Congress Dublin 2019

Dublin Congress report

October 11th and 12th more than 350 Montessori educators and administrators from nearly 30 countries joined together at Montessori Europe’s annual Congress to learn, share and network with one another.
Looking about the crowded ballroom during the Opening Ceremony, one participant commented, “You can already tell this is going to be a successful conference. What a great way for Montessori Europe to celebrate its 20th Anniversary!”. Co-hosting the event was  St. Nicholas Montessori Society of Ireland.
Keynote speakers included Nobel Peace Nominee Scilla Elworthy, who gave a moving presentation on her PeaceDirect organization’s efforts to encourage a peaceful dialogue among people and nations. Dom Mark Patrick Hederman, OSB, former Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, teacher and headmaster of the school at Glenstal, Ireland  shared an interesting history of Dr. Maria Montessori and her influence on education in Ireland and the impact of her work on the Poet Yeats. Carla Foster, AMI Trainer in both the USA and Norway, addressed Truth and Justice as the Fabric of Social Life Interesting and challenging workshops opened the doors for new knowledge in an inviting environment.
And of course, there were interesting and informative displays by exhibitors and sponsors such as My Montessori Child ,Henry & Henrietta HeartbeatMontessoriStiftung BerlinMontessori games and preferred partners  Nienhuis and MCI. Exhibitors included Duhovka and Waterpark.
The evening event raised a real celebratory spirit with lively Celtic musicians and dancing. Many of us joined the dancers and realized that it may look easy but in fact requires an athletic skill.

This year’s Congress was wonderful but wait till you learn about what Montessori Europe has planned for 2021.
The key note presentations were well complimented by the four focus group presentations which included a practical look at UN Sustainability Goals and their relevance to Montessori practice lead by Erika Somogyi from the US.  Closer look at Montessori practice was facilitated by the exploration of what Montessori has to offer to patients with dementia presented by Jennifer Brush, another contributor who travelled all the way from the US to share her expertise.  The Conversations Between Friends attracted a large number of early years practitioners who shared in their understanding of the key aspects which underpin Montessori education in the “Casa years”.  This conversation was led by Mina Walsh from Ireland, Vanessa Ficht from German and Barbara Isaacs from the UK.  Diana Dimitrov and Sven Burger shared their experiences of promoting Erdkinder principles to German families considering Montessori secondary education.
All participants had an opportunity to attend two workshops which stretched the capacity of the hotel which hosted the congress so expertly to full capacity. These sessions ranged from working with parents of the youngest children delivered by Simon Davies from Holland to exploring adult learning using digital technology by Jeremy Clarke from MCI in London. The topic of working with parents was also addressed by Judith Luman from Duhovka in Prague whilst Fabiola Neto and Saragh Ward from the St. Nicholas Centre in Dublin shared their research about play for children with ADHD.   Klaudija Velkova Manovska excited participants with opportunities to play with sticks, leaves and mud, promoting outdoor play and Jostein Skare and his colleagues from Norway excited the participants with their music workshop – demonstrating that with encouraging guidance we all have the capacity to make music. Three colleagues from South Africa, Susan van Niekerk, Heide van Staden and Ally Connelly gave us a glimpse of what is possible when the cultural ideas are developed across all three planes of development demonstrating the power of the spiral curriculum. Hannah Baynham from MCI shared her passion for working and learning from each other and uniting the Montessori community. Irish colleagues focused on the possibilities and impact of national policy on Montessori early years education in Ireland whilst Dutch colleagues Patrick Sins and Jaap de Brouwer presented the possibilities of research and its impact on Montessori education.  They also led the panel discussion that closed the congress with exploration of action research and its possibilities in enhancing Montessori practice.  They invited all participants to engage with research as means of demonstrating the benefits of Montessori education.  Their work in supporting the MERGe working group together in Beata Bednarczuk from Poland is much appreciated by the ME board.
As in previous years, participants had the opportunity to engage with the training programme delivered by our partner,  Montessori Movement UN which develops peace making skills of co-operation and the art of compromise and self direction.  The four key Montessori Europe  working groups also met and shared experiences;  they are planning to be more active during 2020 and give ME members opportunities to engage in their work more closely. 

The congress was a joyful vibrant meeting of committed Montessorians determined to demonstrate the value of Montessori education to children, their families and our wider communities.  Just wait till you learn about what Montessori Europe has planned for Prague in 2021!

Soon after the Congress was finished we asked for your opinion. 103 attendees participated in the survey.  We made a word cloud from the comments about what you like in the shape of the letter M.  The feedback will help us to improve all the things you did not like and the suggestions you gave have already inspired us and given us drive to move forward.
Most of attendees said there was nothing they disliked about the Congress.  Other said that apart from technical things such as room size for workshops, location (far from Dublin centre ) , there was not a lot vegan food options, heat and air  in the some rooms were not good, late diner, small coffee space, some wanted more opportunities to socialize and network. A couple were not inspired, a few wanted to choose between more workshops, several attendees missed school visits or lacked information about that. 
Our keynote speakers were differently seen, Scilla Elworty got highest score 4,04, Carla Foster  got 3 and our third speaker Mark Hederman got 3,6. All workshops got average score 4,01. Forums were also high rated with 4,2. Most of attendees were satisfied with the length of Congress and other pre-congress activities as well as with AGM.

Here are few critical comments and suggestions about  event.

“These are rather things to consider than things I disliked: -I would appreciate more references to the congress theme -how do the speeches, forums and workshops relate to that? -Sometimes it wasn’t clear who is the expected audience for speakers experienced professionals, or teachers rather new to Montessori. Things that have been changed from the past years and could be reconsidered 2-day format is very intensive….

Planes of development where not equally presented, people new to Montessori don’t get input on highest level .”

“I think there could be more companies that showed montessori materials. It is inspiring for teachers.”

“Not so many workshops of practical use. I wanted to DO more. Get more practical ideas to use everyday.”

“I consider AGM being  a rather formal event with duties given by the law.  Nevertheless I appreciated that space for comments was allowed and comments  were taken into consideration.”

“My suggestion is to integrate more collaboration and interaction into the  programme instead of having frontal lectures and forums. Maybe the idea of a world cafe or working forms where participants get to   know each other better by working on shared issues together”

“More  information during the year”

Here you will find a short photo impression of our congress in Dublin!

It is possible to download the presentations from our keynote speakers by activating the link below.

Scilla Elworthy: Empowering young people to be agents of social change Download Keynote here

Mark Patrick Hederman: Maria Montessori in Ireland View Keynote here