Montessori Madmen

Advocating Montessori

We're an impatient, ragtag group of dads and advocates from around the world, united by a common zeal to bring the Montessori method to millions more. Our mission is simple: to advocate for Montessori education so that one day it's not called Montessori school; it's just called school.

Growing Montessori in Tanzania

The Madmen have been inspired by the work of Jacqueline Mwombeki of Tanzania. She has taken it upon herself to start a movement in Tanzania and bring awareness of Montessori to her country. We recently asked her to write a guest blog so that others around the world could likewise be inspired by her efforts. Her is her letter/blog:

Dear Mr. Eissler

My name is Jacqueline Mwombeki. I am from Tanzania, living on the shores of Lake Victoria, in the little town of Bukoba.
I am a Montessori diploma holder (AMI) and I run a small Teachers Training College.

I wanted to write to you to tell you how much grateful I am. I just happened to fall in love with your book “Montessori Madness”. What a book! So convincing! And the video cartoon; Oh my God!

For those, like me, who dream to see Montessori taking over globally it is a great support in promoting our faith. Your work comes to me at a time when our roads cross each other. It’s amazing coincidence.

I have been teaching for not less than 16 years, expecting the parents of Montessori children to come forward as you do, to be the ambassadors of the only scientific and non-violent education method ever invented. I thought they would promote it in view to have it adopted at national level.

But Tanzania is not America… As time passed, I came to realize that those parents, here, are too few to become a task force, although all of them appreciate greatly what their children have become.

I started thinking that I was wrong to wait for them. The responsibility to raise the Montessori flag lies in the hands of the teachers: They have been lectured at length, they have understood the whole concept, they have followed the methodology and are daily convinced of its effectiveness.

Then I came with the idea to put them on the move by going public. With a small group of enthusiastic freshly made teachers from our TTC, we broadcasted lectures, we organized seminars and called meetings to create public awareness. We started this last year but only into our region because our funds are limited (we live on donations). The outcome was surprisingly good! It immediately created a sort of revolution on how parents should educate their offspring spiritually and mentally, their attitudes towards their children, etc.

Now, here and there, lots of people talk positively about the method. It has reached the ears of officials and politicians. That encourages us to push it forward, to take it even further, at government level. We managed to distribute your book to the Ministry of Education in Tanzania. The minister himself has recently invited us to meet him on the issue. Let us see what will come next...

To organize this work we have formed a small NGO called MPC (Montessori Promotion Centre). We trace the few genuine Montessorians existing in the country to mobilize them. We are translating the Montessori Syllabus (for the 3 to 6) into Kiswahili and are designing lesson plans accordingly. We have modeled a Montessori classroom adapted to the poor village conditions. We travel to other schools to invite the management to come and sit, even half an hour, in our kindergarten and witness “the light in their eyes” as you say.

You are absolutely right: The education system we inherit really “stinks”. And even more when it is imported by third world countries without any cultural consideration. Most people are not aware that there are alternatives like the Montessori system. When we talk to them they make us feel guilty: “Does that exist? Can that be true? If you knew about it, why did you remain silent all this time?” So, for that reason, we won’t stop opening the gates! Thank you for having opened to us your personal life and your experience with Montessori. We share the same feelings and witness the same wonders every single day.

Yours, very cordially, praying God to bless you always, Jacqueline Mwombeki

The Montessori Madmen site has all sorts of links to articles, videos, books, etc. for promoting Montessori awareness. Please use these resources! Contact us if there is any way we can help assist your Montessori advocacy efforts anywhere in the world.

-The Madmen

Education has a future.

A guest post by Filmmakers Vina Kay and Jan Selby

Education has a future.

We believe this despite all the news of the failures of our schools, our teachers, and our children. But for education’s future to become fully realized, all of us are going to have to change how we think about schools and learning and what matters for children to develop and grow.

We are two Montessori parents who have embarked on a project of telling the story of what is possible in education. Our lens is Montessori education, a method that is over 100 years old and shown to work in diverse communities throughout the world.

But more children could be benefitting from the Montessori approach, and we believe that our documentary film, Building the Pink Tower (working title), can help open up that possibility for all children.

We need your help to change the conversation about education on a national level.

If we can raise enough money this summer, we are ready to begin filming in earnest in schools in the fall. Already, we have raised enough to create our website and the beautiful trailer to spread the word about the project. We have spent countless hours digging into the research necessary to tell this story well.

Our next major milestone is to attend to the International Montessori Congress in Portland, Oregon this summer, where we will film our first interviews with key experts in the areas of brain research and Montessori education.

Can you help us keep the momentum building? If we raise $100,000 by fall 2013, we will be able to kick-off a year of filming in multi-age Montessori classrooms in all types of schools. We will capture the unique experience of self-directed learning, guided by specially-trained Montessori teachers, and that creates an unparalleled foundation for a lifelong passion for learning and creative problem solving. We will artistically reveal the transformative experience of being part of a classroom community that embraces individuality and cultural heritage. We will show how the future of education can be influenced by the choices we make today in the environments we create for our children.

If we do not meet our next financial goal, we will begin filming anyway, with the same focus on high quality and beautiful storytelling. However, it will take much longer to complete the film and bring our vision to life. To stay on schedule to complete our film by 2015, we need to raise $300,000 in total, over the next 18 to 24 months.

We are committed to making this film. We know that many people around the world share our desire to tell this important story with the same attention to the aesthetic and beauty that Montessori environments offer children every day. Our film project will involve talented cinematographers, artful storytelling, the voices of experts and education leaders, and children doing the work of growing and learning for our future. It will take building blocks, small and large, and all of you to help make this project possible.

Please visit our website today to make a tax-deductible contribution. Like us on Facebook and we will keep you posted on our progress. Join us in doing all we can to be sure education has a future and that children everywhere have the opportunity to experience the magic of Montessori learning.

Thank you for your help,

Vina Kay and Jan Selby

Co-Producers and Co-Directors www.buildingthepinktower.org

The Map, The Brain

A guest post by Laureen Golden, co-creator of The Map

Exploring “The Map”

Have you had a chance to explore "The Map" of the Montessori movement? Approaching this dynamic and interactive tool is a journey of discovery. What is it? How many ways can it be used? What possibilities does it hold? Although the answers to these questions are probably limitless, here are some personal discoveries/reflections...

Orienting

Inundated with work in our own spheres, it is all too easy to miss the early exponential growth of the Montessori movement that is occurring all around us. The Map, at its most basic level, visually frames the many monumental initiatives, giving us a chance to see ourselves in context of our community, and witness our evolution. Building a Public Repository of Our Collective Knowledge Montessorians committed to children and working tirelessly for change is nothing new, but the unprecedented collaborative commitment of our community is. The "crowdsourcing" technique of The Map empowers us to build a public repository of our collective knowledge, that we can continue to organize and develop.

Engaging Our Social Brain

The Map enables our our entire community to "be on the same page" -- literally! This shared focus activates our social brain to become alert and attentive. Recognizing our interrelationship with others can help us (1) more effectively communicate visions for what is possible, (2) cultivate connections with others with similar passions/interest, (3) share resources/information which will shorten our learning curves, and (4) coordinate efforts that will magnify the voice and presence of Montessori in education dialogues.

Generating Purposeful and Unified Action

If the unprecedented collaborative commitment for cooperation signals a new ability for our community to act as a unified organism, might The Map be a metaphoric brain? Perhaps this is a stretch, but worthy of consideration, so we don't overlook a potential capacity. Similar to a brain, The Map brings information acquired by our various parts, to be stored in a central location. Accessible for all to view, this new knowledge will build on, and be shaped by, what each of us knows. Once integrated with our current needs and past memories, The Map endows us with the ability to plan, coordinate, and execute purposeful and unified action.

 Recording the findings/reflections of these efforts back into the map, where they can be further processed, integrated, and acted upon by increasingly more individuals, makes the Montessori- community-as-an-organism capable of more rapid learning and ever greater and more refined movement.

......................................

Perhaps the Map as a metaphoric brain is an overly simplified idea, but concepts about brain development may still offer guidance for our collective growth:

If you don't use it, you'll lose it: The potential of The Map will only be realized if we commit to making it purposeful and meaningful. If we do not constantly input, refer to, and act upon information in this repository, The Map will fade into obscurity.

Development depends on activity: Our motive for action is great! The world desperately needs an alternative vision for our children and our future. Dr. Montessori provided such a vision, as well as a roadmap for how to get there! But, since Montessori education currently reaches only about 2% of the population, there is much work to be done. The more we get involved and engage with others, the stronger our network of relationships will grow, and the more effective and refined our efforts will become.

The beginning years are foundational: Recognizing that "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree", Montessorians invest much time preparing the environment for a child's optimal development. Similarly, it is essential that we intentionally establish communication/decision- making/governance structures that foster curiosity, engagement, respect, lifelong "fearless learning" and group flow.

Connections matter: The development of The Map will be greatly influenced by how many people know about it, and link together through it. But, just as the number of neurons are not as important as how they are connected, the way in which we reach out to, and work with, one another, will greatly influence our collective intelligence.**

...........................................

Orienting, building, engaging, generating -- what other possibilities do you discover when you explore The Map?

Teachers visiting OTHER schools? Yes!

A guest post by Amy Rolan

Every good teacher knows that continuing to be open to change is key to a fresh and happy classroom. However, once you’ve completed your Montessori training the conventional options are limited and expensive for enriching your education. But don’t let that stop you! At our school we set aside at least one or two days per school year to do ‘visits’ to other Montessori Schools. If you would like to try it too just follow these steps:

  • Research Montessori schools online. Find a school that draws you in with a specific strength, for example, a natural playscape just like the one you have been wanting! It's best if the school is at least sixty miles away so they don’t consider you competition.

  • Call the director of that school and flatter him/her by telling what you admire about their school. Make sure they know you are a real Montessori but don’t brag about how big or great you are. Then ask if you could schedule a visit for a tour and perhaps to observe for a while.

  • Try to travel the day before your visit so you can have a nice dinner and hotel stay with your teacher friends. When you arrive at the school ask permission to take pictures that don’t include children as this is much faster and effective than taking notes. Many schools will also be happy to give you paper copies of their calendars, newsletters and so forth.

  • Don’t overstay and be sure to send a thank you.

Yes, we have visited schools that it turns out we don’t like but there are lessons in that too. We have visited many amazing schools in surrounding states and made many friends this way. Hope it works for you too!

June Newsletter

June Newsletter

By MMM Founding Member Trevor Eissler

3 Things! I ask you, reader of the June Montessori MadMen newsletter, to do three things.

  1. Videotape yourself giving a Montessori Elevator Speech. You have 30 days until the June 30th deadline. No fancy production, acting, or special effects needed. Just you, a smartphone camera, and your 60-seconds-or-less answer to the question, “What is Montessori?” Make it personal and make it unique. What would YOU say to fire-up the interest of a stranger who asked you that question? Would you give them the encyclopedia definition? Would you paint a verbal picture? Would you tell them a story? Would you ask them a question? Would you throw up your hands and walk away?
  2. Take a look at the initial, still-growing version of The Map of the Montessori movement. Laureen Golden and Rita Stull approached me with the idea of a map recently. We’ve made an initial attempt to map out who is doing what so that people can see how the various pieces of the Montessori movement fit together and can more efficiently make connections. Explore The Map (use + and - next to the tabs in order to drill down to deeper layers of info) and then send edits, additions, and suggestions to me at trevor@montessorimadness.com (mailto:trevor@montessorimadness.com) . We need your help to improve it. Inevitably (and embarrassingly) we’ve overlooked some key parts. Please tell us what those are!
  3. Contact us to add your school to the Advertising Clusters page. We want schools in your region to try teaming up to collaboratively purchase advertising. Dip your school’s “toe” in the water by joining with several other schools in your area to purchase a Montessori billboard, Facebook ad, newspaper ad, etc. But I’m getting ahead of myself: just have us put your school’s name on the list for now. Easy.

Building a Dads Community John Badalament will be doing a webinar with AMS on Tuesday, June 11th 2013, 7-‐8:30pm (ET) called "Building A Dad Community In Your School" www.moderndads.net (http://www.moderndads.net/) ; sign-up here: http://ams.networkats.com/members_online/registration/register.asp?mt=MTWEB53&af=AMS


MadMan Daniel Petter-Lipstein Storms New York City!

Montessori MadMan Daniel Petter-Lipstein speaking at the “BLK SHP Voices: Education” event - http://youtu.be/CYJL8_gop18

A couple of interesting articles for your entertainment

http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-schools-require-children-to-learn-cursive/the-benefits-of-cursive-go-beyond-writing

http://www.slate.com/articles/newsandpolitics/science/2013/05/cheatingscandalsandparentrebellionshighstakesschooltestingisdoomed.single.html


Have feedback you'd like to share with the Montessori Madmen? Please drop us a line.

And be sure to follow us on FB (https://www.facebook.com/montessorimadmen) and TW (https://twitter.com/montessorimad)