The Montessori Centenary Conference moved the audience to tears, prompted them to laugh out loud and lifted them to their feet to give standing ovations (on three separate occasions!). What better measure could there be of just how inspiring and invigorating this event has been! This weekend has been an exciting journey – far too eventful to detail in one sitting – so I’ve dissected my recollections into four distinct parts. If it’s not too much of a cliché, let me start at the beginning…
Part 1: The Voyage
My Centenary Conference journey started weeks ago as I began realising that this would be my very first Montessori Conference where I would effectively be on a dual-citizenship visa; “Participant” and “Exhibitor” simultaneously! The Participant in me was excited at the chance to see some of my favourite speakers again, to learn from some who I had not yet encountered, and to catch up with my Montessori colleagues from around Australia. The Exhibitor in me was wondering what to donate for the auction, whether I’d need an EFTPOS machine and how on earth I could fit enough stock into a suitcase!
The issue of a stock-filled suitcase arose when Andrew and I decided that we would be as eco-friendly as possible with our Conference Exhibit. We decided not to print catalogues; after all, we are an online store – so our catalogue is available and evolving online all the time! So we took our iPad instead (and borrowed one from mum!) to show our digital catalogue and then relied upon just our few printed brochures to be our ‘paper’ presence. We also decided we’d try to keep our carbon footprint (perhaps, due to our logo, that ought to be our “carbon handprint”!) as minor as possible by taking just a small selection of products with us rather than trying to freight boxes of large amounts back and forth. We felt that a “taste-test” platter of a few items would be enough to give people an impression of our ethos and offerings. So we decided we would only take resources that we could fit into our existing baggage allowance on the plane. After a few days of packing, repacking and applying my “Tetris” skills in a whole new context we were able to look proudly at a big bursting suitcase, a little bursting suitcase and a bursting backpack! Inside this trio of trundles was a tightly tessellated treasure trove!
So with the bags packed, and the days rushing by, it was suddenly time for me, Andrew and my Montessori-mum Barbara to head to the airport and hop on a plane to Canberra. We were a little anxious that our bulging bags would turn out to be a bit heavy but luckily we made it smoothly through check-in and security…only to arrive at the departure lounge to an attendant immediately informing us that our “carry-on” bags wouldn’t fit on the plane. For a moment we panicked but then the attendant proceeded to explain that actually nobody could fit carry-on baggage as we were flying on a plane so small that it had no overhead compartment space. My panic about the size of our bags suddenly seemed dwarfed by my immediate anxiety about climbing into a toy plane and waiting for someone to wind up the rubber band and let it go to propel us into the sky! Andrew and mum assured me that my “freak-out” was unjustified and, to their credit, we did fly smoothly and safely all the way Canberra!
Once we disembarked, and collected our sizeable suitcases, we stopped by the car rental desk to arrange transport for the weekend. Only three of us had travelled together but we were awaiting the arrival of several more of our colleagues the following day so we needed space for a fairly big group. The rental company was only too happy to oblige and we somehow wound up with a car that felt twice the size of the plane we were on! I sat in the front and switched on the “Nav-Man” satellite…only for a little screen to appear telling me that Nav-Man couldn’t calculate our coordinates to find our route because he needed to “See the sky”. The only problem was the front windscreen was too far away for me to reach! Talk about leg-room – I could have easily adopted an entirely horizontal position! So I found a lever and pushed myself forward until I could stretch to the windscreen so I could hold our navigator up like an offering to the sky. He obligingly responded by showing (or, more accurately, shouting!) the way to our apartment to prepare for the Conference!
We invite you to move forward to “Part 2: The Conference – Participant Perspective”