Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Friends

I have just returned from a whirlwind tour of our partner institutes.

The first stop was just up the road in Columbia, where I met the new Primary and Elementary students at our home grown training center, the Washington Montessori Institute. It was the first day and there was so much enthusiasm and energy in the air - great to see.

Next stops: San Francisco, Portland, Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Carrie pinch hit for me in San Diego - though I promise to get out to see that cohort soon! I am extremely lucky to be able to be on hand when the next great leaders of our precious and important movement are born.

In all, 118 students have been admitted into our graduate program in Montessori Education this year. A number we are very proud of: but makes me think of a meeting that I had in my first week as a Head of School...

I was taking over the leadership of the Montessori Country School in Ontario, Canada and my predecessor agreed to spend a week with me to get me oriented. I needed it! By Friday, after a week of policy review, risk assessments, procedures and budgets, I noticed that she had gathered her belongings and was standing at the exit - waiting to be dismissed :)

I went over to shake her hand and I knew that she had one more thing left to say.

"Any final words of advice," I asked.

She just smiled and said "Don't Count".


So today I will stop counting, the new students are no longer applications, interviews and essays. They are part of the fabric of the Loyola Community. I look forward to welcoming each of them on to campus when their time comes and playing a small part in their journey.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My tribe

The first time I felt it was at McGill University in Montreal. Over a few brief weeks in the Faculty of Education, working together with best friends I had only just met. I realized I was with My people. Shared values and shared experience.

The next time I felt it was was at the Toronto Montessori Institute, where Sheila Fitzgerald and Paula Glasgow welcomed me into a community that would define my Place, for the remainder of my career.

I felt it again this week at Dean Smith's house, at an event hosted by the Center for Montessori Education at Loyola University Maryland. I stood looking out over 100 Educators who had just concluded the Intensive Summer Session and would soon be conferred their Master's Degrees in
Montessori Education. I knew I was looking at the future leadership of the Montessori Movement, a group that would continue to move us in a direction towards the lofty goals that Dr. Montessori held for humanity.

I don't know what "it" is. But it has something to do with the following words that one of the students passed along to me at the end of the program. All I know is that I can't wait to feel it again and I know that I will.



Monday, July 6, 2015

Laura Shaw and a Very Enjoyable Evening at Loyola

I make people laugh. At me...With me... whatever it takes.

Last Friday was the first of what will become an annual speaker series, from the Center for Montessori Education at Loyola University Maryland.

Laura Flores Shaw discussed several everyday myths that prevail around the fringes of education. Her message to our students: become a savvy consumer of educational research and don't let the media or popular notions guide your practice.

It was fantastic to have Laura on campus for our intensive summer session. Laura is right in the middle of contemporary Montessori research as a member of AMI's research committee, publisher and founder of the White Paper Press and a doctoral student in Mind, Brain Teaching at Johns Hopkins University.

A great night. Laura. Your signed poster is now framed and in the annals of Loyola's Center for Montessori Education. And as for the summer lecture series ... no one else will ever be first.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Laura Flores Shaw

An impressive scholar and a good friend is coming to Loyola on Friday June 26th. Laura Flores Shaw will be addressing our summer cohort (and interested guests) with a talk on Neuromyths: What Educators Need to Know about Brain Development. It is a timely message - I see some profound signs on the horizon that the educational pendulum is beginning to swing away from an over reliance on high stakes testing to a more holistic, developmental model. And why shouldn't it - wouldn't it seem right that the next century of education might be founded on what makes brains work better.

Laura's talk might just be a perfect "hold your horses" moment. Before we all run off presuming we know what current research in Brain Development is telling us; might it not be a good idea to hear from someone in the field. It's not as if we as an education community have ever run off half cocked with half baked ideas before... who .... no ... not us.

Good friends, good discussion and great after snacks. See you there.

Reserve Your Seats to Laura's Talk

Monday, May 4, 2015

5 Questions from the Road

I'm back from my tour of our partner training centers - and as always, I met some fantastic future educators. It is always an honor. I also got asked some great questions - the kind I usually don't have a ready made answer for - but alas after many hours on planes, trains and assorted other modes of conveyance ... I have responses!

1. Is Baltimore OK?

Yes, I can report that Baltimore, Maryland is fine. Baltimore like all urban centers in this country deals with its issues every day. The turmoil which caught up to Baltimore this week has subsided, however the discussion about social justice and inclusion continues - another good sign. I am proud to call Baltimore home and I enjoyed being back on the light rail Monday morning.

2. If you could take one level of Montessori training what would it be?

Since the answer is a personal one, I'll answer it only from my own perspective. I would take A to I training in a heartbeat. I spent 12 years as a Montessori Head of School and I am indebted to the people at the Toronto Montessori Institute who gave me a start. I guess I've always been fascinated with the stages of life where children deal with the most significant changes. Having spent many years working with adolescents I see the obvious parallels to the 0 - 3 age group. Or maybe it's just because my youngest child is 17 and I can now see grandfather-hood not so far on the horizon...

3. What is the best decision you made in your career?

Completing a graduate degree. It multiplied my options ten fold. It has brought me into new areas, taken me around the world and most of all allowed me to apply a different kind of thinking to my outlook as an educator. When I think of the cost and benefit, it was the most rewarding thing I have done as a professional.

4. Do you miss working with children?

I do, although I am enjoying this opportunity at Loyola because I get to teach and advise young teachers and future leaders. The one thing I am most proud of is that in the 23 years I spent in schools, I gave it all my energy every day!

5. What happens to children in a Montessori School that struggle academically?

One of the fundamental things I have noticed in Montessori Schools is that the students who do not instantly ace academics still love school. There is no disenfranchisement. Those who are not academically inclined still feel empowered. They persevere and keep trying because there is no time clock on success; there are so many areas to succeed at and they are all valuable. And the students who are subject matter whiz kids don't feel the stress of having to always be the top of the class. There is no top - it's just your journey.  It is the one aspect of a Montessori education that I wish I could bring to all children.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On the Road Again...

Like a band of gypsies...

My first stop on Friday the 24th of April will be at the International Training Institute of Atlanta to meet with a sparkling group of trainees ready to come to Loyola's Intensive Summer Session in June. It will be great to see Joen Bettman who always has some great suggestions for locations to imbibe and shade oneself from the Georgia sunshine.

Then it's a quick stop in Phoenix, Arizona to our newest partner location (approval pending) for an Open House. Please stop by the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies if you are in the area on Saturday at 10 a.m. I'll be there with Primary trainer Ann Velasco (Loyola graduate......) to discuss the next Academic Year course in the fall and how the Master's of Education degree fits in to the mix.

Next stop will be San Diego, where I am always spoiled by MISDs hospitality - it will be great to meet with the current cohort and discuss summer options as well as some prospective applicants to the Loyola program. I also want to get an update from Sharon and Silvia on the Inclusive Education course that is finishing this summer. There is never a dull moment in San Diego, they have 2 multi summer programs starting in June and 2 more Academic Year cohorts this fall. Whew!

After squeezing as much time as I can in San Diego - it's off to another, very underrated city - Houston. Just getting to spend some time at the Post Oak school is reason enough to go - but it doesn't hurt at all to spend time with Mirani Smith and the team at the Houston Montessori Institute. I will attend their Open Session on Thursday April 30th, 7:30 p.m. and also check in on some of our current students who work at Post Oak.

The trip will conclude by back tracking to San Francisco to support Jen Davidson and her Montessori Northwest team as they invite interested students to their new Primary and Assistants to infancy cohorts in the bay area which will be housed at the LePort School in downtown Frisco. Look for the Twitter offices.... find the Starbucks.... and they are right down the road.

Then there will only be one more place to visit; last but certainly not least - on May 8th I'll be back at Loyola's Columbia campus reconnecting with the students at the Washington Montessori Institute and helping them get ready for their final 3 courses to complete their Master's degree.

Along the way I hope to visit every Montessori school between Baltimore and San Diego (a stretch target) - so if you see me at your door, just know that you have been warned.

... I can't wait to get on the road again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Just got back from the AMI USA conference and refresher in Atlanta - all fired up to give our Montessori Graduate students the best experience possible this summer.

Favorite moments

Keynote by Alison Gopnik who got deep into the world of Early Childhood Educational Research - some tremendous evidence showing that Dr. Montessori's approach is aligned with contemporary research. I could tell her data driven methods were taking the crowd aback - it's great when a speaker can challenge the audience.

Michael Thompson discussed the irrationality of parents and I for one think that's just fine - Could I ever be rational about my own children - absolutely not - can't you tell by my twitter feed!

Steven Hughes never disappoints - a developmental neuropsychologist with an absolute passion for Dr. Montessori's work. I also love the way he pronounces "A.M.I." as "ahhmeee", cracks me up every time.

Laura Shaw, soon to be Doctor...don't you know... introduced her newest project; Montessori's own whitepaper press. Hoping to learn more about it when she comes to Loyola to deliver a talk on "Neuro-education" this summer. Thanks Laura.

Re-acquainting with my "old" Australian friends. Christine Harrison and Megan Tyne, two dynamos that made me homesick for Australia all weekend. Did I say home?

And there were plenty of quick hello's in passing with all of Loyola's Faculty - they are truly the leadership within AMI

A lifetime achievement award was given to Lilian Bryant, whom I met for the first time in Atlanta this summer. Well earned!

But my most favorite part was chatting with all of our recent graduates. They made it! There in the field making a difference - I could not be more proud!