Building Warsaw Montessori Family
20 Years Ago
Here I stand in the preschool basement with a shovel in my hand. I am wearing old, worn jeans, a green tank top and sneakers. I have to dig half a meter down and then clean the brick wall with a scrubbing brush.
Finally we will have an office for our Casa dei Bambini! After a whole day of work with children, or very early at dawn I will be able to handle our finance and accounting matters, run our legal department, respond to e-mails from prospective parents, and answer phone calls of interested journalists.
From that place I will establish cooperation with a number of Montessori institutions all around the world and develop a department which we call today at Warsaw Montessori Family – Support Services and Interventions.
In the photograph I am happy and smiling – I like what I am doing. I work with children and I create things. I am glad that the Montessori system works, that the children are independent, smiling, and that they absorb English.
I am proud of the basement office and the preschool designed by my friend Mateusz Baumiller. The building is located in the centre of Warsaw close to the Royal Łazienki Park.
I received my first preschool group as a “gift”. I was in my third year of law school and I earned money for my student life, food and accommodation, working in an English-speaking Montessori kindergarten for expats’ children, alongside Marianne Bardet, a Swede, the wife of a French diplomat and a Montessori teacher. It was Marianne who “infected” me with the Montessori philosophy. I loved children and I also loved Dr. Maria Montessori’s approach and her methods of working with children. It all went well for me.
The owner of the kindergarten, Karina Vreeswijk Elenbaas, the wife of a director at Heineken, asked me to take over preschool operations after Marianne left with her husband for an embassy in another country and she was preparing herself to return with her family to the Netherlands.
At that time, when I was just a twenty-year old girl, I became a co-owner of a company with foreign capital. When I graduated law school, I went to Dublin to get my first Montessori diploma.
And here I stand with the shovel, digging my first office – I am happy, satisfied, full of ideas, plans and hopes for the development of subsequent stages of Montessori education in accordance with the so-called Four Planes of Development (Ages: 0-3-6, 6-9-12, 12-15-18).
I was standing there 20 years ago and I did not have any idea that I would spend the years to come on various construction sites creating new institutions or that in 20 years from that day I would fulfil my dreams by opening at the same time the last and first stages of Montessori education: Nido – for infants from two months of age and their parents, and Warsaw Montessori High School with IB final exams. Then I had no idea how quickly the time would pass and how many wonderful people I would meet on my way of building Warsaw Montessori Family.
Today that development seems to be the natural course of things because children thrive here. Before I open another facility I travel around the world, observe and explore the ways children and young people develop in subsequent stages of their Montessori education but then, 20 years ago, it was the success of a young kindergarten teacher – a success with a shovel in the background.
I love building and today I am still building, renovating and adapting old buildings, as they are houses with a soul which require complete reconstruction to provide suitable conditions for the Montessori education system. I never think of any failures right at the beginning.
I am an optimist and plan my actions in a way to enhance success. I work hard. I remember sending an email to parents
at about 9.30 pm and one of the fathers wrote,
“It’s home time, Ms. Małgosia, tomorrow at 7.30 am you will be taking care of our children as usual, it’s time to rest.”
Although in my forties I do not have as much strength as the twenty-year old in the tank top, I surround myself with honest people for whom the well-being of the children is a fundamental value.
The quick growth has taught me to delegate responsibilities, and life taught me to be in good control.
I founded Casa dei Bambini by chance, driven by my love for children. That was the best decision I could have made in my life.