Updated: Jun 15, 2022
An interview to get to know Ann Cristle Gomes, Senior Principal of The children’s house
The children’s house, founded in 1986, is one the most well-known Montessori pre-schools in Malaysia, with 15 schools and 20,000 children in their ecosystem. The Montessori approach focuses on the perspective of the child, self-directed learning and collaborative play, ensuring children are being prepared not just for school, but for life.
The IBU team sat down with Ann Cristle Gomes to hear her story and experience that spans almost 3 decades at The children’s house.
What made you decide to become a teacher, Ann?
It started off with my eldest son. He had a stammer, was very insecure and clingy so, sending him to school was very tricky and I decided I needed to stay home with him. I read a tonne of books and came across the Montessori method; playing with sensory things is what my mum used to do with me, so the approach made sense to me.
I did the same with him and once he was a bit more confident I found a Montessori school for him. I had to help him a lot but he improved. My 2nd and 3rd were quite independent.
Later when the kids were pre-teens, I was mainly a cook and driver for them and I thought I should get a job. My sister in law was running a school at that time and asked me to do bookkeeping, but they were short of a teacher, so I filled in.
I never thought I would work with children!
When did you join The Children’s House?
I worked with my sister in law for 5 years in Banting, but we moved to Kuala Lumpur so I looked for another school to work at. I found an advertisement to work at The children’s house in the News Straits Times in 2006 and the rest is history!
I started working with toddlers and nursery groups (until 3 and a half years) - the very young ones first, that’s when I approached the founder, Nan, to further my studies in Montessori. The company sponsored me. I did my IMD in Segi College/University and after completing it, I was transferred to TTDI as a Principal. I was there until 2018 and was then transferred to the newly built TTDI2, a full day school. Presently, I oversee TTDI, TTDI2, TTDI2 extension, U-Thant, Bukit Jalil Junior and Senior campus as Senior Principal.
What lights you up the most about this work?
When I first came to The children’s house, I had been working in a traditional school with my sister-in-law, it was different, tables, chairs and a board, books and writing tasks; I loved it! But the first two days at The children’s house were really tough for me and I didn’t think I could cope. The Montessori approach means working on the floor space a lot, saying the right things to the children, not being negative, being gentle and allowing the kids to explore and extend their work as much as possible. It was such tiring, exhausting and challenging work. My saving grace was my mentor who really walked me through everything. She explained the purpose of the materials, how the children work, the practical life materials and it really impressed me and I truly saw the value of this work. If only I had known about it, I would have introduced it to my son earlier.
What’s your favourite time of day at school?
I’m a morning person. I'm in school by 7:30am. I like to go around the school and feel the freshness of the morning and I love going around greeting everyone. That’s the only time I can meet everyone in the school. In fact, I love to do gate duty because I get to bring the children in and welcome them. When I look out of my room window, I will see some of the babies waiting for me to go and pick them up and take them in, and I just love it.
What’s your educational philosophy?
The Montessori method is all about teaching children from concrete materials that they can see and touch; it’s life-long learning for them. This is our vision and mission statement as a school as well, “life-long learning for children”.
When we start from very young and nurture them during this sensitive period, where neuron pathways are being made, soon you can see the evidence of this method through the way the children grasp different concepts more easily; their creativity emerges and their recalling is surprising.
For example, a very simple activity is pouring from jug to jug. Toddlers will start with dry materials to pour, but the next level is water. They have to learn how to get water from the tap and fill up a jug and start pouring. Then they have to pour into two glasses. Later, we change the jug to a porcelain teapot and they pour into tea cups. The materials are heavier, the shapes are different so there’s something new to navigate and control. The variations are there and the children are soaking all in.
What do you wish parents knew about educating their children?
Parents need a lot of time with their children. With the time spent, education can creep in. Children learn when they feel safe and connected. It’s not about learning ABC and 123 but getting to know your children and spending all the time you can with them because you’ll never be able to get this time again. I have three grown boys now, and that’s what I tell them. Also, never compare your children with each other or with another child; each child is unique.
If you’re curious about what The children’s house has to offer your child, this is a fantastic time to find out. Visit the school directly, there are two Open Days coming up in June 2022. Please call 03-6203 3883 to RSVP.
The children's house Bangsar, 11th June 2022, 9am to 12pm.
The children's house Ampang, 18th June 2022, 9am to 1pm.