In this installment of our "Meet the Staff" series, we talk to Nađa Filipović, special education program coordinator at Bloom. Mrs. Filipović has been working at Bloom for more than 15 years. Over the years, she has gained invaluable experience in working with children of all ages. In this interview, Mrs. Filipović talks about her work with children, especially those that experience difficulties, emphasizing the importance of helping the children learn to work and be together with their differences.
Tell us something about yourself.
I am Nađa Filipović, and my one great desire is to work with children that experience challenges in their development. My personal life experiences - both positive and negative - have motivated me to do research and find ways to approach such children in a way that encourages them for the future. Privately, I am someone who really likes nature and socializing, and who enjoys spending her free time being creative. What I can say about myself is that I am a very persistent person - when I have a goal, I go towards it.
When did you start working at Bloom?
I have been at Bloom since the very beginning, and I mean the very beginning. During my 15 years here, I have taught children at all levels of the educational system, from children at the preschool level, through lower and upper elementary, all the way to the high school level. It has been both challenging and interesting to follow all these students from their earliest years until the point they left Bloom. It allowed me to observe their physical, psychological, social and emotional development over the entire time they were growing up.
What did you learn from this experience?
I believe that we adults have to take a step away from comparing how we grew up with how today's generation is growing up. The younger generations are definitely different from us. It is very important that we follow their pace, understand what motivates and interests them and support them in achieving their goals.
Can you tell me more about working with children who experience challenges? Why is this something you are interested in?
The sincere emotions and openness of children in general - but especially that of children with developmental difficulties - is what drew me to doing this work. I recognized in myself the ability to establish good communication and create meaningful bonds with children that act as a strong foundation to support their development at all levels. I am also very persistent and totally believe in them with all my heart.
The point of this work is to recognize their sincere emotions, to help them be in touch with these emotions and learn how to experience them in a healthy way. That is how we help set them on the right path to the expression of their full potential. Unfortunately, a lot of children who struggle in one way or another continue to be ignored, neglected, and misunderstood and misdiagnosed. This is exactly the kind of behaviour and attitude that blocks them from manifesting their full potential and finding a way to belong to an environment.
At Bloom we believe every child has a special need. What does this mean?
We all struggle at times. Children are no exception. The struggle is actually part of their development. The difficulties they can encounter will contribute to forging their characters which is so important for us at Bloom. Inclusion is a prevalent topic everywhere and it means that we understand all students need help and understanding at some point. It means that we are able to create an environment where individual needs can be supported and challenges addressed. Some children do struggle more than others. We need to teach adults and students that we belong to the same community, that we need to be open to communicating, understanding, being friendly and supportive towards others who can seem very different. These behaviours should be normal, and for children who experience diverse and inclusive environments, it is normal. My responsibility is to cultivate the connections between them by helping them understand each other and establish good communication.
Do you find that children are willing to take that step and be comfortable with various kinds of people?
From what I have observed, children are very accepting when it comes to cooperating, socializing and being in the same rooms with all types of people. That is because in our environment we know how to talk about the needs of everyone in an open and healthy manner.
What have your students taught you?
My students have taught me that many things in life can be solved in a simple way. We adults tend to complicate very simple things.
Now that you will no longer be tied to a specific classroom, who will be your collaborators?
It's teamwork at the level of the whole school. All employees have to be involved in order for things to flow, which why it is very important that each individual understands that they are part of a larger process. Without everyone's conscious participation we cannot achieve our desired goals.
How will you approach your work at the beginning of the school year?
I will begin by doing detailed observations of my students in order to see what each child needs and understand their strengths and abilities. And then I establish goals for each of them working with the different teaching teams. Regular assessment of their progress enables me to adjust the goals and adapt their program.
It is healthy for everyone to be surrounded by people who are different from themselves.
Absolutely. But I think that the focus should maybe shift from being different to being an individual with a specific personality, abilities and needs. And our role as educators is to make sure individuals find their place, are respected, respect others and expand into their own potential.
What makes Bloom different from other schools?
Everything. The way we work; our methodology; our way of thinking; our approach - both to students and to parents; the relationship between the teachers. The difference between Bloom and other schools is huge. We have a holistic approach: observing a person in their entirety is very important here. The cognitive, psychological, social and emotional side of a person has to be seen and supported. It is only when we take all of these aspects into consideration that we can truly know how to accompany a child.