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Chris Brown’s Notes From the AMS Conference in Washington DC (March 2008):

Must confess that these AMS conferences seem to get better organized every year. The hotel easily accommodated the number of participants and was easy to get to, straight off the Metro, so although we stayed in a downtown hotel (the one that ex-Gov. Spitzer frequented, it seems!) we had no trouble getting to and from all the sessions.

The keynote speakers were truly inspiring…Marian Wright Edelman from the Children’s Defense Fund and Jane Goodall, of the gorilla research fame…and the facility they spoke in was excellent. I am sure there are well-written accounts of their speeches on the AMS website. All sites for the workshops and lectures were large enough to accommodate all comers and the lectures and workshops fitted my needs very well, as a slightly stressed-out head of school that was looking for a return to the core of why I am still doing this Montessori teaching. There were plenty of different choices around that need, and the first one I picked was “The Courage To Teach” given by Merrie B King. This was a full-day, 2-part one, that was well worth the time commitment. It is based on a book by Parker Palmer, of the same title, and they also have a website (www.couragerenewal.com). I have so many images that she created for me to hold onto when I am feeling adrift and I really feel the workshop gave me the space and opportunity to refocus on the important parts of my job and how to bring them to the fore amidst the chaos (their word was “blizzard) of a busy life. This was not recorded and I would advise any teacher who has the opportunity to attend one of these workshops to take advantage of it. I have the book if anyone would like to check it out….I’ll bring it to the next NHMA meeting.

The other major help I got from this conference was from listening to Catherine McTamaney talk. She did a workshop on how to build better learning faculties (i.e. how to improve dealings between Montessori teachers and staff). She said she could have called the talk “Montessori for Adults”, as her premise is that we all tend to try very hard in our dealings with children but tend to be a lot less “Montessori” with each other. She is the woman who wrote “The Tao of Montessori” which sits on my night table, and she is a very good speaker. She is very bright, funny, well-rehearsed but spontaneous as well, and obviously deeply committed to teaching and to the core of Montessori. There was an enormous amount if useable ideas in the lecture, so I sat back and tried to just take it all in. I was therefore pretty annoyed that the tape of her lecture did not record well and was therefore unavailable on a CD at the end of the conference! If you get the chance to hear her speak, take it. She was the speaker at the Teacher’s breakfast meeting as well, which was also not recorded!! She needs to write another book. Her power points are posted on the AMS website, if you find that kind of thing helpful.

Last one I took notes on was Marlene Baron, talking about one of her favorite subjects, teaching children’s literature. At least that was where she started, but she likes to just have “conversations” in her lectures, which means she just goes wherever her thought process takes her! She is very funny, a great speaker and she really makes you think every time you hear her. I love to listen to her and sign up for her stuff anytime she’s speaking. Here’s what I wrote in my notes:
“ As ever, she was funny and informative and makes you want to do nothing except chat with your kids, read to them 3 times a day with fabulous quality children’s literature and fairy tales/nursery rhymes, and write everything in front of them on endless pieces of paper”.

And of course, last but not least, the shopping was to die for, although a few of us did express a little disappointment in the fact that the vendors seem to be the same every year...the Mall of Montessori?? Great conference for me. Can’t wait until the next one.

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