Helping to Create “Mean Girls”

Several conversations recently came together for me, into a shocking insight.  Now that I have had time to think about it, it is not shocking at all, of course; like so many things.

I was part of several conversations about children (boys) and gun play.  This subject never goes away, and may be a topic for another stream of thought.  Gun violence in this country is a real thing, and effects children and families, but, in this case,  this thread led to something else.

The other thing that never goes away, even in preschool (!!!!) is that of “mean girls”; that is, “social aggression” (as it is called in the literature).  How it appears: boys get mad and punch each other, girls are mean, and the “meanness” just flows in and out, and around, and remains a continual sore in the hearts of these girls.  Not all girls “do” social aggression, some just stay out of it, but, for the ones who do, what fuels it?

For those of us who do preschool, and parents of girls, we know that “talking it out” or asking them to “just walk away” rarely (never?) helps.

What Lynn * said, in one of many follow-up conversations: “Isn’t it strange that physical aggression is (generally) not modeled to these boys, but social aggression is modeled for these girls?” (This seems to be true in the community in which I work; other communities model different things.)  Lynn also said: “Can’t you remember every mean thing that was ever said to you?  I can.”  I can, too.

So, boys play gun play, and punch each other, but there seems to be little lasting damage, and they go back to playing; “getting it out”, or expressing their frontal lobe limits and going on; their dads are not shooting anyone, or punching anyone.

Girls, however, can often hear grown women criticizing each other.  Often.  In my family, it was sarcastically called: “helpful criticism”: “She really shouldn’t wear that color.”; “She should know better than to put on a bathing suit.”; “Does she call that decorating for Christmas?”  So many of us have made comments like this in private, in front of our children.

There is a story I read years ago, on the Internet, in which a mother made such a comment about another mother (something like: “Oh, let’s not have the meeting at her house, it’s always filthy!”) and her child, in the car, started to cry.  “I am sad that you hate yourself, Mom!” The mother is flabbergasted, and asks the child for clarification.  “You said that people who say mean things always feel badly about themselves!”  Um, yea.

So, how much of a stretch is it to go from saying those things in private, to saying them to someone’s face: “I hate you, and you can never come to my birthday party.”  Ow!!!  How could that EVER be okay to say?  And yet, somehow, it is.  And the hurt lingers, and poisons our children and their friends.

So, as in everything else, we have to look at, watch, and listen to ourselves first.

Ow.  And then cut it out.

*Lynn Miller, as very wise person.1-girls-fighting



Sharing: To become a Montessori teacher is to be a “new type of teacher”


This is a lovely post from a school in South Dakota.

What is this teacher doing? She is doing nothing! What are we paying her for??

Montessori wrote: “the greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘the children are now working as if I was not there.’”

What on earth? It might help to say that Montessori called her teachers “guides”. This has not caught on, but it is a great reminder. A guide sets the framework for your own appreciation and enjoyment. The guide supplements what you already know and follows your interest. The guide does not do the exploring for you! The guide invites, and shares his or her enthusiasm. The guide is thrilled when you want to take it further on your own.

This teacher has successfully set the stage, and is observing. Montessori talked a lot about observing. If you have ever watched an occupational or physical therapist, or been on a hike with a specialist (ornithologist, entomologist), you know that they are “seeing” things which you don’t see. The entomologist might leap up in front of you, landing with something in her hand that you had never seen at all! The ornithologist can tell what is around by listening.

As a Montessori teacher, we spend a long time in training learning to “see” children, and working on this “vision” never ends.

If we have grown up in traditional classrooms, we start off thinking that nothing will happen in the classroom unless we make it happen. We are the impetus of all knowledge! In my experience, I had my supervising teachers stop me from going to a child, from “interfering”! What a shock! I am interfering? I remember asking a teacher why they did not give the words for what the child was doing?(“Throw those facts at them! was what I was thinking.) She replied: “Children learn in one modality. She is exploring with her senses. She can do this many times before she will want the words.” Shocking!

Many times, when it seems the classroom is “going to hell” (my words), we teachers sit down and observe. Once we stop moving, they generally settle down to nice work on their own. This may mean that our actions have been disrupting their ability to concentrate! How humbling!

This necessitates a lot of trust. You must trust the process, the materials, the children and yourself. This is frightening at first, and you will make a lot of errors. I still interfere when I need not. Then I forgive myself, try to learn and go on. The children are tough and very forgiving.

Prepared Environment

Such lovely thoughts about being a teacher.

Kissable Zebra Lips and Other Things

school I recently did an exceptional Writing Course, every time I was addressed as Dear Writer, I squirmed. A good friend had a generous explanation, “A bird sings a melodious note to find a mate or to welcome a new day, imagine calling it a singer,” he said. I am no songbird; I have only a little while ago discovered a new joy of writing (and so the amateur narrative that you kindly bear with). I certainly don’t look up to myself as a writer.

A Teacher, now that’s another thing. I have been a teacher for sixteen years and it is an identity that I am privileged to admit.

When I closed school a year ago, there was much explanation to offer, to the children, to parents, to colleagues, to family and friends. In the many questions that were asked was lost the most valid one, “Why did I…

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