Teacher Interview : Ms. Karlene Greyhurst

Last week, I sat down with the lovely (and intrepid) Ms. Greyhurst. Our conversation meandered from Montessori to the most absorbent age for children (18 months?), to the struggle for independence, to plastic Easter eggs and the struggle to say no.

What is represented below is a snippet of that conversation. This is partly for relevancy and expedience and partly because this interviewing gig is a learning curve for me. But I will say that the time was delightful and if the opportunity ever comes up to talk with Ms. Greyhurst about the beauty and challenges of educating (or anything else), take advantage.

Thank you to Ms. Greyhurst for taking the time – and being brave enough to be the first teacher interview on the blog!
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Please introduce yourself – who are you? Where are you from? What is your teaching history?
Originally, I am from Vancouver Island. I lived my formative years in a tent and a bus until we (the whole family 2 adults, 5 kids, 2 dogs and 2 cats) finished the A-frame house enough to move in (no indoor plumbing). I moved to Vancouver in 1977. While in Vancouver, I’ve lived in many neighborhoods including on a houseboat under the 2nd narrows bridge on the north shore

I have been teaching in both the private and public education system for approximately 18 years now. I have been at Maple Grove since the beginning of the Montessori program taking one year maternity leave and one year leave to teach kindergarten and computers (!) in the traditional system. When did we begin, fall of 2004?

Why Montessori?
We all develop at our own readiness. The Montessori philosophy respects and encourages us to be ourselves, to think for ourselves, to be aware of others, (their strengths and their weaknesses), to be creative, to think outside the box, to live life to the fullest… appreciating the gifts of the earth, and to be peaceful.
…And my keen sense of order and patterns is fulfilled! Maria Montessori encouraged people of all ages (children especially) to explore, observe, and enjoy our ordered world/environment.

You teach in the public school system where kids are on their own for Kindergarten rather than in the typical multi-age groupings. We sometimes see this in a negative light but are there advantages to this?
This has been one of my concerns in the past as well, however as all children, whether they have had any experience with Montessori or not, are invited to join us at MG, I have found that the kindergarten class ends up mimicking/mirroring a typical (3-6) class as far as experiences, knowledge and behaviours. Leadership naturally occurs for those coming from a Montessori background, and the students new to Montessori are open to lessons from all.

The bonding that occurs in our kindergarten class is truly amazing to observe and then to re-observe it when the children come back together as one class for grade 7 only reinforces that we are doing something right!

But in this scenario, the kids from the Montessori backgrounds get to ‘complete’ the cycle by being mentors, but the new ones don’t get that?
That’s true – they have to wait until grade three — well except they also might have things to teach/mentor in other areas (either socially or non-material based learning).

What is it that you like best about teaching Kindergarten? What do you find challenging?
Five year old children are developmentally ready to start exploring their social world, branching out from the security of the family life. For some, they jump in with both feet, rushing about to learn all that they can about others as quickly as they can and in the process, growing and developing their own sense of self. For others, they test the waters slowly, not sure if they want to leave the security of their family. Usually by March, I have parents coming to me complaining that their once ‘obedient’ and ‘kind’ child has suddenly started to offer up opinions that are different from the family’s… that their child doesn’t want them around as much. I rejoice and celebrate when this milestone of growth occurs. This is the beginning of the child’s awareness of ‘self’ and individuality. Sure, I thoroughly enjoy watching those who are ready to take flight with reading, or others when they grasp a mathematical concept without direct instruction… things that definitely and markedly occur at this age… but the development of self-awareness and their independence is really what draws me back again and again to work with this age group! That, and it is fun! At five, we get to explore, to question and to challenge and discover our world!

Do you see differences in kids who go to Montessori preschools and those who do not?
In the beginning yes. The children who come from a Montessori background tend to be more confident… however they are more apt to avoid the materials in the beginning! The children who do not have a Montessori background tend to be unsure of what to do but much more eager to touch and explore these new materials! Academically and socially, I don’t see much of a difference.

What is your favourite material and why?
If the question is if I could only have one material in my room, what would it be… ‘today’ I would ask for the metal insets. Almost all lessons from fine motor skills, to art, to math (measurement, patterns, geometry), to language, to practical life can all be explored through this one material. But my favourite material? That’s difficult. It changes from year to year, group to group and even day to day. I guess my favourite material is the one that captures the student’s interest! So different materials for the many different learners! And just to clarify, the material doesn’t have to be a Montessori developed material… it could be the dirt we walk on!

Do you think Montessori is a good fit for every child? Explain.
In an ideal environment, yes! If we can only get rid of grading our children against each other, then yes, Montessori works and fits all learners.

When the kids leave your classroom what do you consider to be the most important learning to take with them through the rest of their schooling?
To never give up on themselves and to love learning, exploring and asking questions!

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