We recently had the opportunity to converse with Gregory Dixon, Head of School at the Montessori School of Louisville. We're very pleased to be able to share with you our correspondence. So many wonderful insights and observations!
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
- raised in a family of educators (mom, dad, aunts, great aunts)
- always worked in the field of education (computer/science camp counsellor; director of Montessori camps; Administrator of a Montessori School in Ontario; Regional Director of Sylvan Learning Centres; current Head of School at MSL)
- Interpersonal style of learning and working from a hands-on approach
- Interested in education from a global perspective, which supports my move from Ontario to Kentucky
- Dream of having my own family one day and building my children's foundation for the future in Montessori
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?
- The colour yellow as it represents light, hope and optimism in my life and career
Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
- Book: Good to Great (Jim Collins), How to Raise an Amazing Child (Tim Seldin), The Element (Sir Ken Robinson), Born to Rise (Deborah Kenny)
- Movie: Legends of the Fall, The Beach, The Blind Side
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
- Travelling to Capetown, South Africa to walk the streets where my dad grew up; envision his life at a time when South Africa was struggling through Apartheid; visiting the child my family sponsors through World Vision; going on a safari to see Africa's animals in their natural habitat
Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies? - swimming, water skiing, sailing, golf and READING
Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools?
- be authentic.
- know who you are as a school
- make decisions in the best interest of children
- build community, be in the community, grow with the community
- make connections (seniors homes, parks and recreation facilities, etc.)
Q: With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.
- focus on keeping Montessori education authentic while being cognizant of its place in preparing children to live in the greater global community
- continue to network with other Montessori schools to expand the horizons of what is being done and what can be offered
- regularly interacting with students, teachers and parents and keeping 'the door open' for discussion
Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?
- an increase in screen time and making more than one-hour of television/iPad ‘the new norm’
- heightened awareness in the area of special education
Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"- I’ve experienced many ‘Montessori Moments’. My very first experience was when I was invited to a children’s birthday party at a movie theater. Pizza was served after the movie, and when asked to clean up, children from the local Montessori school wiped their table down, swept under their chair, and recycled their plates! I was amazed; other children at the party certainly put their plate in the garbage, but did not go ‘over and above’ in cleaning up their environment. From there, I did my due diligence and researched thoroughly on Montessori education.
Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote? - "Education should no longer be mostly imparting knowledge, but must take a new path, seeking the release of human potentials." Maria Montessori was visionary in her approach to educating the citizens of tomorrow by fostering their natural, innate capabilities and building their knowledge of the unknown through an experiential process.
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori? - I feel that a tour of the school is a very important part of introducing new parents to Montessori. From a family perspective, we do home visits for all new Toddlers entering into the classroom. This helps to make them feel comfortable with their teachers before coming into school – in their own home environment. Shadowing at all levels (whether it be 30 – 45 minutes in Early Childhood or a half-day in Elementary) it is important for children to feel comfortable in their environment.
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori? - I am inspired by the self-directed achievements of children at such a young age. At times, the potential of young minds can be underestimated. To observe Montessori teachers facilitating lessons that follow the natural progression of learning development for children is awe-inspiring.
Q: How do you feel The Montessori School of Louisville has impacted your community? - MSL contributes to the community on a daily basis. We work closely with Whole Foods to help them fundraise for Whole Foods Planets (tie dying reusable bags for the community to purchase for $5/bag in store; all proceeds to go women in Africa to help them start a micro-economy). This holiday season, the whole school went skating; horseback riding club is a tremendous success. We're impacting the community by becoming involved in the community and offering students real life experiences within Louisville; at the same time, the community is able to witness first-hand how MSL students are articulate, responsible, self-motivated and peaceful.
Q: What kind of legacy would you hope The Montessori School of Louisville will impart to students? - During the many changes we experience from childhood through to adulthood, our lives continue to revolve around the family unit. In the same way, I hope the legacy of MSL will be that each student has felt a sense of family while being educated in a school environment. The acronym of FAMILY that comes to mind for me is: Family - Always - Motivates - Individualism - Listening - Youth. With the support of your school and home families, a world of possibilities awaits each graduating student.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education? - We are entering a technology frenzy in which what is new today in cell phones, iPods, iPads, laptops, televisions and more is outdated tomorrow. The competition is fierce. In Montessori, the child is taught the intrinsic value of learning and using technology combined with the calm, peaceful way in which it can support your life, not dominate it. The future of education lies in intertwining technology and self in a manner that continues to promote human interaction and social graces in society.