Happy Graduation Aiden, Jackson, Rowan, Sebastian, Ivy, Noah and Myron!

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As I was thinking about the graduation, and what I wanted to talk about quite a few things came to mind. And then I realized that the common thread in each thought was process. Everything is a process. Maria Montessori said, “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

When I think back to the days when Liz and I were training to run a half marathon together (man that was a process, after a day of school, running up Spadina, up those Casa Loma steps, up through Forest Hill and back around) all the while we were chatting, chatting about what we would do when we opened our own school. It was the beginning, the beginning of the process.

Then me having a child and 15 months later, another child (yep, that was certainly a process), and remembering that dream we had and thinking, let’s make a go of it!

And we did. We made a go of it. Liz was working full time and I was parenting full time. We would have meetings on the floor in my bathroom while I was bathing my 17 month old and 2 month old, again part of the process.

The day that Liz and I opened the door at Westside was a day I will never forget. The road it took to get here was not at all paved. In fact, some could say there were mountains that we had to climb and there were also huge valleys that we had to get through and just when we thought, “Ok, there it is, there is the first stop on the road (because this is a journey, a process, that we embarked upon and there are going to be stops along the way) another mountain would appear.

We knew we’d get there and we knew it would happen. And then there was this woman who called to meet with us one day. She had 3 children that she wanted to enroll at our School. Yes, that was Jackson, Aiden and Rowan, 3 of the graduates sitting up here today. And Kate and Angus had faith. And Chris and Natalie had faith. And Myron is graduating today. And Westside had to happen, and it did. And Noah and Sebastian and Ivy, they are graduating today too.

It all came together and today we are here, at Westside’s second graduation ceremony along side these 7 graduates, these 7 graduates that have completed the process, all with huge success all their own, more than ready to embark upon that next process. Kudos to all of them.

It has been a year since we were here last and I still think that Westside is a pretty unique place. Each and every morning you can still walk down Richmond or Maud and witness the children running down the sidewalk excited to get into the door. Often you can see one of these graduates up here holding the door for their friends, beaming with excitement and radiating confidence. You could walk around to the Maud Street playground and witness the enormous smiles on each and every one of the toddlers faces as they happily send their parents off to work, or overhear a Casa child shouting “Good morning Neena!” as they run around to Richmond. The children love coming to school. And we love having them at the School.

Now going back to Maria’s quote and how education is not something that a teacher does, this education that she speaks of is not accomplished by listening to words, it is accomplished by experiences in the environment. Sometimes I wish I could wear a hidden camera while walking through that environment that we call Westside, and just give all of you a glimpse as to what we see each and every day. Yes, you have observations, and yes, they are amazing but what each and every one of the crew here sees daily reminds me of why Westside was started, why Maria Montessori spent her lifetime researching and devising this alternative form of education, and again, reminds me of the process. The process is amazing.

Maria Montessori said it perfectly.
“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.”

This is Westside Montessori School.

Our graduates have been at Westside Montessori for anywhere from 2-4 years, four of them since day 1. They have worked through the Montessori materials and have grown into strong leaders in the classroom; it’s now time for them to move on to elementary school.

We have all been privileged to witness our graduates become caring, nurturing individuals who both look out for and look after their fellow students. We have watched them learn to read, to write, to carry out addition, to understand that a verb is an “action word”, they have researched and written countless projects this year. The adults in the classroom have learned about everything from meerkats to blue whales to the length of countless dinosaurs, all measured using the square tiles of the classroom floor.

The children sitting here on the stage are an amazing group, we have witnessed an amazing process within each one of them as they have grown from young children, some of them little toddlers when they started at Westside, into confident, young children. I have a few amazing moments I’d like to share with you.

Jackson, thank you for waking up your younger friends in such a kind and sweet way. When you use your softest voice and whisper, “Aris-Dean, wake up, we’re having cookies for snack and your mommy’s coming soon”, Aris-Dean wakes up happily and looks forward to winding down his day at school.

Ivy, the lessons you have shown your peers this year, from yoga to baking apples, are incredible. Thank you for your patience and calm manner with the children. When you struggled to help Claire learn some challenging yoga positions, you realized you needed to alter your “lesson plan” to her level and did so expertly, allowing her to practise yoga with you, at her level.

Rowan, when you went for a visit to the Toddler classroom last week, you blew Gosha away with your kindness and consideration and she told me what a big help you were to her and Yonina as you helped Silas wash his dishes and Noah make cookies. You are always there, with a smile on your face, to help your friends hang up their artwork, zip their zippers or crack a joke and make your teachers giggle. Example: after an extremely busy lunch hour one day, Nadia barely had a chance to take a bite of her lunch, so she was grabbing a quick bite in the kitchen before heading out on her break, she was spotted by Ro, “Nadia, do you ALWAYS come in the kitchen and eat all the leftovers?”

Noah, when one of your friends is feeling sad, you approach them, put your arm around their shoulder and assess the situation. You always know whether they need a teacher’s assistance, a tissue, an ice pack or to see one of your many funny faces. You have cheered up so many friends by making them laugh, thank you for your big heart.

Aiden, you showed such maturity last week when we were talking about “Oh, Canada” and you told the children that “we must be serious when we sing ‘Oh Canada’ because it is a song about our beautiful country and we have lots of lakes and animals and oceans that many people don’t have, so we love Canada and we will take care of our country”. Our politicians could learn a lot from you, and I do hope to see you running for office someday.

Sebastian, you have taught the children to be proud of their artwork and you have shown them so many strategies that have helped them to create on paper the pictures they have in their minds. The children and teachers are in awe of your creations and your generosity in sharing your skills is truly remarkable. Last week, Henry drew a Peregrine Falcon and after you admired his picture you said, “I wish Myron was here today because he would really love this drawing”, the pride on Henry’s face was precious.

Myron, thank you for being such a determined, ambitious boy and for showing your friends that even when things are challenging, they can work at it and that it gets better. You have practiced the Map of Africa a great deal and while some of your friends worry that “it’s really hard” or “it takes a long time”, you remind them that each time is faster and that you will help them along the way. You have helped your friends understand that learning is a process and it’s something we all work at everyday.

This year has been an amazing year in Casa South, we have all learned a great deal from each other and while we will miss our graduates immensely, they are all ready for the next stage of their education and we wish them the very best in their new classrooms.

June 25, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Melanie’s baby girl!

We are so happy to announce that Melanie had her baby girl, Tara Bronwyn McInroy.

She was born on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at: 1:23 am
She was a happy, helathy 7lbs. 8 oz.

Congratulations Melanie and Mike!

Love all of us here at Westside.

June 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Our Garden

From Day 1 here at Westside gardening and the outdoors has always been a very important part of the our culture. Being a downtown Toronto school this takes a lot of creativity. There is a Community Garden across the street from the School and we are plot holders. The garden is one of our favourite places, whether it be tending to the plants, checking out the insects, or listening to a story in the middle of it all.
Along with gardening and the outdoors, baking has also been a big part of our culture here at Westside.
So just a few weeks ago we spent a Saturday here at School, some of us manning a bake sale and some of us constructing planters to add a bit more garden to our days!
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A special thanks goes out to all of our amazing parents who helped to make this project such a success! The children enjoy the garden each and every day, thanks to all of you!

June 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Platinum it is!

Villager readers, thank you for recognizing the effort we put into our school and our students. Platinum is one of our favourite metals - it is considered a noble metal with remarkable resistance. It is also highly valuable and one of the rarest metals in the Earth’s crust - much like Montessori education - unique, natural education. Each child is unique - we keep them that way.

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Cheers!

June 13, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.

Surprise!

On Friday we said goodbye to Melanie, as she is now off and preparing for the birth of her first child. The Casa North classroom and Toddlers, along with Yonina, Natasha, Davida and Gosha planned a surprise shower for Melanie in the Maud Street playground. Upon walking in to the school the morning of the surprise you could feel the excitement and anticipation. The children had done an amazing job all week keeping the secret. Now the trick was keeping the secret just a little bit longer and executing the plan. How could we get Melanie to leave the classroom so that the children could go into the playground to play out the official surprise? And how could we get her to go into the playground without realizing that her class was not in the classroom?
Plan:
#1) Get Melanie to go to the office to talk to Jody.
#2) While Melanie is in the office going over final details of her leave and handing over the reins the children all gather in the playground.
#3) Call the office, “Yonina needs help in the playground right away!” Convince Melanie to go and help. Jody: “Do you want to go see what she needs?” Melanie:”Yeah, sure!”

So off she went!

(Now, if you are reading this post but have not been to our school before you should know that there are only 2 ways to get to the Maud Street playground, one way is through the Casa North classroom (Melanie’s) and one is through the Casa South classroom.)

Yonina, Natasha and Davida had thought of everything. Knowing that Melanie would instinctively go through her own classroom, (If she did, she would have seen that all of the children were gone) they locked the door so she couldn’t. Upon realizing that the door was locked, Melanie quickly changed her route and went through the Casa South classroom. I think these photos show that it worked!
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Melanie, we wish you all the best! We are going to miss you and we can’t wait to meet your new little girl!
Love all of us at Westside.

June 4, 2012. Uncategorized. No Comments.