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2013 Annual Meeting: State of the School

Following is a transcript of Head of School, Dominique Mouthon’s, State of the School speech from the Annual Meeting on October 18, 2013.

Good evening!

I sincerely regret not being with you tonight. Personal obligations have called me to France at my parents’ side for a few days. I am here however in spirit and expect that Judd will give you a great reading with French accent included!

There is much to celebrate that took place in the past year. First and foremost I am truly appreciative of all the support I have received from all of you, parents, staff and trustees. We all know that a lot of our energy was consumed in our building project. The road we traveled was full of energizing, positive achievements as well as unexpected hurdles. The Board worked tirelessly in a pro-active fashion to anticipate and respond to the challenges set in front of us. The resolve, dedication and unity demonstrated in the face of adversity carried our community. I cannot forget how so many of you filled the seats at the Board of Adjustment hearing last June. Your presence and energy made a difference! We now have a different type of work to do to see our project through. However, our commitment remains the same, as we know that this piece of land on Harden Road is the perfect location for FCM for many years to come. The current set back is allowing us to put in place more refined and elaborate processes for the advancement of our organization, processes that will carry us through a capital campaign when the time is right.

Last year, as many of you remember I am sure, was the first year we launched our new language program in Children’s House. Spanish teacher, Carina came three times a week to visit the children’s house classrooms and speak Spanish to the children. We were really proud of this achievement as it adheres to the Montessori approach: we were able to find a native speaker who was willing to “float”, as we so beautifully say in our Montessori jargon, between 3 classrooms, in an unobtrusive way. Young children were drawn, some faster than others, to this brand new person who spoke a language they did not understand.

Collaborating with the Parents4FCM group, we redesigned the End of Year Carnival and created a community event with a flavor consistent with our Montessori principles. Despite our best planning, the weather washed out the event, but the children enjoyed the lollipops during summer camps! We continued to refine a fairly new community event, the Spring Expo, by bringing more hands-on activities for all age groups. Any and all school events require the organizational support of parent volunteers. We could not do it without you!

Our fundraising efforts were hugely successful last year! Every single contribution, at any level makes a difference. Because of an incredibly successful auction we were able to send 10 people to the International Montessori Congress in Portland, OR, this past August. Being able to offer our staff opportunities for growth and renewal benefits every student in the community. Many of our colleagues at the Congress were impressed by the fact that there were 10 of us from the same school attending the congress. Many were, frankly, jealous when we shared the type of support our school demonstrates toward its staff and faculty. Many were also very impressed to learn about all the other offerings that take place at the school: parenting support groups and classes, book clubs, classroom socials, school-wide get together, etc.

I like to assert that the education FCM provides is not only one of great quality from a Montessori perspective, but also from a community aspect! Providing a community like ours requires that we all work together, dedicating much energy toward a common goal, and for that I thank every one of you!

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Embrace Joy

Reposted from the Toddler Guru blog by FCM Toddler House Director Angie Ma:

http://toddlerguru.blogspot.com/2013/04/embrace-joy.html

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

I’m only one of the 8 million people that watched Dr. Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, but the truth and clarity of her talk resonated so deeply with me that I sought out her interview and ravenously devoured her newest book, Daring Greatly.

She stopped me fully in my tracks explaining, “Joy is the most terrifying emotion.” It took me a second and her astute explanation to take that one in. Take those moments, she explains, when we gaze upon our sleeping child, only to imagine a tragic accident ripping her away in the next moment. Yup, I’ve done that, have you? Are we all just crazy? Not exactly, we’ve just learned that letting go enough to fully experience joy often means we open ourselves up to heartache and loss. Even if we aren’t recounting or dwelling on these memories consciously, our adult brains remind us, “Watch out! We’ve been on this thrill ride before, and the free fall that sends your stomach into your throat is just around the corner. Jump ship!” That is when we back away from the joy and dip in our toe instead of jumping with two feet.

Our children don’t do this. Only a toddler will stop and smell the flowers, completely immersed in the moment. For a toddler, A moment of joy is all encompassing and he will relish in that moment until he is filled up. Each novel exploration is like a rock falling in a deep pond that creates a loud noise and a splash, then waves, ripples and finally a glassy calm that can reflect the world around him.

The problem- we usually interrupt the child at the splash, never allowing her to fully integrate each new experience. Her day becomes a series of splashes and chaos each time we rush her, interrupt her concentration, constantly correct, direct, or distract her from something that is too loud or too messy for us. The wisest woman I know, my Montessori trainer Judi Orion, spoke words that I live by every day. “Never interrupt a child if the motivation is positive,” she told her students. This is not convenient advice, because the result is often messy, loud, rambunctious, but it certainly serves the child. This moment of trust gives her an opportunity to learn from failure and persevere or to experience a moment self realization because she has followed her own interests.

What possesses us to constantly hurry our children, rush through our days and perpetually distract? Could it be this joy phobia? If we aren’t comfortable leaning into the joy, is part of us trying to save our child from experiencing the pain of life? We must know deep down that a life lived in the shallow end is the real loss. We must lean into the joy, fully accepting that pain and loss is a part of life for us and for our children.

How can we achieve this seemingly impossible task to slow down, live life fully and jump into the deep end of joy with two feet? We can start by learning from the greatest gurus of joy I’ve ever met, our toddlers.

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Rather than Praise

Reposted from the Toddler Guru blog by FCM Toddler House Director Angie Ma:

http://toddlerguru.blogspot.com/2013/03/rather-than-praise.html

What do we do instead of praise and reward our children? When a child comes to us beaming with pride, stop and share fully in the moment with the child. Share his joy and exuberance without words, and listen  rather than speak. We can accept so much more in a moment of connection and shared emotion than we can communicate with a label or an award.

  • A child may feel successful, even if we don’t define the outcome as “right.” When we don’t define success with our praise, a child can experience his own sense of gratification.
  • She may feel joyful about something completely different than what we choose to praise.
  • We wish to encourage perseverance, but we usually praise a job done effortlessly and perfectly.
  • We know children develop skills through repetition, but we almost always praise the child the first time  he completes a task, then ignore or even grow frustrated when he repeats it 100 times.
  • A child who is interested will stay focused. When we praise the actions we value, the child must choose whether to follow our interests or his own. He loses the opportunity to experience the joy of following and discovering his own interests.
  • When we don’t describe people as good or bad, smart or dumb, nice or mean, we teach our child to fully accept himself and others. When he asks “Why?” we can say, “He is still learning,” or “She forgot to use her gentle hands.” We can help him say, “I don’t like that!” or we can explain, “You can join us when you are ready.”

If we want our children to share with us, then we must listen. If we only praise and validate when a child shares something to be proud of, will our child come to us when he is feeling shameful? If we define a child as smart when something comes easily, will she feel safe trying something that may be too hard? If we define a person as good or bad based on his actions, will our child believe he is a good person when he makes a hurtful mistake?

Our child doesn’t need to hear, “I’m so proud of you,” he needs to share his joy and see that you receive it.
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Inclement Weather on Friday, Jan. 25

Due to predicted inclement weather, there will be no After School 3:00-5:30 on Friday, January 25. Children in these programs must be picked up at 3:00 or 3:30 dismissal. Please let your child’s teacher know when you will pick up.

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The Silent Journey and the Discovery

Lower Elementary work

Children’s House work

It’s that time of year again. Dozens of parents at Follow the Child Montessori School are setting their cell phones to vibrate, donning their sneakers, and getting ready for some lessons. The Silent Journey and Discovery is parent education workshop that allows parents to take a mental time-out from all the interruptions of their busy lives to truly absorb Montessori education. There are new parents, veteran parents, caregivers, teachers and staff, many are attending the Journey for the first time and still others are returning for a fresh perspective.

On the first evening, parents new to Montessori education have a chance to examine the classrooms (looking, but not touching)—not just those classrooms serving their own child’s age, but also those that their child will move into someday. Free from distraction, and given the time to truly absorb the surroundings and reflect on the age group, one begins to see the magic of the “prepared environment.” Where else in a toddler’s world will he find—at his height and within his reach—a delicate, beautiful vase filled with fresh flowers, a real glass and plate for his snack, and opportunity and encouragement to explore shelves full of materials and activities? Where can the preschool-aged child find opportunities for challenge, responsibility and independence such as independently making cinnamon toast, creating and adding large numbers using concrete materials, and using his learned conflict-resolution skills to manage complex emotions and words? The use of concrete materials allows young children to understand complex concepts. The abstract idea becomes reality when it’s in their hands. The children discover answers for themselves and this learning has great impact.

On day two of The Journey, parents explore the classrooms (the silent part is over!), choose work from the shelf (a limited selection of work that demonstrates the continuity of concepts throughout the class levels), work individually or with a small group, and participate in lessons. This experience greatly impacts a parent’s image of their child’s education. As the parent of a 4-year old, I remember thinking about how much concentration my son had to have just to keep his body and words in check as he learned how to function according to our societal rules, not to mention managing all the new concepts he was discovering through his lessons every day. Even as an adult, you can’t help but feel the profound excitement of discovery in the Montessori classrooms. Put yourself in the student’s shoes: You feel the respect the teacher has for you. You know you can take the time you need to understand big concepts. You feel your friends cheering you on as you conquer challenging work. You feel the power of your competence, the strength of confidence. As a parent, you feel the completeness and depth of this education.

Ready for elementary work? Here’s an example of an introduction to early geometry.

Upper Elementary Work

Just before lunch, the action moves to the playground as parents get a quick run-down on the rules of Broomball, a hockey-like game with a soccer ball and sticks reminiscent of oars.  Parents enjoy the teamwork and the exercise after a morning of concentration. After cheers, goals, saves and misses, the teams walk off the field, high fives, smiles and laughs. It feels like a giant play date for parents. After lunch, the challenges grow as the work becomes more complex.

Elementary work provides bigger challenges. Parents work together as they explore countries’ imports and exports or discover square roots. They touch on cultures, language, explore societal issues. They delve into science near and far, from cells to the universe.

At the end of the day, parents leave tired, but inspired, with more respect for their children and appreciation for teachers than ever before.

 

 

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2012 Annual Meeting: State of the School

Following is a transcript of Head of School, Dominique Mouthon’s, State of the School speech from the Annual Meeting on October 2, 2012.

Good evening! Thank you for coming to Follow the Child’s Annual Meeting of the corporation.

As is the tradition, the purpose of this meeting’s agenda is to give our members an update on the state of the school and to reflect on the operation of the last fiscal year, which coincides with our school year. There is much to say about our 11th year of operations at FCM! As you all know—because I think we repeat it at every opportunity—FCM is at a crossroads, having to face multiple challenges, which in isolation would be exciting and invigorating… but the combination of them makes life even more exciting and invigorating!

To begin, let me celebrate the fact that our enrollment in 11-12 surpassed our expectations. 135 students attended FCM last year! We could not have done it without your support, without your referrals, without your word of mouth. Thank you! Our success is also due to our strong reputation of being a true Montessori school. I know of area admission directors and heads of schools who recommend FCM to parents looking for an authentic Montessori program.  This reputation is based upon the hard work that all our teaching staff provides on a daily basis, teachers and assistants from toddler to children’s houses, lower, upper elementary, and after school,  your work and dedication makes our program what it is. Thank you! It is also due to the work of our curriculum support team that encourages, counsels and challenges our teachers to keep thinking, to go back to Montessori’s writings and to see where we can do even better. Thank you! Our success is also due to the support of the administration team whose dedication needs no further examples. From plunging overflowing toilets, to scheduling interesting extra-curricular activities, to organizing the ton of paperwork for registration, to keeping the entire community informed of the many goings-on at FCM! Thank you!

Our success is for sure based on our wonderful community of parents and friends who support us by volunteering countless hours, from room parents to Parents4FCM executive committee members and event coordinators, parents and friends who offer their many talents, and who contribute to our fundraising efforts. Thank you! We are also thankful to our board of directors—past and current—whose members have shown an incredible dedication to the school in these times of growth. Your leadership and support are greatly appreciated. To all thank you! I know it is a cliché, but isn’t it true that it takes a village?

Another highlight of the 11-12 school year was preparing curricular changes to the Children’s House language program, investigating the implementation of a model with, what we affectionately call, a Spanish floater. What do you imagine when I say “floater” in a Montessori classroom? Now imagine what a Spanish floater might look like! After research and many conversations among staff last year, we defined this rather aerial concept and made it into a reality while maintaining our Montessori standards of uninterrupted work cycle and using the Montessori materials.

We also spent a lot of time imagining a variety of plans for our growing lower elementary population. What you may not realize is that when something new happens one year, it is the fruit of a long labor we embarked upon the year before. So we decided to send another teacher to training, a teacher that we had been courting for several years I might add… But then the training of a teacher is only one small aspect of the project. Once again we were faced with a space issue. You all know how we resolved that situation! We are now enjoying seeing the beginning of a second Lower Elementary!

Another accomplishment I am very proud of was bringing Dr. Steven Hughes to FCM and the local Montessori community. A child psychologist with years of research on how Montessori supports the natural development of the human brain Steven Hughes’ presentations were an inspiration and a challenge for parents and teachers alike. FCM took a leadership role in organizing that event and it was a testimony to our active participation in the Montessori circles of the area.

Other achievements from last year include our Capital Campaign committee who, under the leadership of Leah Friedman, Amanda Dawson and Sarah Kavanagh, worked diligently on developing materials that will come to use once we are ready to jump on our location of choice.

As I continue to reflect on the 11-12 school year, one of our main challenges has been, of course, our search for a new location. We seriously considered 3 sites for which we hired an architect as well as civil engineers, when needed, to help us discern the viability of these sites. One of the projects consisted of taking a close look at what could be done on this campus that we all love so much. There were quite a few hurdles that stood in the way, such as the condition of two of the 3 buildings. One would not think that it would be that expensive to take down an old building … and how about having to dig access to water mains if we increased impervious surfaces? Hurdles after hurdles, we could not do anything but realize that this very campus we like so much would be extremely expensive to renovate and could not accommodate our growing student population for much longer, unless we acquired the entire block for a fistful of millions of dollars!

We also looked at a location off of I-40 in Cary. There, the issue was accommodating the flow of traffic we create several times a day for our drop off and pick up. The parking lot was just not large enough and despite the very creative meanders we were able to imagine, it just did not work out. The 3rd property we seriously investigated was on Beryl Rd. One of the major issues there was the size of the water pipes to feed the sprinkler system we needed to install. So, in the last year, we have spent quite a lot of energy and dollars, actively investigating sites for our relocation. We continue to do so, dedicating the same energy and effort to each opportunity that presents itself until all possibilities are thoroughly explored, schematic drawings done with a financial estimate in hand; but so far something or another comes in the way of realizing a particular project.  As Albert Schweitzer once said “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” There are many days when I am ready to say, “OK, we are strong enough! Just give us a new location!”

Yet another challenge we have been facing is finding the very difficult balance between meeting our goal of building our savings to face the financial needs of our relocation as well as building a nest egg for rainy days, and making sure our students and teachers have everything they need to ensure a quality Montessori program. Everyday decisions on spending and saving were made carefully weighing the needs, the wants and the superfluous. With the incredible support of our community, our fundraising goals were surpassed and we were able to save more money than anticipated. Again, thank you for this wonderful financial support.

It is often said that the developmental stages of a growing school are similar to those of a human being. So, for those of you who faithfully attend our parent education classes, you know that we are in the 2nd plane of development, a time in the child’s life where reasoning skills are developed and where skills that have been acquired earlier in life are being refined and taken to a higher level. So here we are, refining our structure, our operations, taking the time to think about the future and planning accordingly. As good parents, we are working to establish sound policies and procedures that will allow FCM to go on when we are not around. We have invested in our infrastructure, a new student information management database as well as in our growing IT needs. I am delighted to announce the launching of FCM new website today, same internet address, but a totally new look. It is still a work in progress as we will soon launch the password-protected parent portal. Our new website is dynamic. You will find information on FCM, of course, as well as relevant links and information on Montessori education, local news and news of the education world. A huge thank you goes to Liz Leone who has worked for quite some time to make this project happen. On our new website you will find the 11-12 Annual Report either at the bottom of our home page or under the Parents section in Publications and Forms. I hope you take the time to read this Annual Report that highlights several aspects of last school year. A huge thank you goes to Viki Redding and Liz Leone for all their work on this project!

Once again, I want to thank every one of you for your support and the wonderful year we had and for those yet to come. Thank you particularly for entrusting us with your children. Seeing their faces every morning makes it all worth it!

Thank you.

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2011-2012 Annual Report

FCM is growing up! 2011-2012 was Follow the Child Montessori School’s 11th year of operation and we are pleased to reflect upon another year of growth, community, and quality Montessori education. On October 2, 2012 FCM holds its annual meeting. On the agenda are a state-of-the-school update by Head of School, Dominique Mouthon, a look at the numbers with Business Manager, Bill McChesney, an update on the newly renamed Parents4FCM parents group (formerly the FCM PTSA), and a welcome by FCM Chair of the Board of Directors, Lee Clyburn, along with the election of 2 new board members. Thank you for your continued support of Follow the Child Montessori School. Click on the link below to review our annual report!

FCMAnnualReport12_WEB

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2012 Registration Information

The first day of school is just
around the corner!

Are you ready?

It’s that time again!
Time for registration
and the start of a new school year!

We’re excited for the start of another wonderful year at FCM! To help minimize your time waiting in lines on registration day, you can register in advance by returning completed forms to the office anytime until August 20th. For those who register in advance, you will have a short stop on Registration Day (August 20). You will only have to sign any corrected forms and pick up this year’s school documentation.

If you have not registered prior to Registration Day, you may bring completed forms that day. You will need to wait for corrections to be made to your information in our database, then sign off and collect school documents.

August 17

  • New and returning parents (not students): attend Classroom Orientation 5:30-7:30 p.m. to get classroom information. (Parents of students in After School will meet at 7:15 in the Toddler House East classroom)
  • By 8/17, submit family photo and information for Family Photo Album to FCM Parent Volunteer, Viki Redding.

Through August 20

August 20

  • Open House/Registration Day 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
  • Visit the registration table to finalize paperwork and get new packets (even if you have dropped off paperwork)
  • Parents of children in After School will need to sign permission to administer triple antibiotic & sting swab and permission to administer sunscreen and bug spray and will be asked to initial triple antibiotic and sting swabs provided by FCM
  • Purchase a napkin, sign up to purchase books for book club, or to attend parent education or substitute training (you will also be able to do this online)
  • Bring classroom and after school supplies (slippers, materials from classroom summer letters list) Summer Letters are on classroom Shutterfly sites and the All-School Shutterfly site. Students new to FCM will get their purple bags.
  • Please remember that parents must stay with their children at all times on registration/open house day!

Don’t Forget!

  • Create a Sign-Up Genius account (you will be prompted to do so through email invitations to events). Be sure to use the email address that you gave to FCM so that you can find all sign-ups for which you are eligible when you sign in to your account. Sign-up Genius will be used for signing up for parent education, volunteering, purchasing photo albums and books, etc.
  • Create a RainedOut account or check your existing account to receive important school notifications via text message, such as emergency closings, weather delays and ETA information for field trips. Make sure you sign up for all appropriate groups (all groups have been purged, so even if you signed up for a group last year, you will need to do so again!  www.rainedout.com

-OR-

  • Text ALERTME to 84483 to receive alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text UECLASS to 84483 to receive UE Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text LESCLASS to 84483 to receive LE-S Class (Ranjana) alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text ASCLASS to 84483 to receive After School alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text CHNCLASS to 84483 to receive CH-N Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text CHECLASS to 84483 to receive CH-E Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text CHWCLASS to 84483 to receive CH-W Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text THECLASS to 84483 to receive TH-E Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text THWCLASS to 84483 to receive TH-W Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text CHEDCLASS to 84483 to receive CH-Extended Day alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text LENCLASS to 84483 to receive LE-N Class (Katie) alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text LES3CLASS to 84483 to receive LE-S3 Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.
  • Text LEN3CLASS to 84483 to receive LE-N3 Class alerts from Follow the Child Montessori School.

We look forward to seeing you!

Questions? Call 919-755-1150 or email Cara@followthechild.org

 

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