Happy new year! It looks like January has been the maddest month yet. It seems like everyone’s New Year’s resolution was to start this year with a very loud bang! If you’ve just joined us (and there are a bunch of you who have), welcome aboard! If you’ve been with us all along, then you can see the momentum building.
Since this is only our second formal newsletter, it will change over time. In fact, each future newsletter will be written by a different madman each month. We’ve also discussed a few ideas that I know will be added along the way. As in all things, we rely on your feedback and support to ensure everyone gets what they need, so please feel free to send your comments to us. For now, we are erring on the side of simplicity in order to ensure that our focus is upon the many, many projects and ideas we’ve got stirring about. In the meantime I’d like to thank all of you for your advocacy of children and your support of Montessori. Let’s do our best to make this the year of the Madmen!
January saw the progression of a few existing projects:
Stephen Round, a dedicated teacher who made a difficult decision in order to do the most good for the most children, was offered a scholarship toward a Montessori teaching certification. He recently observed his first Montessori classroom and was “blown away.”
Stephen agreed that the Montessori environment represents a wonderful opportunity for both children and teachers, but added in an email “that the Montessori Madmen have offered me a full scholarship to their teacher training school (and a position if I complete the course). I visited [a] school in Peacedale, Rhode Island and absolutely loved what I saw, but the problem is I'm 61 years old and not willing to spend another full year of my life going to school.”
Indeed, the training required of a Montessori teacher is significant and specialized. We respect Stephens’ decision and wish him the best of luck. In the meantime, it’s worth mentioning that no teacher should feel forced to make a mid-year decision. Still, if you are an educator who is looking to make a change, it is best to do so at the end of your school year. If you are looking to Montessori, contact the Madmen BEFORE you do anything. if you’d like to learn more about Montessori teacher training, checkout the American Montessori Society www.AMSHQ.org and Association Montessori Internationale www.AMIUSA.org , who offer training institutes all over the country.
The Elevator Speech Contest is underway with speech videos coming in regularly. You can check out the submissions so far at https://www.youtube.com/user/montelevatorspeech It’s actually a great place to get your thoughts out there. Please feel free to submit your own speech. Just speak from your heart.
The Madmen Website www.MontessoriMadmen.com was re-vamped by our own Bobby George to make it a better place to connect and share ideas. His effort has achieved exactly that. Our collective voice is being heard louder than ever and new members join us nearly every day. Make sure you share our site and our FB page with your friends!
This Newsletter itself is actually a continuing project. We’d love to hear your feedback on it. What would you like to see in future issues? We don’t have a name for it yet. Somehow, the Madmen Newsletter doesn’t quite do it justice. Give us your ideas.
We’ve also got a few new projects (some are still strictly hush-hush so I can’t list them below)
Advocacy Letters The madmen have collaborated to create template advocacy letters to be used, free of charge, by anyone who is looking to share Montessori with…well, just about anyone else. We’ve written them to appeal to different audiences –relying on different madmen and Montessorians for the right wording.
Project Mark Zuckerburg was announced. We are hoping to find that 6th degree of separation which would allow the Madmen to have a meeting with Mr. Zuckerburg in the hopes of adding Montessori to his plans for the $500 million he has pledged toward education and health causes.
Local Outreach One of our Madmen was invited to discuss behavioral policy with some of the faculty at a local traditional elementary school. The teachers and administration were very open-minded and eager to find new ways to focus on student’s social and emotional growth. Feedback from the principal showed that the meeting sparked great discussions in future staff meetings which resulted in “some great ah-ha moments!”
The moral of the story is that the love and respect for children, which form the cornerstone of Montessori philosophy, works everywhere. It’s up to you to find a way to bring it with you.
Monthly editorials (maybe some guest editors?!!)
Idea of the month
This month’s editorial It’s all in the Delivery (by Madman Bart Theriot)
I’ve come to learn quite a bit from Montessori. The children as well as their parents never cease to amaze me. My most recent epiphany came just 2 weeks ago at my annual Montessori for Dad’s workshop. Here it is. Are you ready? Dad’s love a challenge.
This may not be groundbreaking information for you. In truth, I don’t really know why it is so surprising to me since I am a father of 3 (with another on the way). However, it’s really simple. We offer all sorts of parent education opportunities at my school. One of our more successful efforts is the Monthly coffee breaks. We host these on a range of topics and different teachers present each month and act as facilitators to what always turns into a lively discussion.
The coffee breaks are mostly attended by moms. We can usually count on a couple of dads in the mix, but relatively speaking, dads are invisible at these events. It’s an axiom of Montessori parenting education that the parents who need the information the least, are typically the ones who show up the most. It’s also a part of our gender-based culture that if one parent is going to come, it will be mom.
Over time the division of labor among parents has become so deeply rooted in our society that in about 95% of the more than 2,000 school tours I’ve given, I meet with mom only. In some cases, I don’t even meet dad until weeks or months later when mom was unable to pick up the child for some reason.
I’ve tried all sorts of ideas to encourage dads to show up, with usually the same mediocre result. So last month, I chose a different tactic. One that I will now refer to as the “triple dog dare method.” I took all that sitcom television has taught me in the last 35 years and used a little reverse psychology. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that in America, we dads are viewed as bench warmers on the parenting team. Turn on any family sitcom and you’ll see what I mean. Mom generally has her act together. She’s organized, handles the kids and essentially is responsible for the parenting. Dad, when he’s not at work, scratching himself or watching football, mows the lawn and fixes the sink. Cross those lines and you’ve got a disaster on your hands. Time and time again this is a formula for cinematic success. Put dad in control of the kids and hilarity ensues.
I admit, in my line of work, I have seen many examples where art truly does imitate life. Still, I know there are plenty of good dads out there and many of them probably are as annoyed with the stereotype as I am. Why not tap into that sentiment? So instead of inviting dads to an engaging, informative and educational discussions on the four planes of development or the value of practical life, I issued a challenge. In no uncertain terms I threw down the gauntlet and said “don’t be that dad.” (If you’d like to see the actual email I sent, click here).
A couple weeks later, 35 dads showed up to our workshop. The discussions were fantastic. The workshop lasted more than 2 hours and I certainly wasn’t forcing anyone to stay that night. In fact, the next day I heard from a few moms who said that their husbands had trouble getting to sleep because they wanted to stay up and talk Montessori! Before the workshop ended, I asked everyone why they showed up in the first place. A few dads said (half) jokingly “My wife made me.” Then one dad, who had been quiet for most of the evening said “You challenged us. You challenged everyone in this room.” The rest of the dads nodded their heads.
Will this work for the dads at your school? Maybe, but the one thing I learned is that it’s all in the delivery. If you choose the right words, anything is possible.