Mindful Communication with Primary Students
By Azusa Crawford, Head Teacher, Primary A
On the staff’s first day back at school for 2019, Walnut Farm staff had a wonderful opportunity to work on Mindful Communication with the 2019 American Montessori Society Living Legacy recipient, Marta Donahoe. What an inspiring and appropriate start of the New Year!
In her presentation and exercise activities, Marta repeatedly emphasized the important point of communication – “How intently are you listening?”
After the workshop, I decided to look up the word listen. This is what I found:
listen verb: to pay attention to sound
: to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration
: to be alert to catch expected sound
At the end of the morning work cycle in our classroom, we all gather to read, sing and share during a daily circle. I often ask the children to listen. When I do this, I expect (hope) the children will hear my voice with thoughtful attention, and give some consideration.
I am also aware that at the end of the day I sometimes say, “Yep, yep, I’m listening!” to my own daughter. I have to admit that, sometimes, I don’t know how much actual listening I am doing. Guilty! There are times when I have been preaching, but not practicing listening. Listening requires conscious effort. And to adopt this in daily life, I need to practice listening more.
Working with Marta on listening in a conscious way– no interrupting, no judging, no fixing – I noticed that knowing the receiver of my words were alert, considerate, and being present at the moment; I was more selective of my words. My words were more purposeful and careful. As the result, I used fewer words, and the communication became more meaningful. I felt a great sense of fulfillment by focusing on my words to share, rather than hoping and expecting the reaction of the others at the end.
In the classroom, we have a Peace Rose that sits on a shelf that is accessible to the children at all times. We are frequently surprised by how a very upset child can quickly calm him/herself down by bringing the Peace Rose to another child and simply share his/her feelings – even when he/she might not hear an apology or any reaction from the other. It seems like I have been surrounded by the children who knew the secret to better communication, all along. The Peace Rose is the ultimate symbol of Mindful Communication!
Bringing the Peace Rose into practice in our house was a wonderful bonus of my daughter growing up in Montessori environment. Some points for a successful Peace Talk using Peace Rose in the classroom are…
* You can take the Peace Rose to someone who you would like to share your feelings with.
* If someone approaches you with Peace Rose, stop and listen – even when you have no words to share yourself.
* After you share your feelings, give another person to share his/her words.
* Repeat as needed.
* The person who is holding the Peace Rose shares his/her words.
* When you are not holding the Peace Rose, you listen and wait for your turn.
(You can use any object as a substitute for a Peace Rose at your home. At our home, we have adopted a Talking Feather I found at Native American Museum in Bentonville. But I have also used Peace Remote Control – just an ordinarily TV remote control 🙂
As the time changes and more and more communications take place via emails and text messages, I often think about the word conversation in Japanese (my native language) – KAIWA (会話). The two letters represent meet (会) and talk (話). The time we spent with Marta reminded me that how precious it is to talk to someone in person. I hope 2019 will be the year full of Mindful Communication for you; your family, and I look forward to the many opportunities to share wonderful KAIWA with you.