Last month, I had the enormous pleasure of attending the American Montessori Society’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. As you know, I was extremely excited about the trip,
so I’m happy to report that it was as amazing as I’d hoped it would be. Here are some of the highlights I wanted to share:
I love seeing the Peace Corner display assembled at the conference. The display has different teachers’ ideas about how to bring Peace Education into the classroom, whether it be through books or items on a shelf. I got three new ideas this year–the Peace Ring, the Silence Meditation basket and the following book suggestion:
Sitting Still Like a Frog, which is book and guided meditation CD for children, was available for sale at the conference. Unfortunately, I didn’t grab my copy swiftly enough–they sold out too quickly!
The Exhibit Hall is, of course, a perennial conference favorite. I went in with greedy eyes and came out with a few goodies (more on my sticky fingers later), but I also got to see a lovely demonstration with these Montessori-themed Great Lesson matryoshka dolls. I took plenty of photos to show you the progression of the lesson. The largest doll represents the universe and each successively smaller doll zooming in on our “place in space,” with the smallest matryoshka doll being the individual. It’s a marvelous lesson and a touching demonstration.
Among all the magnificent workshops and keynote speakers, I have to say my favorite–and the one that made the deepest impression–was Bryan Stevenson. He was the Nancy McCormick Rambusch lecturer for this year, which is to say that he was the headliner, and they’re usually pretty fantastic. Still, I went into his speech completely blind and I’m glad I did. (It’s actually made me wonder if it’s not better to experience keynote speakers this way, rather than research them in advance. But that’s a discussion for another time.)
For those unfamiliar, Bryan Stevenson is the lawyer who began the Equal Justice Initiative
, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system (About EJI
). He is also the author of Just Mercy,
a memoir of his life as a lawyer and the experiences that led him to speak out against injustice. I was so moved by his speech that, after I returned home, I looked up Stevenson’s TED Talk. I have to admit–it did not have one-tenth of the impact of seeing him in person, but I’m including it here anyway.
One of the fun things about the AMS Conferences is that they make an effort to include the local Montessori schools. We don’t live anywhere there’s ever likely to be a conference, but I admit I do
fantasize about what I would do if our school were chosen. Before the conference begins, AMS offers school tours. Sadly, this year we were not able to participate in any school tours. However! Here are a few of the art projects displayed in the meeting rooms at the conference. I particularly love the Montessori continent map, which was done with children’s thumbprints!
I mentioned the Exhibit Hall, right? Yeah, you knew we weren’t going to get through this post without at least one more Exhibit Hall mention. Anyway, I lost track of how many times I visited while I was there, but here’s a pretty picture of my acquisitions:
The AMS Conference is a magical, inspirational, wonderful thing. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. I feel that I learn so much each time I go, but more than that, I gain an enormous amount of inspiration and excitement for teaching. It’s not an event to be missed.