A little about my journey

Footprints erased

My personal journey in search of panacea for the present day children’s confused unhappy lives began in 2004, ever since I started working with children in need of care and protection and in conflict with law. They were bright eyed, and intelligent, wanting to ask questions, and willing to answer mine. Their place was not here! My proximity with children in the juvenile justice system led to deeper understanding of their needs and what they missed during early years. My search for an answer started with an interview of these children about their life. Sad and gross truths revealed that they had no nutrition –neither for the body, nor for their mind. But then, children were the same everywhere! Economic status or deprivation did not change their needs in childhood! – Unconditional Love and a Feeling of security.

2005 – I started profusely reading from the net, downloading a lot of material on early childhood, which had repeated mention of Montessori methods. Relief Foundation, which a group of us started in 1998, with little knowledge of what we would be anchoring ourselves into in the years to come, decided to enter government crèches taking our baby steps into preventing delinquency and drop out.

2006- I started giving sessions to teachers in these crèches, besides appointing some of our own to establish accountability. Our taste of success among children was riddled with non co-operation from the government staff, and we moved to small schools in the community run by private organisations. We sought their cooperation to establish Montessori environments, the philosophy reigning supreme more than material. Soon to my dismay I found that none of the teachers in these schools would qualify to study the course, as their level of language and general knowledge was poor. We structured a bridge course and trained them on it, and finally 5 teachers managed to climb into the course last year!

2008-9- Time was running out and my worry started building on taking the Montessori beyond pre-primary. When would I be able to get rural teachers to qualify for this one? I had seen for myself the results which a small change in the environment had brought and was hopeful of not letting the trust of the child on the learning system weaken by reverting to some other system of education.

To start off with we had a plan drawn out for two schools we are reaching out to at present – Shriram Matriculation school at Thiruneermalai, a town panchayat off Pallavaram, where we have children of quarry workers eagerly attending our Free English medium school. The other – Srisrividhya mandir matriculation school, at Anaikoil, a coastal village off Thirukadaiyur town served a population of Fisher folk who had faith in our stead fast approach to quality education.

Our stake in the school management allowed us to have the objectives of starting the school revisited to include World Class quality of education for these children.

We laid out plans and road maps for regular visits and up scaling the environment and the methodology in stages, which would not overwhelm the teachers, but at the same time, provide for the non-negotiable in the environment – freedom and inner construction.

2009 – Realisation dawned that no one else can help my work more than Dr.Montessori herself. I took up the rigorous AMI Elementary Montessori Diploma to know where the pre-primary leads into for the child. As though by design, people to help me hold fort of existing activities arrived and I could move fully into the course. I found it exhilarating, and reinforcing my trust in following the child. When I completed the course, I was able to guide our pre-primary teachers with insights from my course on how they could do their job better, by looking into the next plane of development and the needs there-in.

We have different levels of stake in 6 rural schools now in 2011-14. Our hope lies in the future, of small numbers of teachers whom we hope to inspire and gently push towards a safe launch-pad of success for them and the children they will serve.