into the event for the day.

Also   seeking Middle School students : 2 each day, starting at 1:00, to count cars in the parking areas. Mostly to count license plates for out-of-state attendees.
This volunteer job helps with our media outreach.

Please contact  Kathryn Einig  ( 802-258-1983 )  with any questions or interest.
Hilltop Helpers
Dog Sitting Opportunity! 

Have you always wanted a dog but weren't sure you were ready for a ten-year commitment? Or maybe you've already got one dog and think a companion would be welcome. Here's your chance!

We are going out of the country for five months and our beloved four-year-old, retriever-mix Archie is not coming with us. We have someone to care for him from Jan 22nd, when we leave, until the 1st week of March, but are looking for a loving home from  early March till mid-June.

If you are interested, please contact us and we'll find a time to meet Archie and talk about details.

Thank you!

Seth Harter, Kate Jellema, Ellie and Charlie 
( harter@marlboro.edu, 490-4285)
Thank you to Martin Humfeldt and Green Mountain Creamery for donations of yogurt!
BIG thanks to Brattleboro Tire for donating our Hilltop van's winter snow tires and for rotating them each year!
Thank you to Nathan Rupard and Hazel restaurant for delivering our pizza each week and providing our staff with delicious pies!