Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Houston Montessori Institute

It was past time for a visit to Loyola's newest AMI training partner, the Houston Montessori Institute, located at the gorgeous Post Oak School in the city's Bellaire neighbourhood. I remedied that condition this past week.

My schedule included meeting Mirani Smith, one of the HMI trainers and the Early Childhood Director at the Post Oak School. I also convened with the 2015 cohort who will complete their AMI training next summer before they make the pilgrimage to Loyola to finish their Master's degree in 2016 - what a delightful group of students!

My visit corresponded with an Open Session for the next multi-summer Primary cohort starting up this summer. Lot's of interest! Exciting times in Houston.

But the visit would not have been complete without a comprehensive tour of Post Oak with their Head of School, John Long, a delightful gentleman and a true thought leader in the Montessori Community. John could not have been more gracious with his time, and it was a pleasure to see a Montessori School so advanced in it's planning and vigorous in its practice. I believe the kinds of developmental high school models emerging at locations such as Post Oak will truly be the vanguards of education in the next 50 years.

Houston itself was a bit of a surprise to me, more cosmopolitan than I imagined, with a terrific museum district that the Post Oak students frequent. However, I don't mean to imply that I saw anything near the city's extent. As with everything "Texas Sized" (including my order of scallops) it's a 50 mile journey from one end of the city to the other, so there's more to see.

And speaking of site seeing, a word of caution, when the gentleman at the Derek Hotel tells you that it is impossible to walk from the Galleria District to Bellaire, while carting a fancy little knapsack over your shoulder and dressed in dress shoes and a tie, you would be wise to believe him. An hour into my walk-about, attempting to circumnavigate 15 lanes of freeway traffic as the Houston humidity came out in full force; I had visions that Houston might indeed be my final resting place. But not so, I made it - and if I was the first to do so, I will add it to the growing list of impetuous world's records I hold driven by my foolish need to say - nah I can do that!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The West Coast Swing

I had a lovely trip to California last week to visit the Montessori Institute of San Diego located in the gorgeous La Jolla neighborhood. There was so much energy at the center and it was my pleasure to introduce a new cohort of Loyola students into the graduate program. I enjoyed catching up with Greg MacDonald, the elementary trainer, and the team at the institute. As always, I was treated amazingly by Sharon and Vivian who spoiled me with a dinner out on the harbor; I hope that the Dean is not reading this post because the next time I make it out to the Institute I am definitely tacking on a day to my journey - I need to investigate the WWII aircraft carrier on the bay and the lure of the Torrey Pines golf course is too great.

It was exciting to learn more about the inclusion workshop which was held at the institute in the summer. I could scarcely believe how large a contingent came to the San Diego this summer (over 150 attendees!) to discuss Montessori's application to students with diverse needs. I look forward to watching this seminar continue to grow over the coming years.

Always so much happening at all of the centers and we look forward to orienting new students in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Portland in the coming weeks.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to Portland

The mid-west was sunny and cool; Portland was scorching! The thermometer hit 99 degrees but I still persevered and walked from my hotel to the training institute for my orientation with six new Assistance to Infancy trainees at Montessori Northwest.

Nancy Lechner, Montessori Northwest's new A to I trainer and former graduate of the Masters program at Loyola was on hand to help me orient the students. It turns out, as it always does in Montessori circles that she had been to my former school in Canberra, Australia, presenting a workshop - I missed her by a day. It is a small Montessori world.

The team at MNW were gracious enough to have me over for a quick social which was the perfect way to end my sojourn. It's been only six months, but I feel like an "old" friend whenever I visit.

The train continues with academic year programs starting up in Atlanta, San Diego, Milwaukee, Portland, and of course right here at home at the Washington Montessori Institute, Loyola's on-site training partner, located at our graduate center in Columbia, Maryland. I look forward to meeting a new group of Montessori practitioners in the fall.

Well enough of this diversion. I must return to marking the ED 625 Advanced Studies papers turned in from the recently concluded intensive summer session. There are some extremely articulate individuals in our program and the advanced study is a great way for them to demonstrate all that they know.  And I get to read them all :), I promise to reference all of your great ideas when I introduce the program to a new summer group in 2015. 'till then.....




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Montessori Institute of Milwaukee

I am standing in front of an old All-Girls Catholic School, which has now been redeveloped into office space for multiple Wisconsin based not for profit groups. To my right is the mighty and picturesque Lake Michigan, it recalls to me why the Great Lakes are so named. A quarter turn to my left and through a patch of Maple trees I can see the skyline of downtown Milwaukee in the distance, just close enough so it's there if you need it. I am talking to the Director of the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee Allyn Travis, who is pointing out the features in her view and explaining why she can never leave. Inside the Institute is state of the art, a full classroom of Montessori teacher trainees are being skilled on the finer points of Montessori elementary pedagogy, as Allyn uses a projector to capture every detail.

So many students at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee are taking up the Loyola Masters of Education option. They are an international group that has come to this lovely center to pursue their AMI elementary training over a 3 summer format. Others wait in the wings taking the foundation course and are ready to jump into the academic year format in the fall.

Thank you for the tour Allyn I promise to say hello to Carolyn Hunter and Jackie Kirk. Two beloved Montessori teachers from Australia who you have similarly helped along in their careers.

Peace,

Jack

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Meet me in St. Louis

I thought I had been everywhere, but as I flew into St. Louis last week I realized it was my first visit to the city.

I was there to greet a new cohort of Loyola students just starting out in their multi-summer AMI primary training odyssey. A journey that will conclude when they wrap up their Masters of Education in Baltimore at the conclusion of their AMI diploma.

The group has just moved into a lovely facility which will serve as a teacher training facility, as well as a lab school. Dr. Annette Haine's the primary trainer gave a beautiful presentation on the thermic tablets which captivated the attention of the group. There is something so amazingly therapeutic about Montessori Education and it is why with all wonders in the world it must be seen to be appreciated.

Annette let me know that the Institute will be hosting an academic year program starting in the fall of 2015 in addition to their multi summer cohorts, busy times ahead.

I am a little miffed that I only had a few hours to spend in St. Louis what a fantastic city, still I spent those fleeting minutes wisely with a drive along the Mississippi and check in at the arch, a peek at the Ball Park and the finest slab of ribs I have ever tasted.

What a town. I'll be back!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Connect

When I first left teaching to become a school Principal, I secretly wondered if I was still an educator. After spending 12 years at the vanguard of the educational process, I  believed that a teacher's vantage point was the only position from which to impact learning. I was wrong.

I found out that a Head of School has a surprisingly large ability to impact what goes on in the classroom. The effect is a little more indirect but the people you hire, the professional development you support, the culture you create and the respect that you demonstrate is scrutinized endlessly. The effect is difficult to measure on a daily basis but over a 3 or 5 year period there is no more impactful position at a school that its leadership.

As a Head of School I still considered myself a participant, never a pundit. People would ask me "what I believe" and I would quickly redirect to conversation to "watch what I do".

Now after 24 years as a teacher and school leader I come to a new position as Director of a gradate program in teacher preparation. Am I still an educator? Are my effects so indirect to be rendered superficial? Am I am "pundit" and if I was a teacher would I listen?

Last Friday was the end of my first season on the job, only 6 months but nevertheless a full campaign cycle with students completing their Montessori training, coming to Baltimore and finishing their Masters degree. For my part, I was involved in coordinating the show and participating as an instructor in two classes of advanced studies in education.

But it wasn't until the reception at the Dean's house on Friday that I understood the role I was playing. It turns out I am a matchmaker! I looked over the lawn and saw representatives of the 118 Montessori Teachers that completed their degrees in Montessori Education this year. I saw friendships being made, colleague relationships forming, ideas being shared, tears being shed and people in harmony. My role is to lead that jazz band of experiences without ever playing a note.

At times I miss preparing my classroom or leading a school through a sticky situation but now my role is to set the conditions to ensure that there are 100's more every year ready to do the same. From the graduates I met during my first summer I can only be sure of one thing:

The future is in good hands.

Peace

Jack

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mile High and the summer in Baltimore


The Summer Session is in full swing. Our cohort of 100 recently trained Montessori teachers are completing their graduate studies over the next 3.5 weeks in Baltimore and will emerge with a Masters of Education. It is the final stretch of a rewarding road that for some candidates began almost 5 years before! Dean Smith greeted the students at orientation two weeks ago and highlighted the tremendous partnership that Loyola enjoys with the 10 AMI training centers we work with, creating a model that is innovative and unique. It is lovely to see students from Portland to Atlanta working together, creating presentations, studying, socializing and forging friendships that will travel with them throughout their careers. I am thoroughly enjoying teaching my two sections of ED 625, Advanced Studies of Education it is exhilarating to be a resource for so many talented young teachers who are asking poignant questions about education and their craft. 


As a contrast to those completing their Masters, I took the time last Thursday to pop up to Colorado to orient students that are just beginning their Graduate studies in the multi-summer A to I format in Denver. It was fantastic to see Judi Orion who operates an incredibly popular training center in the Mile High city. I last saw Judi in Canberra, Australia in one of her many circumnavigations of the globe while, spreading the word of Dr Montessori. 

My words to the incoming cohorts at orientations was about the fantastic people that you meet in a career in teaching. I am in an honored position when I get to call people like Dean Smith and Judi Orion amongst my colleagues.

Last Friday the group assembled on campus for a some much needed refreshments after class and this Wednesday in a test of my organizational skills I am bringing a group of 50 downtown to an Orioles game. Wish me luck. 

A big shout out to Carrie Stroup, our program coordinator for her incredible skills in organizing the programming from intake to completion and thank you to the entire Loyola community for making the Montessori gang feel at home.

Two more weeks to go .... I'll keep you posted.