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Montessori… Madness? You Bet!

August, 2009
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  What do Montessori, flying a plane and marketing have in common? Probably nothing; but then again, maybe everything.

  The American Marketing Association Board of Directors accepted as an official definition of marketing "the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
  Most people don’t really think much about marketing. Most people just live with it and are targeted by it. However, there are those consumers who care about what they buy, be it products or services, and see marketing as an activity that is unfortunately too often associated to a certain degree with cheating and exploitation. Advertising and marketing are seen and used by many as the means to create needs so that businesses and companies may sell services or products that meet those needs. Advertising and marketing often rely on less than truthful statements to achieve their goals. And what is offered is not always “value” at all, be it for customers, clients, partners, or society at large. Honest marketing should offer value, but most marketing fails to deliver on that promise or fulfill that mission… So, the question will pop up in a parent’s mind when looking for a school for their child:
"Is it any different when a school advertises its services?”montessori-mad-1
  Every school wants to come across to parents as providing top quality services and will certainly speak of itself highly. The message sent across must invariably be: “Pick us; this is the best school you can choose for your child!”
  This said, it is only natural that parents may be somewhat suspicious when taking a tour of a school and hearing the principal, director or whoever is in charge of PR tell them about all the advantages of their school… They may take it with a grain of salt.
  Schools also know, like restaurants and most every business, that a happy customer is the best advertising they can get! A happy parent will bring along other parents, more than open houses or most any other marketing effort. Why? Because parents are not trying to sell the school, but simply voicing, as consumers, what they think of the environment and the services provided.
  Montessori schools praise the Montessori approach as truly unique in meeting the needs of children. How will visiting parents react to that? Will they ask themselves, “Is Montessori really that different? Does it really make a difference for my child if I choose Montessori?”
  It is my belief that Montessori can benefit only from cooperation, and competition will always translate itself into loss. Although Montessori is not a franchise and not all schools are created equal, it is a fact that worldwide there aren’t enough Montessori schools, leads, guides, directresses, directors, and administrative personnel to meet the needs of all the families and children who would like to side with and benefit from Montessori.
  So, how do Montessori schools, as a global family and as a movement promote themselves and Montessori education?
  Parents being Montessori schools’ best allies in promoting Montessori, meet Trevor Eissler, a Montessori parent who recently published a book that is worth reading, buying in bulk, and handing out to parents!
  The book is called “Montessori Madness! A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education.” This is not a technical book. This is not an academic or philosophical treatise either. Trevor Eissler is not Montessori trained, and he does not work in a classroom with children, so he is not trying to sell any particular school. He is a pilot and flies planes. What Trevor does is tell other parents why Montessori is the right choice for children.
  Trevor has divided the book into some 23 chapters, and goes over all the basics in Montessori.
  Most parents concerned with their children’s well being, and having recognized that education nowadays is a grinding machine (chapter 3 is titled “The Factory Model of Education”) will probably consider homeschooling their children (that’s chapter 2, “Should We Homeschool?”). And on it goes… montessori-mad-31
  This is a pearl of a book, and Trevor Eissler has created a website for it at http://www.montessorimadness.com. The book is also available from Amazon.com, but if you run a school and buy directly from Trevor, you get a discount. If parents order from his website, and enter your school name as a referrer, Trevor pays you a 50% commission. Talk about sharing and building up community. Think fundraising too, but with minimal effort.
  Here is, with Trevor’s permission, an excerpt of the first chapter of the book:
  "I pooped in my pants in third grade.
  I was eight years old. I remember sitting at my desk toward the back of one of the rows. It was a typical classroom. A chalkboard stretched across the front wall; an American flag hung beside the door; an imposing teacher’s desk squatted near the chalkboard. I can still picture the large chart on the wall used to keep track of each student’s math progress. Each name had a number of stars next to it that corresponded to the number of multiplication tables the student had memorized. A few wall-posters exhorted the class to do this or that—they demanded: “Read!” or “Math is fun!” My teacher, short-tempered and humorless, stood in front of the class and fired questions at us. She called on one student here, another there. I was probably avoiding eye contact with her as usual, hoping she wouldn’t call on me. At some point I realized I had to go to the bathroom. No problem. I knew we’d take a scheduled bathroom break soon. But with growing dread, it dawned on me that I might not make it until then. The feeling steadily became unbearable.
  I squirmed in my chair, trying frantically to pick from among three horribly embarrassing choices. Do I interrupt the teacher and beg, within earshot of a room full of my third-grade peers, to go to the bathroom? Mortifying. Do I go in my pants? Mortifying and disgusting. Do I run out the door and down the hall to the bathroom? Disaster. I feared that making a run for it would fire up the ultimate wrath of the teacher. I had certainly never seen another student leave the room without permission; students were punished for merely standing up without permission. Flush with embarrassment, the only thing I ran out of was time. Nature made the decision for me.
  I spent the rest of the school day closely shadowing the unpopular kid who sat in front of me, so others might think the stench was coming from him and not from me. I followed him to lunch and sat beside him. I followed him to recess. I followed him around the playground. I followed him to the bus. Every time some kid joked and held his nose, I’d join in the fun, make faces, and point at the kid in front. Fortunately for my third-grade social standing, my friends fell for the trick. I chalked up the entire incident to bad luck, bad timing, and oh-so-clever cunning.
  Years later, as I reevaluate the events of that day, I come to different conclusions. Cruelty, fear, tearing others down, lack of responsibility, lack of self-confidence: these qualities are not inevitable rite-of-passage characteristics of children. These qualities are taught—every day, in every classroom, in every state in the country. On the smiley faced lunchbox-and-backpack surface, my third grade class was run perfectly. All of the children stayed in their seats, they raised their hands before speaking, and there were no disruptions. But under the surface, much more was being taught. I, a straight “A” student, was so fearful of the teacher and of being embarrassed in front of peers that I was powerless to make a decision. I was so conditioned to get the teacher’s permission, even regarding my own bodily functions, that I was virtually paralyzed. The only way to regain my pride, as I felt myself slip into third-grade ignominy, was to claw at my neighbor, dragging him down instead. Ouch.
  This is madness. What are we really teaching our children?"
  Hooked yet?
  This is what can be described as honest marketing: Trevor Eissler offers Montessori real value to Montessori customers and clients, partners, and society at large — parents will feel the connection, and listen with true empathy!
  Buy the book and it’s like you are hiring a gifted speaker! You won’t regret it, I promise you!
 
Series on Montessori education contributed by Mammolina Children’s Home Montessori Kindergarten
Photos courtesy Mammolina Children’s Home Montessori Kindergarten
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