Montessori World

An educational blog for children and adults

CONVERSATION WITH MONTESSORIANS: Maladavi N. Thanjappan

Welcome to the fairly new space on this blog: CONVERSATION WITH MONTESSORIANS!

CONVERSATION WITH MONTESSORIANS is a place to connect and share thoughts, ideas and experiences, as a result of conversations with Montessori guides, directresses, principals, head teachers, students and children. This is my contribution to the Montessori citizens out there, an appreciative record and recollection of the accounts of Montessorians in Malaysia and throughout the world!

It’s been far too long since I’ve written for this section of the blog. In this third post, let’s connect with the latest addition of Montessorian, who is no exception to the other interviewees as she has a lot to offer to the education world with her skilled and motivated ways in order to promote confidence and kindness among her children, students and team members.

Maladavi N. Thanjappan, 61, knew about Montessori Method of Education when she had her own children in the 1990s in Setiawan Perak. Believing in the philosophy and the system, she studied for the course in Jakarta, gaining a full certification with London Montessori Centre (now known as Montessori Centre International).

After completing her diploma and teaching practice in Damansara Montessori School, Mala started a Kumon centre in 1995. After two years, she and her family moved to Thailand where she worked in a British International School, supervising and shadowing a three-and-a half year old child with autism by designing a programme, communicating with the Department of Special Needs and planning a curriculum with the class teacher.

It was also during this period that Mala’s third and last child, Visha, was diagnosed as a slow learner having delayed development in physical and language areas. (Prior to that, when her child was in Malaysia, she was beaten by her kindergarten teachers because she couldn’t write well, thankfully this experience did not last long but the impact was quite traumatising for her. In Bangkok, when she was 5 years old, her class teacher in an international school, requested for a diagnose to be performed upon observing certain suspicious signs. From that point onwards, Visha has been receiving special treatments and assistances for her needs. Read more about Visha in this interview I had with her for an assignment.)

In 1999, Mala’s personal and professional interest prompted her to complete a distance learning Montessori Special Needs course with Montessori Centre International. A year later, she had the opportunity to work as a trainer with Modern Montessori International and helped to set up a training centre in Bangkok. Unfortunately, after about a year, she had to put her career on hold to recuperate from a surgery in Malaysia.

As a parent, having a child with special needs can be a blessing in disguise. In 2008, Visha had difficulties completing her GCSE due to her delayed developments. Furthermore, Visha who was sixteen years old, also started to develop distorted thoughts which are related to mental health. Turning to Australia’s education policy, especially in the territory of Victoria, which enables a person with special needs to obtain a vocational certificate with appropriate guidance and help, Mala also started to pursue a master’s qualification through a transfer process known as RPL (recognised prior learning). Consequently, in 2010, she obtained a Master of Education from Victoria University (Melbourne, Australia) at the age of 53!

After her Australia’s stint, Mala found her life’s calling in a company which she established in Malaysia, named as Davi Consultant or DC Consultant. Her objective was to share this powerful and beautiful philosophy, pedagogy and methodology, designed by Maria Montessori, to every layer of the community which will eventually learn to appreciate the values by applying the method in their classrooms or communities. It is basically to bring the message to all levels of society despite of culture, hierarchy and economy backgrounds.

“So, I thought if we can help those who have already have knowledge and experiences in the traditional early childhood environment, have accumulated years of classroom management and leadership skills, and what they just need now is the methodology and knowledge of Montessori’s educational method, this course that I’ve created can help them.”

“I know this, for a matter of fact, that there are many teachers, principals and owners of childcare centres and kindergartens who are not prepared to go to college. So, I thought how I can help this type of people. As a result of this, I divided the usual Montessori course into three levels: Level One for age group one and a half year old to 3 years old; Level Two for age group 3 to 5 years old, and  Level Three for age group 5 to 6 years old.”

After training hundreds of teachers from non-Montessori schools and formal qualification, Mala is convinced that the Montessori Method, when broken down into stages can be delivered to any types of teachers who are more adept to hands-on leaning as compared to research-based or theoretical based assessments and examinations. Many schools in the northern and southern regions of Malaysia have transformed their premises to a child-centered and Montessori integrated environments.

Mala’s success stories and testimonials are evident in the non-English speaking crowd who is willing to learn more about Montessori’s educational philosophy and pedagogy, and a marketing team who uses their entrepreneurial skills to design multi-sensory extension materials for schools and parents.

 

What advice do you have to cheer on teachers and owners of Montessori schools?

“Each school has their own uniqueness and creativity. One school will not be the same as the other, because the people in the school are the one who is going to make the school as it is. A school’s success is dependent on its identity, values and missions, which are all reflected in the high level of passion for the teaching career and children.” This sense of empowerment involves Mala to remodel a school by getting involved in the renovation and preparation of the materials in the indoor and outdoor environment, reducing teachers’ paperwork, inspiring teachers to plan and design extension materials and conducting meetings to inform parents about the purpose of the change in the school (before and after implementation period). “With proper coaching and mentoring, teachers are also urged to communicate and build trust with parents through empathy, compassionate and assurance by providing fact-based observations and knowledge on child development.”

Mala suggests that three parenting workshops are held each year to create awareness among parent about the education of Montessori method, so that they understand the curriculum and this will surely reflect on the school’s positive image as a school that cares and helps the community. Some parents may also take a step ahead to understand the changes that may happen in their home, with their children, which sprout from the child’s experience in the school.

 

Looking after her last child who requires special care and psycho-pharmaceutical treatments have added extra meaning to Maladavi’s life, leading her to work closely with Malaysia’s Mental Health Association in giving workshops on caregiving and motivational talks for children and parents. She has also successfully established a centre for children who typically need support in the area of emotional, mental and social development to come together as a member of a community and family. At the centre, the children are free to explore and discover themselves through art therapy, stone therapy, zentangle, stone art mandala, paintings and drum/musical community circle. “I’ve seen children who are burned out and loss interest and focus in studies and life itself. Some were even caned or beaten by their teachers in school. They come to the center simply to be themselves and be happy.” (This special centre has been closed since December last year. Mala hopes to re-establish this type of centre and is looking for sponsor for this project.)

 

When asked to choose to be a colour among the rainbow, she was attracted to violet because it represents clarity, purity and absorbs negativity. It is certainly impossible to wear her hats and be in her shoes without positivism in her life.

Life is not a piece of cake but a mixture of certain ingredients which are chosen to be put into the oven through heat and pressure. Maladavi has been a baker of many cakes in this lifetime and she wishes to do more for the educators in this country by feeding them the ingredients from the pedagogy of Montessori Method. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s famous saying “To be the change”, Mala would like to continue to build an informed and educated community through a team of dedicated and self-sufficient team members of her companies, DC Consultant and MDC training consultant.  That is her only mission in this later stage of her life.

July 16, 2018 - Posted by | Uncategorized

4 Comments »

  1. An interesting write up! A very inspiring woman she is! I hope there will be more centres that cater to different needs of these ‘special children’. A holistic approach will help too.

    Comment by Manohari Ramakrishna | July 16, 2018

  2. Love the write-up of all the Montessorions covered in this blog.Creating the change in every child life is such a noble effort of the teacher.While parents are struggling in managing their children with the exposure of digitalisation era, Montessori learning brings back the importance of traditional learning and managing daily life simply.Thank you for sharing and looking forward for more articles.

    Comment by Mogana Ramasamy | July 16, 2018

  3. Yes, Mano! We need more sincere souls like Madam Mala who is willing to entrust her skills and knowledge to the younger generation.

    Comment by rani | August 8, 2018

  4. Thanks for reading my blog and leaving a comment, Mogana. There will definitely be more upcoming news in the pipeline!

    Comment by rani | August 8, 2018


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