It’s been a long summer. Quite the contrary to the usual summers most of us look forward to in terms of the weather. Horrible wet days throughout most of the summer months, gloomy, grey skies and that never-ending rain always top the charts for a holiday ruined.
Looking out onto a wet street and grey sky from your bedroom window day in and day out is really not my cup of tea! *sigh*
I spent a couple of days each week working at a Montessori for the whole of July. Montessori education basically entitles disciplining very young children in the gentlest of manners while at the same time treating them as young individuals, helping them to discover their skills, instead of ooh-ing and aah-ing over them in typical fashion.
The Montessori education concept was proposed by Dr. Maria Montessori and is in popular demand nowadays especially in Britain owing to the fact that most working mothers need a place to send their very young children during their work hours. Montessori’s are often known as child care centres in simpler terms and take children between the ages of 6 months and four years.
I started off eager and excited about the whole prospect of being able to spend so much time with little kids. Here I must mention that I absolutely adore children. Maybe it has something to do with being a woman, and the natural tendency present in us all to adore and cherish those tiny little beings. I instantly seem to be able to connect with kids in a very easy way which is often harder when it comes to people my own age.
The first day was very hectic. I spent most of the time running around after the kids, cleaning snotty noses, drying tears, giving cuddles, reading stories and trying to entertain around twelve babies between the ages of one and three. There were around four other women helping out in one room. But let me tell you one thing, spending an entire day from 9 a.m. till 5 p .m with a bunch of babies, trying to keep them entertained, feeding them, cleaning up after them and at the same time making sure every single one of them is pre-occupied and not up to any mischief is one hell of a task. Here I take the time to applaud every mother out there, along with my own for carrying out this task so willingly.
I came back home, aching all over, completely exhausted and wanting to strip back all my sticky clothes. Never wanting to see another child for as long as I lived. I ended up showering for an hour and later sleeping as soundly as a baby.
Thankfully the next day was a holiday and though my arms and legs still felt like a block of lead and ached from the exhaustion of picking up babies the day before, evening came and there I was, already missing those adorable faces, knowing I was looking forward to going back and working the next day as much as I had on day one.
Over the course of my job, I had the chance to work with these children and observe them collectively and on an individual basis.
I loved watching how Tummi, this little African boy would come running to cuddle me with a beautiful toothless grin pasted across his innocent face as soon as I opened my arms. Or how Azan’s olive green eyes sparkled with curiosity every time he asked me a question. Or how little Aniv would smile at me in recognition as soon as his mother dropped him off, and hold out his tiny chubby arms for me to lift him up off the floor. (He is the youngest child there, only a year old).
How could I forget naughty little Jennai, with his tiny two front teeth, cute dimples and chocolate coloured flawless skin. He is approaching his third birthday and because he’s extremely cute and knows it, he would often get out of trouble with a tactful little response such as “But I’m sorry miss. Aren’t I your baby Jan Jan?” Upon hearing this he would of course be showered with kisses instead of being made to sit in ‘time out’-Sending the kids to sit by themselves in a corner of the play room, for ‘time out’, and explaining to them that they had made a sad choice and how it had hurt their friends, is a form of discipline which is an integral part of Montessori education.
I have come to the realization that all children are beautiful no matter what. Every child is precious. Born pure and innocent and has every right to be cherished and loved deeply.
Despite being a great form of interaction and a character building platform for the little kids, I still happen to disagree to sending children away at such a tender age be it only for nine hours per day. A child learns the most in its first three years, and this is the age where they need that parental love and care most. If the only time they see their mother is just before bed time or get a mere glimpse of her in the morning, how then will that special bond be formed between them?
I remember how Sofiya, a shy little girl with rosy cheeks and gorgeous brown ringlets used to come up to me with this mournful expression on her face and ask me “Mummy coming? Daddy coming?” to which I would reply, “Yes darling your daddy will be here soon”. She would then go off to quietly play and come back half an hour later, repeating the same statement yet again, as though not only making sure of it by asking me again and again but also silently re-assuring herself. Every day, as soon as she would spot her daddy at the gate she would go running, jump into his arms and start sobbing while clinging tightly to him. She had been coming to the Montessori for quite a long time. However she always seems unsettled. Waeel, another favourite little boy of mine, was also unusually quiet and always seemed aloof, wary of all the other children and only talking when he wanted more food.
In my opinion children shouldn’t be separated from their mothers until they reach the age of three at least. By that time they are past the initial cranky phases of teething and are generally toilet trained. Apart from this they are old enough to talk properly and express themselves.
One day during the baby’s nap time, I went off to help out in the other playroom. Here the age-group of the children is between three to four years. As soon as I entered, I was surrounded by a dozen kids. All of them asking me my name and a million other questions and then carefully assessing my answers. Kids are so curious. The questions they ask and the things they seem to notice are just amazing.A little girl called Helena came up to me sat in my lap without a moment’s hesitation. Even then I admired her guts. She then asked me to read her a story which I did.
My particular favourite was a little boy called Augustia. He has these huge green eyes, golden hair and rosy checks. With the looks of an angel this little guy could knock any girl off her feet. The little charmer took over my role as teacher and began holding up these sign boards with the numbers on it. By the time we reached 13 I wasn’t paying much attention. Also the other kids around me kept calling me, wanting my attention just as much. Augustia, being the cute little charmer that he is, began reassuring me that there were only a couple of numbers left so I shouldn’t worry. I just about managed to keep my composure and thankfully completed the task without laughing.
I can also never forget these two polish sisters,Natasha and Nicola. They both silently observed me for the first twenty minutes when I entered their playroom, finally coming to the conclusion that I was harmless, they trotted up to me each one taking my hand and lead me to the table to show me their colouring. I then sat with on the floor with each one perched on each of my knees for the next half hour just enjoying their company.
All in all it was a great month. A wonderful experience and though I hated to leave, it has left me wanting to one day work with little kids. There’s no denying the fact that one of the best feelings in the world is watching a child smile and knowing that smile’s meant for you. Or that one of the most beautiful sounds is the joyous ring of children’s laughter.