On Friday, September 18, 2009, Dr. Steve Hughes inspired hundreds of Montessori parents and professionals at the Auckland University Campus with a presentation he calls Good At Doing Things.
Dr. Hughes began by sharing the simple story of how he first heard about Montessori, in passing, from a friend over dinner. This simple story, complete with slides, engaged everyone in the audience from first time parents seeking to learn more about this Montessori-thing, to professionals with decades of expertise, because everyone has a similar story about being introduced to Montessori or sharing it with others. Stories are a powerful tool that Dr. Hughes utilized here to engage the entire audience, which is crucial for maximum effect as a public speaker, before he shared more specific scientific information. His story, and the triggered personal memories, created an emotional context that helps focus a listener’s attention and gives the extra incentive to stick with academic material that may become challenging.
Dr. Hughes however, did not present challenging academic material. Instead he presented solid scientific evidence in a clear and direct way that was comprehensible for everyone. As anyone who has ever attempted to describe the Montessori Method can attest, it is very difficult to condense complex ideas into digestible bits, but this is exactly what Dr. Hughes managed with a seemingly effortless charm and humor.
Dr. Montessori described “Normalization” a century ago, at the birth of the field of psychology and before the invention of MRI and brain imaging technologies, and Dr Hughes, modern neuropsychologist would call this phenomenon “mature executive function”.
There was a palpable buzz of energy in the room as the lecture let out, a shared feeling that anything is possible. As wonderful as the screencast is, the internet is as yet incapable of communicating the electricity that was in the air as we poured out to our cars.