Thank you, parents, for raising the paddle to supplement our professional development budget! Several fellow teachers and I were able to attend Association Montessori International’s (AMI) 2016 Refresher Course in Long Beach, California because of your generosity. Jennifer went on behalf of Primary; I went on behalf of Elementary; and Amy, Chuck and Brad attended on behalf of the Middle School. The opportunity to hear engaging speakers, analyze and reflect on our teaching habits, acquire new lessons and reconnect with Montessori colleagues from across the country rejuvenated all of us.
The theme of this year’s refresher course was, “Beyond the Pink Tower.” Across the board, we were encouraged to look beyond our discrete lessons, to consider the greater goals of Montessori education: respect for the rights, abilities and needs of every child, everywhere; and the creation of a new, truer peace in our communities and throughout the world.
The event began with a guest speaker from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Travis Wright, who is the founder and director of a school and community-based intervention program for homeless preschool students, their families, and teachers. In his work with children who are surviving trauma, Dr. Wright emphasized that by preventing situations that make the child feel powerless and by truly respecting that child, the teacher will be freed to perceive and nurture that child’s true personality. Montessori has a long history of serving communities of children who have survived significant traumas, and it continues to do so today. Dr. Wright’s stories reminded us of the many allies and kindred spirits working throughout the world who honor and care for humanity by honoring and caring for every child.
With such an inspiring story of service to kindle our passions, we spent the next two days in coursework and discussions specific to each level. At the elementary level, teachers and teacher trainers assembled to reflect upon and extend our work in teaching all of the components of writing to children aged 6 - 12. We practiced new presentations, acquired new tools for observation and child self-reflections, new writing games and techniques, and considered ways to better prepare the environment to inspire more kinds of writing. Our instructor, AMI teacher trainer Elise Huneke-Stone, rooted all of these ideas in a respect for the needs, abilities and interests of the elementary child. I filled my notebook with ideas and have already presented several of the new lessons to great effect. I would now like to add a greater variety of stationery and postcards to our language shelf. So, if you have any stationery or postcards that you’ve grown weary of, please consider donating them to our upper elementary classroom.
The weekend ended with another inspiring presentation describing some of the work done by Educateurs sans Frontières to create Montessori schools in communities around the world that have reached out for it. These stories demonstrated the universality of the stages of development and how well Montessori pedagogy supports the joyful development of children in all cultures. They also emphasized the heroic and healing role of the adults in these communities, who created and now sustain these schools for their children. For more information about this global Montessori movement, see their website at http://ami-global.org/ami/what-is-ami/educateurs-sans-fronti%C3%A8res.
Overall, this refresher course was an inspiring and professionally enriching event. I am quite grateful for the opportunity to participate. Thank you so much!
Dorrie Knapp Guy
Upper Elementary teacher