Montessori Greeting Cards: A New Way of Teaching the Public about Montessori
I love the Montessori online community! It's a great place to meet new people and learn about exciting things. Recently I've had the privilege of getting to know Frida Azari, a fantastically talented photographer and wonderful Montessori educator. Frida uses photos from her Montessori classroom to create stunning greeting cards for holidays, birthdays, and thank-you notes.
She is currently an instructor at Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA. (see picture at left). I decided to interview her to get a better idea of how her business began, and exactly what it is she does. Here goes!
Lori: How did you find out about Montessori?
Frida: Like many other Montessori educators, I stumbled across the Montessori philosophy while looking for a preschool for my son who was just 3 years old at the time. I wanted a system of education that did not encourage competition and comparison among children and one that valued each child for their individuality and unique qualities regardless of their peers. It was during a story time at a public library that I first learned about the Montessori from another mom.
While observing a classroom in my local Montessori preschool, I was astounded by all the materials that were available for children. I immediately enrolled my son in the program and began working and training at the same school myself. I was amazed by the Montessori philosophy and how everything just "made sense." My son remains a Montessori student as he moves on to the Upper Elementary at Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA.
Lori: How did you get the idea to use your classroom photos as greeting cards?
Frida: One day during lunch with my coworkers I was discussing ways to use my talents in photography in combination with my profession as a Montessori teacher. One co-worker suggested photographic greeting cards might be something to consider and almost immediately I envisioned Montessori Greeting Cards. It is a wonder that no one else had thought of this. Using images of children, Montessori Materials, and Dr. Montessori's quotes I began designing greeting cards and large prints. These items provide me a means to convey to others how Dr. Montessori's teaching is used on a daily basis in our classrooms.
Lori: How are you able to capture such incredible moments of concentration?
Frida: Rather than pose or stage the children, I take my camera with me once or twice a month and simply wait for the moments to happen. When the children are in their work cycle the camera quietly comes out of hiding. The children have grown used to me moving around them taking pictures and usually they are so involved that they are oblivious to my presence. Rarely do I need to ask them to move to get the right lighting, but if I do they usually get up and move without a word.
Lori: In what ways do your cards benefit the Montessori community?
Frida: When I began working as a teacher, I soon realized how misinformed many of my student's parents are when it comes to the Montessori philosophy. This was reinforced while I was attending a national conference. In conversation with a preschool teacher from a traditional school she said, "I just recently have become interested in the Montessori philosophy. I was told in a Montessori school they make children sit in their own booths and make them concentrate on what they are doing. They cannot talk to other children around them and have to learn to discipline themselves that way. Recently I have heard otherwise and I would like to know more about this way of education." That was when I realized that Montessori Greeting Cards were something I truly needed to pursue. Something that would allow others to understand the wonderful benefits a Montessori education offers.
Parents of current and prospective students will come to observe our classroom during the school year. I always wonder if they see even a small part of all the amazing learning that happens each day during such limited time. Visitors in general have two kinds of impressions. They first often say, "The classroom was in disarray. Children were moving all the time from here to there speaking to each other. Some children were too serious and did not appear happy in what they were doing." The other group believes the classroom is too structured. "There were too many rules for the children to follow all the time. There were not enough materials so they had to wait until they could get a turn. They were limited to the small space provided by rugs they had to use. Is it not limiting the child?" And they all agree that "The teachers were just standing, and looking or sitting down with one or two children. That was all they did!"
That is when I am happy using images of children accompanied with a quote of Dr. Montessori next to better explain the Montessori's philosophy and what it is really about. For example we know the meaning behind the concentrating faces observers see as "serious" are in reality moments when a child is immensely happy!
Lori: I noticed that you have several cards that focus on the concept of "peace". That must be important to you.
Frida: In the materials I make available for the children in the classroom, I have a special emphasis on peace education and cultural diversity. We start the school year with a whole unit about "The Children around the World" and continue the concept through out the school year. I even have a category of greeting cards entitled "Peace Cards." I believe the future of the peace is in the hands of our children and what they are being thought by us, the teachers. As Dr. Montessori says, "Establishing lasting peace is the work of education." While I may not have a diverse community in my own classroom, my goal is that the children learn and cherish the beauties that different cultures offer.
Lori: What do you see as the primary mission behind your greeting cards?
Frida: I have found myself on a journey, teaching the public the astonishing aspects of Montessori philosophy through the images of my classroom; images of real Montessori students working and learning in the prepared environment. Combining professional quality images taken in a Montessori prepared environment with Dr. Montessori's quotes are a wonderful way to convey what we have known for some time and would like others to know. We are not simply another system of education, but one that truly prepares children for the life ahead of them.
Lori: Would you share one of your favorite Montessori quotes with us?
Frida: This one sums up my dual roles as a teacher and representative of the Montessori community: "The needs of mankind are universal. Our means of meeting them creates the richness and diversity of the planet. The Montessori child should come to relish the texture of that diversity." Maria Montessori
Lori: Thank you so much for sharing!
Frida: Thank you!
You can find Frida's photos at Frida's Fotos.
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