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!



Tuesday, January 27, 2015


For 4 years in a row I attended AMI conferences and refreshers in Sydney, Australia. Last year, in my return to North America, I intended to make a big splash, Loyola was hosting a wee hospitality party to introduce me to the community as their new Center for Montessori Education Director. Instead snow happened, lots of snow and despite every attempt I never made it to Houston.

So this year the event is in Atlanta and I am determined to get there! In an attempt to make up for my absence last year I have convinced Loyola to try again and purchase a few snacks for after the keynote address for the conference participants to enjoy!
I'm looking forward to hanging out with Joen and Greg .... Silvia and Sharon.... Jen and Ginny... and the entire gang - it should be a great time.
I am also hoping to catch up with some of our graduates (especially the ones from Atlanta!) who by now will have started their careers and can reflect of the process of becoming an AMI trained guide with a Masters degree to boot.
It really is true that when you choose a career in education you are blessed to call amongst your colleagues some of the finest people in the world.
See y'all in Atlanta!

Monday, November 10, 2014


I just returned from Sarasota, where I spoke to a group of Montessori educators on the topic of Leadership. It is always enjoyable to re-connect with my friends from the Montessori Foundation and the International Montessori Council. I love the gathering because it is rigorously "non-denominational" in it's approach; it appeals to those in the audience at the very start of their Montessori journey's as well as established Montessorians looking to recharge in Florida's autumn sunshine.

It was lovely to see so many of our graduates at the event! - those who had just finished up their degrees this summer (...and are now working in exotic Caribbean know who you are...) and even experienced educators that remember their time at Loyola from a decade (or more...) ago.

I am very lucky to be able to be able to travel the country meeting Montessori educators from Louisiana, Oregon, Massachusetts and all points in between. This weekend's conference also allowed me to make new friends from England, Nigeria and Poland. It reminds me of how large and diverse the Montessori Industry has become and yet, when we come together, it always feels like a community.

It is an honor to particpate in the global Montessori movement. I feel a great sense of pride that I represent the small but significant role Loyola plays in merging Montessori study with higher education. Graduates from our AMI training centers are taking a rigorous treatment of Dr. Montessori's work, and are using it to make a difference in every setting where adults stand beside children and assist their development. I am humbled by their contribution.

Unfortunately, I believe I brought a Northeastern chill with me on my journey and mixed with a couple of late afternoon rain showers, the cocktail of weather dampened our enthusiasm for outdoor pursuits. Still, indoor options to occupy our time were abundant and I am grateful for the conversation and fellowship.


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!