Picture me attending my eight-grade chemistry class. Mrs. XXX/The teacher rambles on, in a monotonous, sleep-inducing tone, about the importance of ions and how they balance equations. I am trying my best to understand these new and complicated concepts. But she might as well have been speaking Greek or Latin, because all I remember from that lesson was the confusion written large on my face.
This is my story. Every emotion experienced in that class has had a bearing on what I am today. I made a decision that day in class and sure enough I am following up on it 15 years later.
But, for now, back to my chemistry class. Having not understood much of what was explained, My face is burning with frustration and I'm questioning my own abilities and self-worth. I guess my teacher notices this and asks me to stand up in class. And then the unthinkable happens. She asks me questions related to ions and chemical equations, possibly knowing that I can't answer any of them. I looked like a fool in front of the class. My adolescent mind, which was anyway dealing with pimples, puberty, changing relationships and raging hormones, is now experiencing a life changing humiliation.
I made my decision – I will never put my child through an ordeal where he/she is disrespected and his/her strengths are not given a chance.
Years later, I am still strong in my resolve.
A lot has happened since that day. I landed myself a flourishing job at Femina, met Mr. Right, but then came the difficult part. I needed to explain my decision to my husband as to why our child should not have to go through what I did that day in chemistry class. I cannot say that he blindly agreed with my decision, which is understandable, but he did not say an outright no! That was good enough for me.
So now the big question is if not school, then what? What is the alternate to not sending my children to school? How will they learn social skills? How will they step out in the world and develop into global citizens?
I found my answer when I came across the Montessori principle of education, which was founded by Maria Montessori, an Italian physician, educator, and innovator. Maria's philosophy believes in respecting the child and his ability to learn through his experiences. We cannot 'teach' a child, but guide him, create a conducive environment for him where he learns through his own free will. A child that learns through his free will and choice will strive for perfection and completion.
In a Montessori environment, you will not see 15 children sitting in a group with a teacher teaching lessons on a blackboard. It, instead, focuses on a highly individualised program, where each child is working on his own development. For instance, during class some children may be working on their language skills, others are working in pairs for math and some are exploring different world cultures.
Another beautiful aspect about a Montessori group is the children are of different ages. You would be hard pressed to find a real life situation, such as your workplace, community, and family, where people of the same age are grouped together. Similarly, the Montessori philosophy strongly believes that education is a preparation for life, as such enabling a child to adapt, grow and learn social skills in an environment similar to the one's he will experience outside the classroom.
After rigorous, exhaustive and intensive training, involving practice teaching and strict observation periods in pure Montessori environments, I can now safely say I have found my answer.
But that is not enough. Just like Montessori was an answer to my doubts, it is also my struggle to make it available to parents who think on the same lines as me. I am striving towards starting my own school, Sharda Montessori, to reach out to as many children as I can and, hopefully, change their lives by helping them become happy, self-disciplined and strong willed individuals.
While I put pieces together for my own school, brick by brick, I am still waiting to use my profound knowledge of trigonometry that I studied in school. I was made to believe my life would depend on it. Well, the endless, torturous math classes did teach me patience, elevated my threshold of endurance, but still – what does trigonometry have to do with it?
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