“Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work  of education.”

By Zena Kavas –  Biology Teacher, High School

Preparing our ākonga for the adult world by providing them with academic success, a pathway forward after school, a strong belief in themselves, and to be confident, connected, actively involved, life-long learners (NZ curriculum) are some of the many other goals of an education in New Zealand. However, the deep underlying value beneath these goals is to establish peace. In Peace and Education (p24) Maria Montessori says “Preventing conflicts is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education”. Here she is telling us that the ultimate aim of education is to establish peace.

In order to establish peace we must find peace within ourselves. It is often so easy to tell others how they should or could be more peaceful. But the real work begins with finding peace within ourselves and within our whānau. Maria is in good company with her thoughts about peace.

When the great Sufi poet Rumi says “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there” he too is saying that we must let go of our ideas about who is right and who is wrong before we can see others as they are in reality, and therefore feel at peace.  

Our favourite scientist Albert Einstein says “you cannot keep peace by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.” Maria, Rumi and Albert are all telling us that peace is the seed of an idea that must be sown and nurtured. Rather than searching for peace, struggling for peace or even fighting for peace, we need to let go of the barriers that we have built up that stop us from being peaceful. We need to let go of our ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, of being a little better than others, of judging, of enforcing our ideas on others, and by doing this we may find a little more peace. Personally, I find it very challenging to let go of ideas such as “Trump is such an idiot”, and when I hold this idea in my mind I do not have a sense of peace. However, if I can let go of that idea I feel more peace.  Like the dust-covered lamp, that cannot shine brightly due to the dust, once the dust is removed then the light will be able to shine. 

International Peace Day, 21st September (this Thursday) is an opportunity for us to contemplate what peace means to us, and how we can cultivate more peace in ourselves and in our lives. The whole school gathers in the morning, sharing breakfast and then some waiata and korero.  A peace flame is lit and at the end of the ceremony the wishes, aspirations and thoughts that ākonga have previously written are thrown into the flame to be symbolically released out into the world. We welcome our community to share this opportunity with us on Thursday morning. 

Working towards Independence

By Tania Gaffney –  Deputy Principal Primary

Montessori had a lot to say about ākonga developing their independence and how we can help them.  I could just fill the page with quotes from what she wrote and it would tell most of the story by itself. For example, “Every useless help is an obstacle to development” or “ never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed”.

So what does this look like for adults involved in the life of a tamariki? Because reading between the lines Montessori meant that its us, the adults, that are the obstacles.  At the Montessori conference this year one of our speakers said, “If we do less than necessary we are abandoning the child, but if we do more than necessary we impose on the child.”  No pressure everyone, it’s a fine line we walk. So what should we be doing, that when ākonga leave home for the first time they are able to competently look after themselves and their lives?  As ākonga get older they need less and less help and we need to know when to pull back, all the while giving them the skills they need so when we do pull back they don’t feel lost. 

To figure out what we need to do (or not do) we need to observe – not only the child but ourselves.  We need to ask ourselves some questions – what have I swept in to do for the child, knowing perfectly well that they can do it but they’re not doing it like I would?  Or its just easier or quicker for me to do it?  Or did I just assume that they wouldn’t be able to figure it out themselves?

Have a go at surreptitiously observing your ākonga while they are doing something (not screen related).  Do they persevere with it?  Do they always defer to you or an older sibling?  Some children have figured out that if they wait someone will jump in and do it for them, or when they’re older if they do a shoddy job then you won’t ask again.  

If you need to admit to yourself that you’ve been doing too much for your tamaiti then how do you pull back?  It isn’t easy and it may take a while as you slowly retreat.  Ask yourself some questions.  Is this something I think they could do?  Then show them what to do and step back and watch. If they are younger they will try and replicate what you did if they are older they will probably do it their own way and that’s ok.  Another time, if you’ve already shown them how to do it then coach them through it.  Ask them, what do they remember first etc? This can apply to both practical and emotional situations. 

Here is an article that might be of interest.  It covers a range of issues, but it boils down to learning to be independent in all areas.  This is about parenting, but as teachers we also suffer from the same issues of stepping in when we should be stepping back and observing first.