When our first daughter was born, we were both working and needed a nursery for her to stay in the morning.
At that time we lived in a large house in the country side, close to the archeological site of “Ostia Antica”, the ancient harbour on river Tiber, that always was and still is one of my favourite places in Rome.instantly
I enjoyed walking through the park while pushing the buggy and imagining the life of the old market town in its golden days…
We searched for a good nursery nearby but every day our daughter came home with red eyes and very unhappy looking… It didn’t take too long to decide to search again…
It was January 1979 when my wife heard from her friend that a small kindergarten just opened in a far corner of Rome, a place called Monte Mario about two hours drive from our location…
“What?” I pricked up my ears “that is the place where I lived as a teenager!… it’s really far from here…”
As usual, Adele was enthusiastic to go and take the new opportunity while I was (as usual) sceptical and wanted to have a look first…
We walked through the green gate and into a lovely garden with high trees surrounding the house: magnolia, cedar, pine trees! we felt so lucky and grateful for the discovery of such a magical spot, tucked away from the chaos of the city-life!
In the inside the school looked a bit strange with all walls painted with soft watercolour tones, unusual images and even a different colour in each classroom! Everything and everyone looked (may I say) a little strange to me, but also so peaceful and happy… a very nice first impact!
It was agreed with the teachers to have a trial and -if positive- to admit our daughter in the kindergarten after the summer.
One of us parent would accompany her on the trial day: the luck was on me!
A smiling teacher welcomed us into the kindergarten room: it was a warm pink-painted room with curtains of the same colour to soften the sunlight.
The children were playing happily under wonky wooden trestles, beautifully built and covered with veils of various soft colours… it was a lovely start of the day!
The teacher was endlessly tiding stuff and moving around veils and baskets full of toys made with wool or wood.
There was a sense of calm, of joy, of wellbeing in that room!
My daughter was playing nicely as if she had always been there… I felt my heart smiling, happy for her…
As parent, that was all I needed to see in order to decide for the school of my daughter. That was the good school we were looking for!
A few months later we were going to discover that it was not only a good school for our daughter.
There was something good for ourselves too, something we parents were seeking…
At first it was like to feel suddenly awake again and getting up in a world we had dreamed of and aimed for… and now, here it was… real, simple, full of significance!
I was amazed and basically mute (as usual) about what was happening.
In the summer we eventually moved closer to the school, then our daughter started the Kindergarten gradually.
All her problems disappeared immediately! In the morning she said goodbye smiling and run happily across the green gate! We felt in heaven!
Even bigger and surprising was the gift we received at the end of the school day.
We were waiting for our daughter at the green gate, we expected her running to us, happy to see us and to come home.
All the children were out playing in the garden while parents were chatting and finally we saw her walking out of the building very, very slowly, looking reluctant to come to us…
We felt puzzled and for a moment a bit worried… why wasn’t she running to us? her eyes didn’t seem to be red at all.. what’s the matter then? … I walked towards her and all of a sudden she started crying desperately!
She didn’t want to come home….
A child crying as she doesn’t want to leave her school?
It was one of the greatest joy we could imagine: seeing our child so well settled, so well cared, so well nurtured already on day ONE! That school and that teacher were certainly good for our child!
Someone might argue that it is easy-peasy to catch the admiration of a little child…. mmh, I would ask: have you ever tried? Education is different from baby-sitting and every age requires something different to keep the heart of a child smiling over the years and the main question has been for me: what was the magic that created such a fantastic effect?
What I understood from the experience of my trail day is that there was something special inspiring the teachers of that school and the empathic relation of that teacher with her pupils was a key for such a magical, harmonious condition!
I wanted to learn more about Steiner education but the answer was not on page 1…
Forty years have gone since then and all my children attended a Steiner school for as long as it was possible for each of them.
In the meanwhile many things have changed in the world, but the challenge for teachers and parents is still the same: how do we feed the natural impulse of a child for learning? how do we spark the spontaneous joy for discovering? how do we keep alive the enthusiasm of a child who is passionately dedicated to work with others and for others?
The answers are not on page 1…
To really learn more we have to be willing to open the book of life, a book that might be hard to understand and often requires a long time.
During the many waves that accompanied my experience as a teacher and parent I found that a simple, basic criteria might help in education more than everything else: keep focus on what is good for the children!
There is a long way ahead for all of us, adults and children, and the direction of that way has to be re-addressed towards a new “human-centred culture“.
For the moment may I only suggest a simple recipe: dedication, awarenesses, good will are -as they have always been- the most effective ingredients for what seems an easy-peasy job…
Education is obviously not at all an easy-peasy job either for teachers or for parents!
Education is a dynamic challenge that may be wonderful and worthy to be taken on IF we are willing to take with it our own self-education!
And if we enjoy reading and learning from the “Book of life”!