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Entries in code of values (9)


In support of World Food Day!

In support of World Food Day, here are couple of links. The first, is take a quiz that increases your knowledge of food issues.

Go to:

The second, is an article about foods for children with ADHD:


Parental Guidance on Web Video for Children

NY Times


Published: October 8, 2009 The Internet offers a vast amount of video, not all of it suitable for young eyes. But parents can let their children explore while still curating what they see.

Check it out:

From UMA


Today is Children's Day in Several Countries

Emilia Gomez, UMA student from San Salvador, El Salvador, says, “In my country, (today) is ‘The Day of the Child’ - all the Schools make parties for their kindergarten (preschool) students. We are going to celebrate until Friday. It will be nice!”

Children’s Day was first celebrated worldwide in October, 1953, under the sponsorship of International Union for Child Welfare, Geneva. Basically this day was instituted with the sole aim of promoting communal exchange and understanding among children, as well as to bring about beneficiary action to promote the welfare of children, all over the globe. Children’s Day is celebrated worldwide on different days of the year, depending upon the country. Today, October 1st, Children’s Day is celebrated in El Salvador, Guatemala, Singapore, and Sri Lanka.

Thank you Emilia for sharing this with the UMA community!

Happy Children’s Day!


Mentoring/Role Models

All children benefit from strong, healthy role models in class ( that being you and your staff) as well as in the home.  Perhaps you have a child who is in need of a mentor or role model. Numerous studies show that when we give children strong role models they are less likely to engage in anti-social behavior and more likely to graduate from high school. One particular study revealed that children with an active mentor were 32% less likely to hit someone, 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs and 52% less likely to skip school.  We can create lasting change by starting in the early elementary grades with strong mentorship programs that focus on literacy.


Resourceful article on Rewards

Here's a great article by Lori Bourne of

Are Kids Punished by Rewards?

I recently read the book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, ‘A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn, a noted author and outspoken critic of traditional education, including grades, test scores, and homework. Much of what he says is in agreement with the Montessori approach to education.

As I read, I thought about this question: In Montessori, we often talk about the harm of external rewards, but are we using them without realizing it?

Alfie Kohn’s definition of “reward” is broad. He considers grades themselves to be a reward (which means that giving kids money or gift certificates for grades is a reward on top of a reward). He also considers punishments to be the flip side of rewards, and just as damaging when it comes to motivating people.

According to Kohn, our current general strategy for managing people (from students to workers) is, “Do this and you’ll get that”. We often motivate children by dangling rewards in front of them. The rewards seem to work quite well in the short term.

Kohn cites many studies that show that rewards are generally not effective when it comes to changing long term behavior. Most people who complete a task specifically for a reward (like a child who reads books for a summer contest at the library) cease to perform that task once the reward is gone. Not only that, but they often consider the task to be unpleasant once they receive no reward for it.

Using Rewards in the Classroom

He quotes one (non-Montessori) teacher who said, “But stickers are just so easy!” Sure, a group of children may be quiet during class for the promise of stickers, but that “easy” solution doesn’t address underlying problems (Are they being asked to sit for too long? Is the material not presented in an engaging way?) and most people don’t want to think through the situation to find a more creative solution.

We don’t use stickers in Montessori, but sometimes we do use non-material rewards. I’ll give one example. In my Montessori training, I was told that while conducting line time, if the children aren’t paying attention, choose one child that is sitting quietly and draw attention to them: “Look at how nicely Billy is sitting!” By focusing the attention on the good behavior, you are encouraging the other children to also behave, and the well-behaving child serves as a model to them. It’s positive peer pressure.

According to Kohn, this kind of classroom management tactic is rewards-based. The “reward”, in this case, is the attention of the teacher and the verbal acknowledgment of the good behavior. It fosters a sense of competition, which is detrimental to the classroom atmosphere. Kohn says this scenario is an example of how you can reward someone without using a concrete “reward”.

Children and Rewards

Many of us use logical consequences both at home and in the classroom. The work of Rudolph Dreikers is often cited as the basis of this approach. But according to Kohn’s definition, any consequence manufactured by the adult is a reward or punishment.

In other words, we may tell a child, “If you can’t do your work quietly, you will not go on the field trip”. From Kohn’s perspective, this is using the reward/punishment scenario. If they are quiet, they get to go on the field trip. If they are not, they don’t get to go.

This system is behavior-based, and inherently false, since nothing about the child’s loudness is actually tied to the field trip. We created the false connection between the behavior and the consequence. Mr. Kohn would find this type of logical consequence to be more harmful than helpful.

Sometimes there is a consequence built in to the child’s behavior. For example, if they do not keep their room clean, they may not be able to find something when they need it. If they break something valuable they need to pay for it. In these cases, the adult response should be: nothing. There is no need to add a consequence on top of the (true) natural consequence that already occurred.

Is Kohn Right About Rewards?

Mr. Kohn’s theories are not without detractors. Some claim that he simplifies behaviorism to make it easier to destroy; others point to neurological evidence that we are hard-wired for rewards, which promote helpful behaviors like obeying laws and following social mores.

Mr. Kohn says our current philosophy of “do this, get that” is nothing more than “pop behaviorism”, yet others (rightly) point out that humans have been motivated by rewards for centuries, long before scientists starting observing (and rewarding) rats in cages.

What Can We Do?

I don’t think we can ever get away from rewards, and I don’t know that we have to. If a salary is a reward (and Kohn says it is), then all of us are working for rewards regardless of the internal satisfaction that our jobs bring. Every day, our behavior is rewarded or punished. Run a red light, get a ticket. Make a delicious meal, receive a compliment. A world with no rewards or punishment would quickly fall apart.

When it comes to children, we can steer away from rewards by giving feedback rather than praise, avoiding grades and test scores, and letting them feel the effects of natural consequences whenever possible—and still there are times when we will reward or punish them for what they’ve done.

Being aware of the rewards conundrum is often enough to make us re-think our approach to misbehavior. Mr. Kohn suggests some other responses instead of rewards and punishments:

1. We can talk to the child and tell them what they did was wrong and how to change their behavior.

2. We can examine the behavior and try to find the underlying cause. Is there something we can change about the situation? Are we contributing to it in any way? Is the child trying to communicate to us through their (wrong) choices?

3. Have the child evaluate their own behavior. How do they think they are doing? Are they improving in any areas? What can they work on?

4. What can we change about the situation? I found this write up (not from Kohn’s book) called No More Logical Consequences that shows what happens when the focus shifts from rewards/punishments to finding solutions. It’s very thought-provoking.

Kohn calls this approach “working with” rather than “doing to”. And he urges parents and teachers to keep in mind their long term goals for children, such as helping them grow into responsible and caring people, rather than on short-term goals, such as obedience.

Is this always enough? I don’t know that it is. Some situations call for a bit of behaviorism. But I do like the idea of cutting out rewards as much as possible, and focusing on the underlying causes of misbehavior. What do you think?


Positive Thinking for Kids

Positive Thinking for Kids
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of Kid Cooperation and Perfect Parenting

During their growth and development, children go through many stages of self-doubt. They are always comparing themselves to others, and they often see themselves as coming up short. As parents, we can offset this natural tendency in our children by giving them the skills to think more positively. It is important that you really listen to your children, and help them overcome their negative thoughts and beliefs. This is, of course, easier to do if you practice positive thinking yourself.

Our world is so full of negative feedback. We need to arm our children with a positive attitude, so that they can stay focused in the right direction. Let’s look at some typical negative statements from children, along with some positive responses from their wise parents:

I can’t do it.
Take your time and try again. I have confidence in you.

Heather hates me.
Sounds like you’re feeling rejected by Heather, and that must hurt. I know you want Heather to like you. Remember that you’re a very lovable kid and a terrific person, no matter what Heather, or anyone else, says or does. And, you know, she may have a problem that has nothing to do with you.

I’m just no good in history.
You’ve brought up Cs before—I know you can do it again. Besides that, honey, nobody is good at everything. And look at this A in math, you’ve always done well with numbers!

I’m so clumsy. I’ll never learn to rollerblade!
It’s tough learning something new. Remember when you first tried to ski, how hard it was? But you stuck with it, and now you’re really good at skiing.

There is real value in discussing positive thinking and self-esteem with your children on a regular basis. Sadly, these subjects are not yet included in the school curriculum. There are good books written for children, as well as adults, which demonstrate the use of positive thinking. Reading a book together is a good launching pad for starting a conversation. Pointing out positive versus negative attitudes from news stories or life stories is an excellent way of showing your children just how this all works in real life, too.
A great web site for finding lots of wonderful positive messages is:

Modeling a positive attitude is one of the most effective ways of teaching your children. Children learn what they live. So start presenting your thoughts in a positive way, Oh well, I burned the dinner—guess that means we get to eat cereal for dinner!

Parents always hope that their children will have a positive outlook on life, but most often how this happens is left to chance. When you take this matter into your hands, and look for ways to guide your children’s thoughts in a positive direction, you will see very exciting results.

Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. ( from Kid Cooperation, How to Stop Yelling, Nagging and Pleading and Get Kids to Cooperate by Elizabeth Pantley (, copyright 1996)


Providing Clean Water to some of World's Poorest- H2Oh No!

I just watched a video from charity: water, in which Jennifer Connelly shows us the terrible plight of the hundreds of millions of people who live without access to clean water and sanitation. You can introduce this through a science/cultural activity.

Be Creative! And if you are, share it with the rest of us.

Then I took action with ONE and asked my senators to cosponsor the Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2009 (S.624), which will help bring first-time, sustainable access to clean water and sanitation to a hundred million of the world's poorest people. Check out the video and then make that commitment, too, by adding your voice.

Go here to make the commitment:

Get parents involved with this as well and make sure your children are aware of the need.

Thanks! John


Seven Essential Traits of Leaders (cont.)

Integrity is another important quality of good leadership. The effective leader firmly adheres to his or her code of values. This does not mean that the leader is an inflexible person; to the contrary, effective leaders are often highly flexible and willing to compromise on many issues. However, effective leaders will not compromise when their core code of values are challenged. 

Integrity is important for two reasons. Adhering to a code of values is essential to an individual's self-worth. Without self-worth, an individual cannot lead effectively. Producing movement and change frequently results in a barrage of challenges to the leader's role, expertise, and value to the organization. Without self-worth, it is unlikely that the leader will "survive" the barrage. Secondly, people expect leaders to operate on a high ethical plane; if a leader shows a lack of integrity, it is unlikely that the leader's people will follow the leader for long.


Seven Essential Traits of Leaders (cont.)

How is your Drive?

People who provide effective leadership always seem to have above average energy levels, often much above average. They appear to thrive on achieving something important and being in a position to influence others to achieve. This inner drive is often associated with high personal standards, a certain dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a tendency to push for continuing improvements and achievement of goals. Observers often sense this restless ambition after being with leaders for only a short time. 
A strong internal drive to achieve and succeed is probably essential, simply because leadership can be absolutely exhausting. The hours are long. The problems can be huge. Yet it may take sustained effort for years to accomplish the kinds of change associated with leadership. It is difficult to imagine people with less than a high level of internal drive handling the long hours required and the problems encountered over such a long period of time.

Suggestion: do an assessment of both your body and mind. How do you feel physically? Are you getting enough exercise? Diet? Is your mind cluttered with too many details that you lack concentration. Again, do a personal assessment, take notes and come up with a plan. Then share it with others who should know of your personal changes of habit, who can encourage you and allow you the space you need to make what may be significant changes in you.