The 2018 Speaker Series: Meet Michael Strong
We sit down with Michael Strong, Head of School and Founder of the Academy of Thought and Industry, to discuss his 2018 talk, "Montessori and the Entrepreneurial Mindset," plus ask some rapid-fire ice-breakers
The Guidepost Team
We were thrilled to have Michael Strong — the founder and former head of school at the Academy of Thought and Industry — as guest speaker for our fourth and final Speaker Series event in June 2018. His talk, titled 'Montessori and the Entrepreneurial Mindset,' explored the ways in which a Montessori approach to education is the best means of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset in children. Before the live event, we sat down with him for a quick chat.
How Would You Describe the Academy of Thought and Industry In One Sentence?
We mentor teens in developing their purpose and passion in a warm community while keeping a strategic focus on college admissions and life success in alignment with their strengths.
What was the number one lesson you've learned from students?
I was leading a demonstration Socratic Seminar in a public school in Sitka, Alaska, when at the end I asked them what they liked best about the experience. The entire class began claiming that this was the first time in their lives that an adult had really listened to them. They claimed that their parents, teachers, bosses, and ministers just told them what to do and think and did not ask them what they thought. I began writing my book on Socratic dialogue shortly afterward because of this experience.
“I believe that the combination of warm community and a sense of life purpose are essential to adolescent well-being.”
This summer I will…
This summer I will be extremely busy opening up three ATI campuses, one each in NYC, SF, and Austin. It will be an exciting whirlwind, the best part of which will be bringing the founding faculties together for training and community building.
To me, education means…
...Developing the capacity to create a fulfilling life personally and professionally. We have our students design their lives based on the Bliss diagram, the intersection of four circles consisting of what they love, what they are good at, what the world needs, and what the world will pay for.
Most memorable teaching moment?
At my last school, we had a young woman who was one of the most conscientious, kind, and sensitive young human beings I’ve ever met. I knew she had had a rough time at her previous school. One day she turned in a personal story describing in excruciating detail how every morning the previous year she would walk through the kitchen on her way to school and consider killing herself with the kitchen knives because she felt stupid and inadequate in her classes. She then continued, writing how happy she was at our school (which was manifest in her joyful smiles every day). I found my mission to provide a healthier environment for children had been illustrated with heartbreaking vividness.
What Important truth do very few people agree with you on?
I believe that the combination of warm community and a sense of life purpose are essential to adolescent well-being. Insofar as conventional education prevents many teens from experiencing a warm community and developing life purpose, conventional schooling is thereby largely responsible for the epidemic of adolescent dysfunction in our society, including a significant proportion of substance abuse, mental illness, self-harm, and violence against others. In short, I believe that adolescence in the U.S. is a catastrophe and conventional schooling is largely responsible.
When I'm not teaching you'll find me...
Reading, writing, thinking, or talking about ideas or promoting ideas and projects to make the world a better place. The titles of my books, The Habit of Thought and Be the Solution reflect who I am. There is a sense in which I work all the time but I love what I do and I do what I love.
How did you discover Montessori?
Jim and Gay Judson, founders of the Judson Montessori School (“JMS,” now the Montessori School of San Antonio), reached out to me and asked me to start a Montessori high school for them based on my Socratic Practice work. I had heard the term “Montessori” prior to that but had not looked into it. I then read The Montessori Method and visited the Montessori classrooms at JMS. I was blown away. I see the Montessori primary classroom, in particular, as one of the most brilliant inventions of the 20th century.
The Guidepost Team
The Guidepost Team is a group of writers and educators dedicated to helping demystify all things Montessori.