Training the Staff
To create the House of Flowers with a coherent vision meant ensuring that the staff were all trained in consistent policies of everything from how to treat a sick child, to how to use Montessori materials, to methods of disciplining children without hitting them. Mostafa and Allison undertook this training, working directly with the House staff during the first four years, and then communicating via email and phone with the staff for the following six years.
In the beginning, Mostafa, as a medical doctor, worked with the staff on first aid, nutrition, physical education and health and hygiene. He made sure that the cook was producing well-balanced, nutritious meals and that the children received fruit regularly. He taught the staff basic first aid, and gave the children regular check-ups. He provided extensive guidance on management and organization in the House of Flowers and under his supervision, the House management became efficient and smooth, as it continues today even without Mostafa and Allison’s presence.
Allison worked with the teachers in developing the education program. Allison is a trained Montessori teacher, with elementary certification from AMI (Association Montessori Internationale). This training requires an intensive 10 months of study, something that was not viable for the House of Flowers staff. So Allison trained the teachers in the criticial principles and philosophy of Montessori education. As the House acquired Montessori materials through the donations, she taught the teachers how to use the materials with the children and how to maintain a Montessori environment. She told them the cosmic fables, and the four planes of development, and helped make materials in the classrooms.
The teachers worked very hard to take in this methodology, which was so strikingly different from their own experience teaching in traditional schools. The teachers spent their evenings translating Montessori texts, and writing their own ideas, taking notes. They began writing about their own experiences with a goal of producing a small book for other Afghan teachers. They had become true believers in the approach, having experienced great success with the children of the House of Flowers in terms of the children’s personal and psychological development, level of independence, peacefulness, and even in their traditional academics. Twelve out of the 20 children who attend the local school have skipped one or two grades.
In October 2012, Allison returned to Kabul after 6 years of absence. Her month-long visit was an intensive time of advanced Montessori training, covering topics such as the 3-period lesson technique, nomenclature, the Fundamental Human Needs and the geography charts. She showed them videos of other Montessori classrooms to give them the experience of observation. These videos and lessons were extremely inspiring to the teachers, who became even more strongly motivated and excited about Montessori education.
Over time, the teachers have come to adapt these techniques to their classroom environments and the needs of the children. We have continued to receive donations of Montessori materials, such as from Maitri Montessori, and this keeps the program fresh. The teachers continue to have immense dedication and desire to grow as teachers, and the children thrive with them.