A Sanctuary of Early Learning
Choosing a Preschool is an important step in the education of young children in today’s time. This is the first experience that many of them might have of a formal learning environment, which makes it very important for parents to make this decision very carefully. Even though there are a lot of great Preschools in and around Bangalore that parents can now look at for their child, based on the educational approach, size of the school, location and many other factors, there are few preschools who through their informal environments are proving themselves to come out as unique entities of child development. Thereby, talking about one such preschool, that provides an environment that is designed to meet the needs of a child in this crucial phase of his/her life – Dots Montessori, since its inception has been engaging an environment of inclusivity and understanding, letting children choose from various activities of interest, without interruption, resulting in a strong feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Dots was born from the desire to celebrate a child’s unique ability to learn. Children like to touch, feel and explore to see what they can find. They like to smell odd things. They often pick up words that they were not meant to hear. Scientists, artists and philosophers have often expressed the desire to be able to think and live like a child. We nurture a child’s individuality and allow them to discover the world at their own pace. Each child has a different way of being a child; we just pay attention. Carefully having curated the curriculum, teaching techniques and pedagogy, so that each child benefits from being exposed to those who are older, and younger than they are, at Dots Montessori, younger children quickly learn how to behave and what is acceptable, from watching the older children. They also see the older children working on the more advanced materials, which piques their interest and curiosity, pushing them to build confidence and self-esteem, and grow beyond the boundaries.
Also, at Dots Montessori, the environment is child-centered, not teacher-centered, where the onboard teachers plan the preparation and organization of learning materials to meet the needs and interest of the children. They often step back while the children are working, allowing them to learn from their own discoveries and draw their own conclusions. Rather than supplying answers, the children are motivated to solve problems, actively engaging children in the learning process and enhancing critical thinking skills. Dots Montessori is an open environment that offers infinite possibilities. Each possibility is like a dot and every child has the freedom to choose the dots that they like to create their own path and plan the course of their journey.
Thriving together towards a common goal
The team is very passionate about doing things differently. There is a culture of openness, with lots of trust placed in people. We don’t bring in people who are just good with Montessori. Sometimes we have taken the sweetest people without street smarts and reaped the rewards from our decision. We have a fine balance of people with different skill sets, so nothing is ever lacking and everyone is learning from everyone else.
Our endeavor has always been to do something different with Dots, so we encourage innovation in our teachers. We try to make sure that their experience with us adds to them personally and professionally. We have also created a very distinctive culture at Dots among the staff. Since this is our baby, we give a 100% genuine effort, and that rubs off on the others too. We encourage everyone to add to the warm, courteous atmosphere. The children are our focal points. They are the reason we are doing all this, so every staff member knows to always put the child’s needs above all else. Though the road to the present has been long and sometimes challenging, there is a sense of great satisfaction when we look back. Today Dots is full house with 250 children and 35 adults. A special mention of our mentors – Dr Akash David Ryall and Mr Rajesh M, both of whom have been the biggest support and strength in this journey.
Taking us and our fellow readers on a virtual journey of Dots Montessori, 4 of the members of management – Sapna Roy – Founder, Varsha Diwate – Academic Head, Suma Stephen –
Kudlu Center Head, and Rakhee Gupta – Haralur Center Head, addressed all the questions posed to them, giving us real insights into the working ethos present at the preschool. Thereby, when the question of how unique Dots Montessori is when compared to all the other preschools in Bangalore and the other parts of India arose, Sapna Roy stated –
The team at Dots was sure to start from scratch. We wanted to build a place from the ground up. We began to create blueprints for this dream school, along with good friends and family members, using a ‘blank slate’ approach. We deliberately did not look at other schools as reference points, ensuring that our dream school stayed faithful to the ideal in our Founder’s mind. It all began in June of 2012 with a small bunch of four children aged 2 and 3 years.” Adding to her above statement, she stated – “With our clean, sustainable, yet effective infrastructure, we at Dots follow a completely feedback-oriented system, where every stakeholder of our preschool, be it the parents or the supporting staff play an equally important role”.
Offering a wide variety of beautiful, hands-on Montessori learning materials, which are scientifically designed, help develop a new skill or teach a new concept to the child by its use and exploration. These materials offer different areas of learning such as, practical life skills, building vocabulary, writing, concepts of decimal system and mathematical operations. These materials are designed carefully to meet the needs of every child thus incorporating a deeper level of understanding. Continuing on this very topic, Varsha Diwate, the Academic Head shares – “Many of us go through our entire lives without ever tapping into our true potential. We’ve wished that we knew what we could do best when we were children. If a person is able to discover their strengths at an early age, they can focus on growing their abilities. And that is exactly what we do at Dots: It’s a journey of discovery. We convert children into free thinkers and learners, and in this very journey, a limitless and boundaryless environment is exhibited, in turn, guiding children to learn beyond the pedagogy and the set syllabus”.
“We are reviving a simpler life at Dots by allowing children to enjoy working on the floor, without footwear, playing in the sun and the sand. We celebrate all the traditional festivals of India, giving our children the essence of our multidimensional culture. The children enjoy rewinding to older games and traditions like lagori, hopscotch, hide and seek, story time with grandma, so children can experience the joys of childhood that are lost and forgotten. Being that toddler hub, where all the materials and activities have precise location on the shelves of a Montessori classroom, the children are introduced with the material kept in their specific place”, shared Suma Stephen, the Kudlu Center Head. Through the conversation we also learnt that, after completing the activity children are made to place the items back to their appropriate places, thus maintaining order, in turn, facilitating a learning process, which incorporates self-discipline and also catering to a young child’s innate need for an orderly environment.
Moreover, despite the global pandemic having wreaked havoc on all our lives, life at Dots Montessori was no different. Being known for having a complete hands-on method of learning, the team together sat down to make things work from home continuing to be as hands-on as possible. This required additional support and time from our parents which didn’t make it easy for the adults back home, but with continuous feedback, Dots started making improvements, we tried reducing the burden on parents as much as possible and used objects and items that were available at home to teach. A few important Montessori materials were made to order out of cardboards. Simple worksheets were created in-house for better reinforcement of concepts. Our endeavor was also to make our children handle the screen independently which slowly but surely did happen. The class size was kept small and most of the activities required movement and fun. Stories, games, conversations, music, dance and Montessori kept our children excited at all times. Most importantly, we kept our premises open, so that children could come along with their parents – practice and experience the hands-on material and go back to the safety of their homes, unperturbed with the health crisis the world is facing. Making a statement on this very point, Rakhee Gupta, the Haralur Center Head, quoted – “First year challenging as parents were required to give us support through their busy schedules, but eventually having made use of the online modules through and through, the feedback ratings slowly grew back to normal, thus, ensuring a sense of trust and learning, even though the whole system was moved online. In the end, we have always imagined Dots to be a place which exuberates joy and happiness. A place where children and adults come together to promote freedom of learning. We have observed children derive happiness out of simple yet basic experiences and we followed the same philosophy during the pandemic. We did everything we could keeping our children in mind at all times. We trust that anything related to children can be learned from children.”
With many efficient systems now in place, the institution has its three programs in both their centers at Kudlu and Haralur road.
* Montessori (Physical and Virtual)
* After school care and
* Montessori Teacher training Institute
Sapna Roy – Founder
A passionate Montessorian, Sapna has visualized and founded Dots after working with multiple schools and consulting assignments. After spending six years in a software services company, she decided to move into the education space. She wanted to build a place from the ground up, and thus, started creating blueprints for her dream school, using a ‘blank slate’ approach deliberately not looking at other schools as reference points, ensuring that this dream school stayed faithful to the ideal in Sapna’s mind. She is driven purely by the passion to enable children to discover their true potential. Her vision at Dots is to nurture every child in an environment where they can connect the dots to map out a meaningful journey through life.
Varsha Diwate – Academic Head
Varsha is part of the core team at Dots and played a key role in scaling up and maintaining the positive, safe and productive Montessori environment. Varsha has been involved with Dots since its inception as the very first teacher. She is an educator and administrator with a unique background in business and educational assets. Currently, as the Academic Head, Varsha is responsible for planning and executing the Montessori and Teacher training departments.
Suma Stephen – Kudlu Center Head
Suma Stephen forms an important part of the team at Dots. Her journey with Dots began at the Teacher Training Institute as their first certified trained adult. She has been instrumental in putting processes in place and maintaining an outstanding quality across all the Montessori environments at Dots. Also, as the Center Head, she is responsible for the curriculum deliverables and managing the Montessori adults. She has completed her Master’s degree in Sociology and carries a certificate in Special Education. Prior to joining Dots Montessori, she served as a teacher in one of the prestigious schools in Kerala.
Rakhee Gupta – Haralur Center Head
Rakhee Gupta is the key member of the team at Dots. Her journey with Dots began as a student at Dots Montessori Institute. She is passionate and her first objective is to prepare and organize the learning environment to meet the needs and interests of children as well as promote independence in them. As a Center Head, she is aligned with the core values of Dots and is primarily responsible for curriculum development and managing the guides at the center. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Arts from Burdwan University West Bengal.