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A WATERSHED YEAR

 


Tim Seldin, President, The Montessori Foundation
December 31, 2013

 

Over the last year I believe that the Montessori movement has reached a watershed, a metaphor to the point in terrain where water flowing downhill begins to flow in a different direction than at the lower points that were climbed to reach that critical spot. We are hopeful that we have reached a point that will lead to greater understanding and collaboration among the many Montessori organizations around the world.

 

On July 31, 2013, the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) opened its first International Montessori Congress to be held in the United States in many years. Many things made the event remarkable. The venue was the lovely city of Portland, Oregon. The program was masterfully organized. But, for many of us, the essential aspect of the celebration was that it truly welcomed, and was supported by, a number of other Montessori organizations not affiliated with AMI, including the American Montessori Society (AMS), the International Montessori Council (IMC), Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI), the Montessori Foundation (MF), the Montessori Australia Foundation (MAF), Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand (MANZ), and the Trust For Learning: the new foundation that convened the two-year-old Montessori Leaders Collaborative (MLC) in the USA.

 

The Montessori Leaders Collaborative (MLC) is made up of a group of national education leaders and advocates who convene regularly in order to create strategies for increasing access to this rich, time-tested and replicable model of developmentally appropriate education. MLC members share an ambitious vision for re-imagining education to meet the needs of our children, through the implementation of high-quality Montessori.

 

It is important to note that the Montessori Leaders Collaborative began as an informal network of Montessori leaders of AMI, AMS, IMC, MEPI, MF, NAMTA, several other AMI-affiliated groups, and MACTE. Over the course of two years of hard work at brilliantly facilitated in-depth meetings and conference calls, friendships have been formed and joint initiatives begun. During the Congress the MLC members formalized our commitment to continue to seek opportunities to work together whenever possible to promote Montessori with a united voice. This was an important milestone.

 

While limited to Montessori in the United States, the Montessori Leaders Collaborative offers real hope that the Montessori community may be on the right path to respond more effectively to the need for educational reform in the US, and may serve as a model for Montessori in other countries as well. It is important to note that the MLC is not a new membership organization; it is an effective forum for collaboration. Some promising initiatives have begun, including a collaborative Montessori research project, a census of Montessori schools in the US, and a joint effort to strengthen advocacy for Montessori at the state level.

 

The search for ways to work together within the Montessori community is not new. I have been part of a number of efforts to build enduring collaborations that were fueled by good will but ultimately faded because of limited resources, time, and no clear sense of what could be done together or how to begin.

 

In the late 1970s, as an AMS board member, I represented the society in a series of meetings with AMI. In the mid-1990s, an informal Montessori Leadership Council, made up of representatives of AMS, AMI, the Montessori Foundation, NAMTA, and Nienhuis met twice a year and even made a joint proposal to the US Department of Education for a joint Montessori-Head Start initiative. The process took a step forward in 2007 with the centennial of the opening of the first children’s house in Rome. AMI and AMS decided to send representatives to formally attend one another’s celebrations. After decades of coolness toward each other, leaders of each organization shared the same stage.

 

At the local and state/provincial levels, we have long seen fairly informal organizations of Montessori educators’ schools. Over the years, some have waxed and waned according to the time and energy of the current leaders, but many have endured and show signs of growing more organized and increasingly effective. It is my personal belief that the most important work in the years ahead will come at the state/provincial level, where Montessorians will have the need and opportunity to work together. The teacher-education and school-certification organizations like AMI, AMS, IMC , MEPI, et. al. will continue to play vital roles, but the critical need is to reframe our way of thinking from loyalty to one branch of the Montessori community to the whole, at least in those areas where the common good is best served by cooperation, not competition.

 

The International Montessori Council (IMC) was formed in 1998 by the Montessori Foundation, in part to encourage Montessori teachers and schools to look beyond the different ways in which they understand and implement Dr. Montessori’s work, to form grassroots collaborations to expand awareness of, and interest in, Montessori education and, thereby, build greater enrollment and stronger schools. Our primary mission is to be a source of affordable help, service, and support to Montessori schools worldwide.

 

A number of countries have developed umbrella national organizations, including New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and Australia. A challenge that each faces is to find ways to work together under an umbrella that supposedly represents them all without disempowering one or more segments of the national community. Another is to reach consensus on what needs to be done, who will accomplish it, and how will it be funded.

 

There is no one answer, but here in the United States, the consensus seems to be that while the organizations are independent, we will seek ways to work together where it serves the common good: pursuing advocacy; encouraging and providing assistance to non-aligned state and local organizations; exploring initiatives to promote interest and understanding of Montessori; conducting research; and fully implementing Montessori programs in the public sector.

 

2013 was a watershed year for friends of Montessori worldwide.

Last Updated (Tuesday, 31 December 2013 12:06)

 

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