LMS Attends the Annual Conference of the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts
By Biff Maier, Director of Faculty & Curriculum Development
Last weekend some of our teachers and administrators joined 450 other Montessori folks at the annual conference of the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts, a regional organization of Montessori schools. Dean College turned over their Campus Center to us for a day of professional development. The keynote speaker for the event was clinical psychologist Sarah Ward, Co-Director of Cognitive Connections, where she specializes in the assessment and treatment of executive function deficits. Sarah captivated her audience with anecdotes. We all gained a deeper appreciation of the challenges that so many of our children face, and we carried away strategies that will help.
Ms. Ward explained that many planning problems are caused by the inability to visualize success and the failure to envision an “amount” of time. She urged us to help children by, for example, drawing time spans on clocks to understand the “sweep of time” for a task and to give them visuals of what a finished report or project might look like. She suggested photographing a child when she is truly “ready” for school so that the photo can be used as a reference for readiness in the future. The same can be done to create a reference for an “organized shelf,” or a “clean” bedroom!
Following the keynote were a lineup of workshops. LMS Upper Elementary teachers, Seth Johnson and Laini Szostkowski collaborated with me to present the rationale and strategies we are using to help students with self-regulation in our classrooms. We drew on the work of several scholars in this field to offer a model that defines our goal of self-regulation as “the planful, flexible pursuit of goals that promotes individual growth and free and full participation of everyone in the life of the community, including having a say in the decisions that affect them.” We explored how individuals build themselves in the context of their interactions in a conscious community. We think this is a rich and important topic for the Montessori community, and we hope to present it again at the American Montessori Society national conference in 2015.
During the second set of workshops, Julia Modigliani, our literacy specialist, joined nine learning specialists and others from area Montessori schools for a roundtable discussion and critique of various program models being used. Meanwhile, Seth and I learned about East Hill Farm School, a working farm that welcomes groups of students for a down-and-dirty farming experience. Aline attended a workshop about small school fundraising.
The annual MSM conference is an important time for us to meet and think with our colleagues from other Montessori schools in New England. It is also an opportunity to visit an exhibit area to see new products that have been developed by Montessori-oriented venders.