Camaraderie, respect contributes to Montessori-like working environment
As we landed in Shanghai, peering out the portal of the airplane with anticipation, looking at that glorious cosmopolitan skyline, we set aside all expectations for our travels and conversations ahead. We were there to meet with the Higher Ground Education team in China, to see how we could help support them in their efforts to expand Guidepost Montessori worldwide.
Upon entering the head office, nestled intimately among the abundant, lovely and bustling French Concession, we witnessed an immediate sense of determination and joy. Everyone stood to greet us with warm smiles, eager for our arrival and benevolent. Among them, they were in sync — calm and balanced — it was a culture of openness and collaboration, replete with an underlying and undeniable willingness to learn. It was, in practice, Montessori at work.
There are nearly twenty of them in the office, but a peaceful hum is in the room. There’s natural light and an intimate workspace for each of them, adorned with pictures together, proud of the relationships they share. Throughout the day, it’s as if they fulfill their own work cycles, respectful of one another’s time and energies but also contributing to one another’s day that maximizes productivity and validates the effort. “Do you want to chat about this? Can I help you in any way?” they ask comfortably. They work independently, then pick up impromptu meetings as needed.
They move among one another seamlessly, mindful of their time together but also just grateful to be there. It’s so peaceful and intentional, a nice little space they created for themselves, for everyone.
When midday arrived, they all left together to walk down the street and fetch lunch, only to return jovial and relaxed. Some time outside, some time around the table together, sharing lunches and exchanging stories, it was all to replenish each other, to replenish the day. They work well together, because they live well together. There is no separation between work conversations and life conversations. It’s all the same here, a connectedness that informs the work and that we all reap from. You can feel it.
Modernizing and mainstreaming Montessori in China is no small task, but this passionate team is definitely up for the challenge. Taken aback by their hospitality and generosity of thought, we were reminded of a quote from Lao Tzu: “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Sitting in on meetings, joining the team in conversations, we observed a creative and passionate energy unlike any other. They were pushing themselves individually and supporting each other collectively, embarking upon that single step.
Everything felt so effortless and possible, as if they were doing the difficult things while they were still easy. This team is as committed to each other as they are to expanding Guidepost Montessori in China. We’re really looking forward to the opening of the schools in Shanghai this fall!
We look forward to posting interviews soon with the team.