CHENNAI: Rhymes interspersed with claps and peals of laughter echoed in the hall of Darwin Montessori School at Anna Nagar. Shantha Shankar, director of the school, was busy interacting with kids. She is a certified Montessori facilitator and has spearheaded the school since its launch in 2015. The mother of two shared her insights with CE on her style of teaching, tapping the inner child and finding her calling. Excerpts follow:
Why did you decide to start a Montessori school?
I have a masters degree in Visual Communication. But I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Montessori education became my priority and belief system since the birth of my daughter. I completed my course from the Indian Montessori Centre in 2015. The course groomed my parenting style for the better. It was exactly then I knew that it would eventually become my career.
How has this profession helped you as a parent?
I have two daughters. My first child studied in this school and the second child is studying now. I love spending time with them at home. I help them with homework and read stories. Sometimes I have to step out of the shoes of a teacher and just look at them as a mother. I’ve stopped expecting them to be ideal examples just because they are a teacher’s children.
How have you evolved as a person?
Montessori has tapped on my other potentials like exploring my inner child. Your personality develops around the age of six. We often come across psychologists attributing problems in later stages of life to childhood. This field has exposed to me the crucial stages of growing up and I’m aware of my actions and where they come from. What I do has become a part of my life. It’s hard to separate work from personal life.
What are your interests?
I love painting portraits of my loved ones. Once in a while, I click photographs of children. I go for vacations to unwind myself.
Who is your inspiration?
I admire Maria Montessori who coined the term Montessori. She is my idol. I read her books when I’m down. I’ve imbibed her theories and beliefs and included them in my teaching methodologies. She’s one of the best educators.
Tell us about your success formula?
I’m happy to bring in small changes in the perspectives of parents. Children must enjoy every aspect of schooling, not just playtime or vacations. I aim to make a positive difference in the lives of children.
What’s the future of Montessori in Chennai?
There’s more awareness among millennial parents. More schools have come up. Most of them are concentrated in south Chennai. We will need people from all walks of life to know about the concept. The earlier, the better. Montessori is not just for children with special needs but for children to have a holistic experience with trained teachers, encouraging environment and the right learning materials.
What are your future plans?
I want to create an open-hearted environment which encourages children to build independence and social skills as well as be supportive of their curiosities and self-expression. We’re working on our new school in Korattur which is expected to open its doors for the next academic year.