Women in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Montessori Advocate Magnolia Diamond From Poland by Mike Prochaska
Magnolia Diamond is from Warsaw, Poland and works at Warsaw Montessori School. “On a everyday basis right now I live in Poland, but twice a year I’m going to Greece to learn more about development of the child from a wonderful teacher of Maria Montessori method, Maria Teresa Vidales. It’s part of my job and I really love to learn more and more to be a better teacher,” she says. Magnolia believes parents and teachers should empower children so they learn the skills to do tasks on their own instead of adults doing everything for them. Read on to learn more about Magnolia…
Q. What’s life like in Poland?
"I’ve traveled a lot for many years of my life, so I spend much time outside my country. I learned to look at my country with fresh eyes and see things that people who live here all the time forget. When I came back to Poland after four years abroad, the first thing that caught my attention was, ‘Wow, it’s so green here!' Like I was in the car from the airport to my family house driving for three hours and I couldn’t stop saying it. It’s so green here!
Q. How did you get into the Early Childhood Education field?
"Since I remember, from family gatherings to total strangers everyone, [they] were telling me that I have amazing patience for children. Since my teenage years I engaged myself in activities with children and teenagers – from volunteering in organizations helping children from difficult families to organizing workshops for teenagers.
"In my own town I was also representing the official Youth City Council. When I look back at my life, the subject with children was always there, yet somehow, I never thought about making it my official job. For me it was just a natural thing to do and I never thought about it as something to earn money.
"So, I spent 15 years working as a journalist and doing many other things besides working with children. I remember that children were so important to me that when I was president of my Students Self-Government in college, this position took up so much of my time, I didn’t have time for my voluntary work with children. I made the decision to quit my position of the president to have time for children, even if the Rector begged me not to do it ... It took me almost 40 years to realize that I didn’t want to do anything else than just working with kids. And I have the feeling now that if I’m doing something else, I’m just wasting my precious time. Only when I’m with children, giving my time and energy, do I know that my time is not wasted. That’s why I decided to dedicate my life for children."
Q. Why is play important for children?
"The method I’m using working with children is called the Montessori Method. It was developed by Maria Montessori. She developed it by simply observing children for hours. She was already a doctor (which was a huge in the time she was born, as woman could be just teachers or wives) and she got a small group of children to observe as a doctor. But soon she realized that if you give the children the right material they do not just ‘play,’ they develop independence and all their characters and they self-construct themselves, especially from the age 0 to 3 ... We all think that small children can just play and we will shape them later, and it is such a mistake! The time for shaping all character for all life is between 0 to 6 years old. So early childhood is the most important age!
"And in our method children do not ‘play,’ they ‘work.’ They work on the material which develops their equilibrium and eye-hand coordination to help them to prepare for life and to be independent. What we teach also is to love life and the environment inside and outside. So, our children do not use plastic toys; we give them wooden objects, which gives them a nicer sensorial experience."
Q. What about outside play?
"Oh, yes! The outside environment is not appreciated in the development of the child. We do not want children running crazy. We want to prepare the right environment that will fulfill the needs of the child and help the child in different things like appreciation of nature or helping with gross movements development, and also with self-esteem, self-confidence and self-reliance. This we build with creating the space where they can practice all those things.
"For example, give the child the bench where he can listen to the voice of singing birds or observe the flowers in the garden. We can give them objects for climbing or sliding. We should also remember about practicing jumping and running, as small children many times don’t know how to do it. When you see the little child trying to jump but is not able to get their feet of the pavement yet, you need to model it for him and wait till the day he will be able to do it and you will see the smile on his face! That’s a beautiful moment!"
Q. What is your favorite memory working with kids?
"Any moment you see the smile on the child’s face, like this I mentioned above. The moment the child mastered something and you see this smile. And, any moment when the child is concentrating and trying to do something new. It is like a sacred moment."
Q. What are your favorite activities to do with your kids?
"I love to sing songs with them. They observe and absorb so much, and as we are trying to jump together or make some movements together – it’s a simple sharing a joy together. It’s one of my favorites. Or when we are cooking together and they squeal with joy."
Q. What about roughhousing with kids?
"We do not practice this activity with our children. Whatever activity we perform, it must have intelligent purpose. Inside the classroom we are giving the children many possibilities to perform activities from practical life, like baking bread or watering plants. For gross motor movements we have outdoor environment with all the things the child needs to build some strong muscles."
Q. Anything inspiring to tell anyone thinking about going into this field?
"Ask yourself how much you are willing to give to the child. How much attention and if you are going to be a good role model, as the child is observing every adult in his eye sight. You are a role model all the time. How much are you willing to work on yourself to give the best you can?"
Q. Anything else you would like to share about working with kids?
"Yes! Please, please, please, do not treat the child from 0 to 3 years like a potato bag. Do not create an idea that whatever is done for the child must be done by an adult. Teach the child from the beginning that it’s good to do things by yourself and that will create the adult who will know that they can create their own life with their own hands.
"Let’s do not produce anymore victims. Let’s produce heroes who will go into the world and make a change. We need strong leaders who will change the life on earth. And that all depends on if we will prepare the right environment for the child and how much we will teach them, and what they can do by themselves.
"The possibilities of learning for the smallest child are underappreciated. We can teach them so many things from the youngest years – do not waste this opportunity! What I dream about is educating more and more parents to create the best environment for their children and support them in this amazing process of creating a human being!"
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