I recently returned from the 2013 American Montessori Society (AMS) annual conference held in Orlando, Florida. And while Orlando may be home to some great theme parks, the true magic that week was the connections made by Montessori teachers from around the world.
Deciding to attend a conference, workshop, or even observe in another classroom can be difficult for Montessori teachers. We often feel guilty over leaving our students for a day, let alone several days. However, the benefits of professional development often outweigh the risks.
Montessori Teachers and Professional Development: Embracing Learning Alongside Students
Teachers as Lifelong Learners
One of the best ways to model a passion for learning is to be a learner ourselves. When students and parents see us attending conferences they know that we are truly involved in the Montessori method. We show them that we are still curious and want to learn as much as we can. My students used to tell me “bring us back some good stuff,” meaning, learn something we can all share.
Dr. Montessori wanted children to serve as teachers and role models for other children. By attending conferences, we are following this principle and learning from our peers. The first workshop I attended hosted over 100 Montessori teachers, all of whom were sitting there thinking (and whispering), “Why didn’t I think of that?” Some were furiously taking notes; others were snapping photos of PowerPoint slides with their digital cameras or tablet computers. We were awakened out of our complacency and energized to go back and breathe new life into our classrooms.
Surround Yourself with Greatness
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” ~Richard Tirendi
I am a Montessori researcher and practitioner. Yet, never will I feel that I know so much that I cannot learn from others. The keynote address, “Fueling the Flame Within: Montessori and the Development of the Self” was presented by Dr. Steven Hughes, a pediatric neuropsychologist and Montessori parent. It was awe inspiring and his presentation left me with a renewed sense of purpose. Montessori education is the right path. Its humanistic approach respects children and adults as individuals and does not turn out standardized, cookie-cutter students who are incapable of imaginative and creative thinking. I found myself immediately searching his website, Good at Doing Things to learn more.
Attending conferences also provides the opportunity for much needed support. Many conversations among peers begin with “How do you…?” We all have questions, whether they are about children, curriculum, or paperwork. Sharing our ideas helps us grow both professionally and personally.
I encourage you to seek out opportunities for Montessori professional development by attending a conference, local workshop, or observing in another Montessori environment. You may also consider NAMC’s blog as a source of professional and continuing education and development.
For screencasts and PDF files of slides from Dr. Steven Hughes:
- Good at Doing Things: Montessori Education and Higher-order Cognitive Functions
- Talking Straight about Montessori Education: A Workshop for Teachers and School Administrators
- Modern Parenting: Tips, Tricks, and Traps
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, April 9, 2013.