Head Start and I have both come so far
Bharath Nagarajan (Grade 12 Graduating Class of 2018)
Student at Head Start from 2002 to 2018
Sophomore at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, USA
Growing up with Head Start is truly an experience I’ve been fortunate enough to have. Being in the same school for almost 2 decades is something. But watching the school grow with you is a completely different ball game. I was first introduced to Head Start Montessori House of Children at the age of three. A hyperactive kid with the attention span of a goldfish, the vibrant materials used to teach appealed to me greatly. Aside from unconventional ways to learn, Head Start taught us early on that playing outside is essential as well. Every day we had ‘play time’ and I’d enjoy the backyard in all sorts of ways: from observing the patterns on leaves to running around in circles. And after that, we had ‘lying down time’, something I appreciate more now than ever as an engineering student. I remember my Pre-primary years as nothing short of wholesome, surrounded by the warmth of friends, aunties and uncles, and our lovely Aunty Samina.
It came as a pleasant surprise when I heard Head Start was starting an elementary school. For the longest time, my friends and I thought we’d be going elsewhere after pre-school and were dumbfounded when we saw our seniors return for the First Grade. It was like Head Start couldn’t let us go, and this is something that continues to make us proud. In my head, I knew from then on that my journey with this school was just starting. When I say I ‘grew’ with Head Start I mean that in the literal sense as well.
When I was in the sixth grade Head Start acquired land for a large new campus to accommodate middle and high school students. Coincidentally, when I hit puberty, Head Start did too by building HSEA. I watched buildings erected from the ground up as I went through my middle school years. I have fond memories of having ‘sand battles’ with my friends near construction sites and marveling at every new room and facility that had been completed. Despite the fairly conventional exams (I studied IGCSE and A-levels), my middle and high school years still retained the warm essence of Head Start: small classes forged strong friendships, approachable teachers (many of whom I’d known for at least five years) and a strong emphasis on learning outside the classroom.
Once I graduated from Twelfth Grade, I was anxious at the thought of missing my friends and teachers who’ve come such a long way with me. But more than the anxiety of leaving the nest, I was filled with pride. Looking back, I owe my grammar skills to colourful movable alphabets and my mental maths foundation to beads and blocks. I owe my humility to washing plates at HSEA after eating lunch. I owe my love for tinkering to the hands-on approach of Montessori. The mandatory public transport used by HSEA prevented me from becoming an entitled child and daily meditations at the assembly taught me patience. Head Start and I have both come so far.
Occasionally, I visit the Montessori House and gawk at my surroundings as memories fill my head. I’m glad I still have a reminder of where I came from and that it still has the warmth I remember. Head Start has bloomed into a fine institution but still continues to grow. Despite moving forward on separate paths I’m nothing short of excited to see how Head Start further develops and happy for the students who get to experience a similar journey!