Spelling my name
I attended Harbor Montessori in Gig Harbor, WA from Kindergarten to 5th grade (September 2000 – June 2005) and I can say with confidence that the education I received there laid the foundations of my success, and that I continue to see the profound influence a Montessori education has on the world every day. At the Rhode Island School of Design, where I attended college, I worked alongside fellow Montessori grads on a daily basis as we collectively designed everything from transforming furniture to better middle school student curriculums. I’m proud to say that when I go into work everyday at Google in San Francisco I’m in the presence of two of the world’s most famous Montessori graduates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It astounds me how great an impact a Montessori education has on the world and this astonishment is only compounded as I continue to meet more and more Montessori graduates daily in the fields of design, engineering, management, and more at Google.
When I reflect on my time at HMS I recall several key moments that influence me to this day but one stands out above the rest. When I was learning to write and spell, I wrote my name like this: BLQKQ. Why? It’s a simple answer: I liked the way the Q’s looked. I knew how to spell my name correctly I just didn’t find it necessary to stick to conventions. I found the forms and the geometry of the Q to be more compelling than the A and the E. Q’s represent questions and their forms suggest something cyclical and profound like a circle, the image of the snake eating its tail, or the elegance of the letter O but with a small accent, or moment within the circle that breaks its monotony and calls forth pause, excitement, notice. It didn’t matter that I spelled my name “wrong” at school, and I remember a sense of possibility in the decision to change my name in written form. This decision to misspell my name wasn’t met with condemnation or correction at HMS but rather a question from a teacher. She asked, “why did you write your name this way?” A teacher asked me in Kindergarten why I had written my name BLQKQ. Isn’t that wonderful?! A teacher respected my autonomy and did not immediately assume that I was struggling with language and letters but rather inquired into my decision. My response at the time was probably something like, “I like the way this looks” (years of art and design school critique have gained me a small bit more eloquence since then). But I must say isn’t this remarkable? My decision was met with question, study, and reflection, not harsh correction. There is a time and place for correction, don’t misunderstand me. My name appears as Blake Greene on my resume today, but in Kindergarden I wrote “BLQKQ”, and for some time after I wrote my name “BLAke” with a lowercase K and E. And then, in upper elementary, I signed my name Blake 🙂. Always with an underline and always with a smiley face. In middle school I signed my name Blake, and in high school the same. In college I didn’t sign my name because I didn’t sign a lot of my design work, but now at Google I sign all of my work with @blakegreene, the handle to my Google email account. It’s funny now looking back and realizing I’ve had many names: BLQKQ, BLAke, Blake 🙂, Blake, and @blakegreene… I wonder what new names I’ll come up with in the future.
Montessori showed me that creative expression, independence, teamwork, and the occasional unconventional approach in life will create success, whether you’re engineering a bridge, designing software, tending to a garden, painting, or deciding what to call yourself. Also, hi Mom! – Blake Greene, Rhode Island School of Design 2016, Google Interaction Designer, and HMS Graduate 2005