We have the great pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful human being, Aidan McCauley. He's also becoming an undeniable force in the Montessori world. As a founding member of the Montessori Madmen, Aidan has a passion and enthusiasm for getting things done. With him at the helm, there's no limit to what can be achieved for Montessori. We really hope you enjoy reading his fascinating story. Of course, the cool part is: it's still being written!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
A: First, I'd like to say that I find it inspiring that you find me inspiring. You and June have a creativity, a passion, a work ethic that is unmatched. How lucky is the Montessori community to have the combined talents of Bobby and June being put to use to redefine education? I simply consider myself lucky to be collaborating with you both.
I'll sum up a little about me pretty quickly. I come from mostly an Irish background, big family, Catholic upbringing (Catholic elementary and Jesuit High School) though my parents never really went to mass. They were both free thinkers as I am today. They had us, the children, pay tuition every Sunday at church. My dad would give one of us a check and we were supposed to stick around long enough to put it in the alms basket, the ones with the really long handles that reached everybody. I got to know the ushers well enough so that instead of sitting through Mass...I would just hand them the check and run right back out the big, heavy wooden doors.
I took the exact same approach to school. I learned to "play the game" and to do as little as necessary to get by, all the way through college.
It wasn't until I discovered Montessori through my children that I realized I had been cheated, or cheated myself. I'm making up for lost time now.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?
A: I could easily say RED. I had visions of being a fire fighter when I was five and my name means "fire". But come to think of it, have you ever seen an Indian Paintbrush, the flower that is? That would be my favorite color.
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
A: I've always been a history buff, mainly American history. It still amazes me that just over 150 years ago..we were living almost the way we've always lived. From the horse buggy to the moon in 75 years. Are you kidding me? Hold on to your hats, we're just getting started.
I do have a favorite book: "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara. My favorite film: There is no way I could narrow that down, nor would I want you to realize that I really do like "Top Gun".
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
A: I spend a lot of my extra time promoting Montessori via the Montessori Mad Men. So, while I can't say there is one adventure that I would drop everything for at the moment, I would say that I am very interested in continuing to take the many little steps necessary to spread the word about Montessori, which by itself is not easy as you (and us Montessorians) know. In fact, my own sister, just this weekend, decided to commit her oldest child, five and half, and twins, age 3 to Montessori. It took me three years to convince my own sister!
Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?
A: I love being a Dad. I enjoy doing things with my daughters. Yesterday, we checked out the renovated Central Library in St. Louis. Going to a library is not my idea of fun, but this place is amazing. It was built in 1909 out of huge granite blocks. Inside, the ceilings are hand carved out of oak, there are alabaster lamps, marble halls and bathrooms. At the same time, it has the modern styling that you might see at Apple headquarters and great color schemes that constantly shift your gaze. If I had gone there as a kid, I might be a scholar today.
Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools?
A: I'm not in a position to give advice, but I do have a couple suggestions. Developing relationships with the broader education community is critical for exposure and growth. Every Montessori school collaborate with every other authentic Montessori school in its area. The schools that only have primary programs should be very active and aggressive in recommending Montessori schools with elementary programs. We should remember that we are not competing against each other's Montessori schools. We are competing for a much bigger piece of the pie...the piece of the pie that represents the over 95% of children who are still attending traditional schools with traditional teaching methods. Collaboration among local Montessori schools will attract many more children to Montessori. That..and if you are a school of over 100 students, hire a full time PR/Marketing/Advertising manager to engage the community. To have the story to tell that is Montessori is a PR manager's dream!
Q: With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.
A: Yes..and same answer. It's all about the promotion of your school. It's all about giving as many children as possible the opportunity to attend an authentic Montessori school.
How have things changed since you first experienced the field of education?
A: Well...back when I was in kindergarten..(just kidding). Have you heard of 3-D printing? We have the technology to print not just words on paper, but to print stuff! Look it up. It's ridiculous. What are the implications of this? What are the implications of being connected to billions of people through the internet? What is the capacity, or is it limitless, of our collective consciousness? Who really knows the answer to that? We, more than likely, cannot come close to even imagining the potential of the present moment we're living in. What I do know, is that what is important today in education is no longer just the "content" of what we learn. Having schools that stoke curiosity, that respect the individual development and pace of learning of each child, that offer opportunities to collaborate among diverse ethnicities and ages all day long, every day are no longer a luxury, they are a necessity. Here is my latest Montessori tag line:
Get Prepared. Get Montessori.
Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"
A: My Montessori moment came at a parent education night when I first began to understand the many levels of learning that are happening with the Montessori materials. It took me two years with my daughters in Montessori before I began to understand what it was all about. This realization inspired me to pick up Trevor's book, "Montessori Madness". We talk about great first lines in books, "Call me Ishmael" for example...but Trevor's first line takes the cake: "I pooped in my pants in the third grade." If there is anyone who has not yet read "Montessori Madness", do yourself a favor and read it today.
Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?
A: "Peace" tends to be a loaded word today, because we each have different experiences of and reactions to it. Often our idea of "peace" is created by superficial and random circumstances or shaped by what our culture thinks the definition of peace is or should be. However, if we look to nature itself to find evidence of peace, you will discover the true origin and potential for it. The ecosystem we are a part of on this planet..is the very definition of peace. That being said, my latest favorite quote is one that AMI used on their holiday card: "Peace, we may say, is not a national attainment of man, it is rather a real work of creation. The same forces that create the world are those that will give it real peace".
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
A: "Montessori Madness", first the fast draw, then the book, both by Trevor Eissler.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
A: The gift that it gives to every child who is lucky enough to get it, which is perhaps the realization of perpetual possibility and the confidence and ability to contribute his or her talents for a greater good.
Q: What kind of legacy do you hope to impart?
A: Easy. Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "Success", sums it up:
To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child a garden patch or redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
A: The future of education is Montessori.