Tonight, I had a conversation with a musician. It began with an observation about the internal struggles of an artist, the pain of lessons in patience and perseverance, to the social experience of different types of artists.
1. the individual, usually visual artists,
2. the teams or bands of musicians led by a leader,
3. the true teams such as improvising jazz musicians or comedians
I consider the 3rd, an elevated form of community, an ideal. We are often tempted to assign roles to individuals, especially leaders and followers, for a very practical reason of decision making and so on. Leadership is great power, and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Is it possible to lead without having the skills and experience of being an equal team player?
In a Montessori children’s house, there is something the children do called, ‘Walking on the Line’. An ellipse is drawn on the ground and the children stand on this continuous line and walk together. One of the purposes is to support co-ordination of movement. Children love any challenges to control their body, balancing on a curb or a low wall, walking with one foot in front of the other, toes always touching the heel of the foot in front, balancing things on their heads. (really! Go try it!)
The other purpose is social. For a group of 2.5 to 6 year olds to independently walking in front and behind someone, requires a great deal of self-control. You can’t change positions randomly or nudge the person in front of you who’s abit slow. – those are more or less the rules. If someone particularly young is in front of you, they might be much much slower and all you can do is wait. When there are learned rules and individuals appreciate the need to follow the rules of the house if they want to be a part of this community, great peace and calm follows. If you have ever seen this Walking on the Line exercise, you will notice the incredible patience older children demonstrate towards the younger, the incredible effort of self- restraint on the part of the adult not to go tell someone to walk if for whatever he stops and everyone behind patiently waits, some curious looks to see what the stop-per is stopping for and others just stopping and waiting as if it’s the most natural thing to do. And if the adult is patient enough, they will also get to see the line of children miraculously starting to move again and given enough time, begin to find one another’s rhythm and adjust their pace to suit that of the group. They begin to produce an almost artistic performance, like a troop of dancers or a flash mob, improvisation actors or musicians. The beauty created only by individuals coming together being individuals as well as a part of a community.
How did London learn to stand on the right side of the elevator and fume quietly but unanimously at the individual’s who flout this rule? How do drivers go on roundabouts that have no traffic lights? How dare anyone walk slowly on the undergrounds if they are mobile enough and don’t belong to a family with young children? To be a part of a community, is also to acquire a sensitivity towards others and towards their pace and rhythm, and to understand that on your own, you are capable of creating something really nice, but a communal creation is almost always magnificent. To be a part of a community is a great privilege.
A Montessori Children’s House makes great effort to include children of slightly different ages to maximise the benefits of a natural community’s instinct, that we will help our fellowman who needs it. The Montessori Directress watches discreetly but keenly to allow opportunities for the community to create beauty and to resolve problems on their own and only stepping in when necessary. It is important for children to be prepared with the skills of being left alone with other children. And it is not by putting a child among other children in parties and playgrounds that they learn the necessary social skills, it is the preparation of the individual to develop enough self- control and a respectful attitude that they can then be included happily among others. Parents can also do so, especially from the ages from 0-3 by creating order in your home life and preparing things to enable your child’s feelings of ‘I can’ and contribution to herself, her family and later to others, like getting coats with big buttons so your child can do it up easily on their own or help a younger sibling to do it or putting up a low hook so your child can hang her own coat up.
Below is a link of a YouTube video of a child walking the line by herself in a classroom. Children may walk on it any time they wish.