I am ridiculously excited about attending the American Montessori Society Conference this March. Okay, if I’m being completely honest, I’m ridiculously excited every year I get to attend. AMS holds conferences for Montessori teachers across the U.S. (nay, the world) each March, but I have not always been privileged enough to attend. Money has been a factor, both in terms of the cost of attending the conference and the expense of travel. Perhaps that’s why I so value the opportunity to go.
For me, there are five major benefits to attending the AMS Annual Conference. At least, I’m boiling them down to four. Each has its own compliment of sub-benefits, I’m sure, but bear with me.
- Meeting Other Montessori Teachers: It’s thrilling to be in a crowd of strangers tossing around words like “normalization” or talking about insets. (And, it’s fun to see male Montessori teachers. They exist! They’re not just myth and legend!) Meeting these other Montessorians gives us a chance to learn how other Montessori classrooms work, to learn new tricks and tools of the trade, and to share our own knowledge (if we’re brave enough to do so).
- The Workshops: Being at the AMS Conference reminds me that teaching is a creative endeavor. Topics run the gamut from Beyond Grace & Courtesy: Elementary Practical Life to Making Math Facts Memorable to Beatrix Potter and Ecological Literacy. I’m inspired just looking at the workshop titles.
- Bonding with my fellow teachers: One of the things I love doing after each workshop (or day of workshops) is share experiences with the teachers on my staff. This is really invaluable. I went to a training over the summer by myself and I really missed the exchange of information that comes with sharing a conference experience. We swap stories, rehash the day, and share new things that we’ve learned. It all helps us to make the most of our AMS experience–and to grow as individual teachers and a cohesive staff.
- Traveling: Initially, I felt guilty because I loved the traveling part of conferences so much. Lately, however, I’ve come to think of it as part of my continuing education. With each new city I visit, I’m expanding my knowledge of the world. Last year’s conference was in Philadelphia. While we were there, my fellow teachers and I saw the Liberty Bell. One of my first conferences was in New York City. During that trip, we were able to participate in a tour at a Montessori school in Princeton, New Jersey. I’ve been to New Orleans and San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. I firmly believe that each trip has made me a better teacher in some way.
- The Exhibit Hall: I’m not going to lie. I light up like a kid in a candy store when I think of the Exhibit Hall at an AMS Conference. This is where I get to see what kinds of amazing Montessori material is available, new, old and in-between. Sometimes it’s just that I’ve been wanting to see something in person before I buy it. Sometimes seeing it in person is just the incentive I needed to go ahead and make the purchase. And sometimes it’s just about window shopping. Whatever it’s about, it’s definitely a highlight of the trip. I make several trips while I’m there. Several.
I want to finish this post with a few pictures from the last conference. Every year, AMS asks Montessori schools local to the host city to bring some work to display at the conference. Here is some from the Philadelphia area Montessori schools:
I’ll be back with more after this year’s conference in Chicago!