Finding Inner Peace: My Experience at a Stillness Retreat in Egypt

Israa Elsherbini

Christine Chen

September 15, 2018

Two summers ago I went on a stillness retreat in Egypt called saint Catherines. The reason I enjoyed this place specifically is because of its authenticity. I loved the historical, deep, vast, open and natural mountains of it. I felt the genuineness and generosity of people within me. There, I could connect to stillness, to people, to people, and to the whole universe.

Ever since then, it shifted my perspective on life. We are all always so deeply invested in our man made artificial lives that we forget that we come from nature, that nature is all around and within us.

Witnessing nature brings about the sense of purity and deep humanity within us all. Ever since I experienced this, it's become important for me to connect with people, especially children in a pure, authentic and calm way so that they may carry on with their adult lives.

Last summer, after I was done with my training, I decided to go back there and renew y feelings.

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In order for me to be a Montessori teacher that is prepared to go into a classroom, i needed refresh the connection that I felt in that place. I wanted to bring the rawness and purity into the classroom and within each and every child. For it to be something that they can hold on to in their daily practical lives. A Montessori teacher must exhibit certain qualities in order to be a good teacher for the student.

One quality I find crucially important is being humble and willing to learn from your mistakes.

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Let the children guide you. Be open to learning new things and be ready for your transformation. I couldn't actually feel what one of out instructors had said "Montessori teaching is not just a career, it's a whole transformation of a human being" Chandra Fernando-Philosophy lecture" until I was done with the training and went into the classroom and went on with my daily life.

I could feel the transformation and transition within me as it is within the children. Always being open to grow with the children and learn new things from them is another important factor. Children have a wide and broad mind of curiosity, imagination, and wonder. "how precious is the gift of wonder! In a child it is like a delicate seedling that one hopes will never be trampled on and never allowed to dry up. With careful nourishment childhood wonder will flower into a deep reverence for nature that keep one's spirit alive into a vital old age.

People with an active sense of wonder are rarely bored, no matter how young or old they are. Aline D. Wolf in nurturing the spirit p.72 "so a Montessori teacher should always be prepared and happy to answer all the questions that the little humans ask and wonder about upon their day." If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gifts from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.

Aline D. Wolf in nurturing the spirit p.73". In order for a teacher o be able to give the child their space to find and build his/her identity, the teacher should be on a certain spiritual level within her own self. Knowing your identity and self will help you notice you weaknesses and strengths that will eventually help you into being the greatest version of yourself that you can be for your students.

Dr. Maria Montessori always stressed on how important it is for a Montessori teacher to be calm, kind, gentled graceful that the children barely notice her in the classroom and an observer has a hard time spotting her. As Dr. Montessori said"observation is key"E.M standing. When a person is in a position of authority he/she is in great danger of turning into a tyrant person. "Many teachers do, in fact, unconsciously come to regard themselves and their authority in this light; and claim dictatorial right over the child.

"E.M standing from the book her life and work p. 300. Which is what differentiates Montessori teachers from traditional school teachers. Being able to change this act of tyranny and turning it into humility "Does not mean that the teacher has to give up her authority-far from it- but that she will exercise it in a different way.

Whenever I go into the classroom I feel lucky, proud and humbled to be there. To be chosen and to have the opportunity to be a part of each of these children's lives, to be able to affect them and help them grow into the best person they can possibly be. "she must come to see the soul of the child something so rich and pure, so delicate and precious that it is a privilege to be with it. Instead, therefore, of trying tp bring the child down to her level she must endeavour to raise herself to his" Dr. Maria Montessori E.M standing her life and work p.301.

In any classroom around the world there has to be a teacher, but the difference between Montessori teachers and traditional school teachers is a lot. Montessori teachers have to prepare the environment, lessons, activities and even materials is it's all child centered. You would find the teacher sitting on a child size table and chair with the rest of her students or on a rug on the floor giving a child a Presentation.

A child has to feel a sense of belonging and confidence in his classroom that's why everything should be accessible and child sized. In Traditional schools, on the other hand, you would find the teacher standing in front of a large board in the center of the classroom and all the children are seated beneath her, and all the lesson and activities are teacher centered. Montessori teachers observe a lot and change things depending on each and every Childs individual needs.

Traditional schools lessons are often orated to students who listen passively, memorize and take tests. Montessori lessons are also called presentations because the teacher simply "presents them to the child and then the Childs gets to have a Hans on experience and discover the material for himself, this way, the teacher is only a factor that connects the child to the material but has to interference or interruption with the learning process of the child.

Last week in my classroom I had just given a 3 year old boy a presentation on the knobbed cylinders, he was so eager to do it himself that he actually didn't let me finish giving the presentation and went on with it on his own. I observed him for a bit to see that he's very interested in it and did it multiple times the right way. I decided to let him be and got up from the table, put my chair back and walked away with our him even noticing because he was so concentrated on his work, a few minutes later another assistant in the classroom went and started speaking to him and helping him with his work, to my surprise he immediately lost interest and actually started messing.

His work up and putting the cylinders in their holes upside down. That's when it came to mind what Mrs. Christy had said" never interrupt a child while they're working" Christine Chen-practical life lecture. Traditional schools are unfortunate that they don't have a flexible time that the child gets to work on whatever they because they have a specific time and schedule for each lesson.they also must deliver the same lesson, at the same pace, and at the same order for all students at once.

Montessori teachers, on the other hand, act as guides consultants to students on one on one basis. They change the curriculum in response to the students level and needs, they assist each child along their learning paths. Traditional schools curricula are predetermined without regard to how every student and every classroom is different and without regard to the students' needs.

Therefore, every child works on a different pace in a Montessori classroom but all children are expected work on the same pace in a traditional school classroom. A teacher must be enthusiastic and fun, always knows how to engage the child and seduce into working on something. This way she'll be the point of interest in the Childs work.

In order for teaching to be effective, it must assist children to advance on the way to independence, it must initiate them into all kinds of activities that her can do themselves and help develop their skills. Practical life activities are one of the most important areas in the classroom.

Not only because most of the children enjoy it, but also all ages can work on it. Practical life area is usually the first area that the new Montessori child starts working in. It is essential and extremely important to start with it before moving on to something more advanced. Parents may be concerned as to why their child is only working on practical life materials and is not yet working on math or language.

The child must first learn to sit and concentrate before they can develop they can develop the neurological connections required for reading, writing and math. This comes through repetition and as Dr. Maria Montessori says" Repetition is the secret of perfection". Repetition teaches children to develop self confidence, internalize concepts, learn self discipline and reflection, and it could also provide opportunities for practice and reinforcement.

Through repetition of the practical life materials, children are taught to self correct, problem solve, and It also assists them into developing the coordination and they need in order for them to undertake more complex thinking. One of the things that supports repetition is the three hour work cycle because it provides the opportunity for children to choose work and work uninterrupted. One example of repetition that fascinated me happened very recently at the beginning of the school year.

We had a student aged 3that was new to the classroom and whenever I give her a practical life presentation she would keep working on it for the whole morning period. One time I gave her sponge transfer and then I decided to count how many times she had squeezed that sponge that she had mastered the movement it could not have been less than 30 times.

Another time I gave her banana cutting and she kept peeling ,cutting, and serving until we ran out of bananas then she very thourouly went to the sink and washed everything without me even telling her to do so. The amount of steps in some of the works like hand washing, polishing, clothes washing etc. require a lot of focus which later on leads to great sequencing skills that will help improvement with the math area in the classroom.

The Practical life area is also very famous amongst the students that even the older ones come back to it on their own because it's mostly things that they have already seen in their own homes. Find me a teacher who hasn't experienced at least a few children holding a mop for example and getting excited and saying "i have this exact same mop at my home" with a big grin on their face. A lot of the works require you using the pincer grip like the frames, baste work, sewing, card lacing etc. which will further help with the language area for writing.

Practical life materials help children develop their Gross and Fine motor skills through many different works like folding, floor sweeping, clothes washing, and many other works. It also helps them with coordination, concentration, strength, order and independence. When a child learns to follow a complex motor sequence he/she can then fulfill his/her own desires or needs.

Seeing a task through from start to finish, to correct one's mistake, to have the ability to focus and follow logical sequence are all required in order to achieve further development and work on more advanced materials in the classroom. Many may think that children always need adults help with everything, so the adult ends up doing everything for the child which ends destroying the Childs development and their sense of independent.

The practical life area helps the child learn to have take of his or her own self through works like zipper frame. Snap frame, clothes washing, lacing frame, button sewing, food preparation, teeth brushing and many other works. Once the child gets this feeling of independence they are unstoppable, and from then on they would try their best to do things if their own and would not allow their parents, teachers nor any other adult to do something for them because it helps give the child a sense of being and belonging in his/her environment which is all established through participation in daily life activities.

Stressing on the importance of it some of the greatest writers like Angeline Lillard and Jenson highly encouraged implementing practical life activities for children as soon as they began to walk. Maria Montessori also believed that practical life area set children up for the rest of the learning that would take place in their life.

Updated: Apr 29, 2023
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Finding Inner Peace: My Experience at a Stillness Retreat in Egypt. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Finding Inner Peace: My Experience at a Stillness Retreat in Egypt essay
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