It is often said that the eye is the lamp of the body. No one turns on a lamp and hides it under a bowl, as this eclipses the purpose. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, so that those who come near may see the light. Indeed, making or maintaining eye contact often communicates the light or real intent of our verbal message.
In the Montessori Tides environment, a teacher is sure to attempt to work with a set purpose, to establish eye contact with a child before speaking. Likewise, the same attempt is made when the child is speaking directly to them. Although, this is not merely demonstrated by just establishing eye contact, but using the whole body to communicate a regardful company and relationship with the child’s body. It can be very intimidating to a child, when the adult is looking down or with only a slight bend of the knees. The best way is demonstrated by bending the knees and lowering the body so they are on the same level as the child. This in turn, respectfully helps focus both the child and adult attention; we are now ready to listen, learn and grow.
We can do the same thing in the Montessori-inspired home. If for example, you are cooking dinner and your child requires help, you can lower yourself to the child’s level in order to fully attend and engage in what is being said. This courtesy extends to the child that their need and what is being said is important to you.
Kathy Graham, founder and director of the Montessori Tides School, shared in the Montessori Framework how sitting at the kitchen table generates a healthy atmosphere to discuss boundaries within the home. By making eye contact before beginning your verbal message, you are signaling to the child that they need to give their attention to the message and they in return are telling you they are ready to learn. Remember, language is not just limited to words; it includes the messages we send with our bodies.
As a Montessori oriented school and Montessori-inspired parents, let us remember to engage our children and students by being truly present whenever we communicate with them. The eye is the lamp of the body- a light that clearly express our interest in, respect for, and connection to the child.
“I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.”