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Meet the Staff: Naida Tokača, Coordinator of the P1 classrooms

woman in black shirt with cat-eye glasses in front of white windows, smiling with one hand under her chin

Naida Tokača has been injecting life into the P1 classroom with her contagious laughter and optimism since she became a part of the Bloom team in 2016. Naida's passion for character development is evident, and she recognizes that nurturing growth requires both patience and time. In this interview, Naida shares insights into her journey at Bloom, her role overseeing the Ethics and World Religions curriculum for lower and middle elementary school, and the valuable life lessons she imparts to her students while also learning from them.

Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Naida Tokača. I graduated from the Faculty of Education in Sarajevo. As a primary school teacher I currently teach Mathematics, My Environment, and Ethics and World Religions (Society/Culture/Religion). I am also the P1 classroom coordinator. 

I have been involved in folklore for many years, and through various festivals and travels, I have had the opportunity to get acquainted with cultures and traditions from different parts of the world. I am always ready to make new acquaintances and socialise. I mostly spend my free time listening to good music and being around people dear to me.

When and how did you begin working at Bloom?

I arrived at Bloom in 2016 as a substitute teacher for a specific period. I knew very little about the Montessori approach at the time. Through my work, effort, and dedication, I demonstrated that I am a diligent worker, ready to learn new things. In the meantime, I became a Certified Montessori Teacher. Through my university studies and practice, I fell in love with this profession. However, it was at Bloom that I truly embraced the Montessori approach to teaching. I must admit there were challenging situations along the way. But what matters is the ability to turn every situation, whether positive or negative, into a lesson and move forward.

Did you work in any other educational environment before Bloom? What similarities and differences did you notice between them?

Before joining Bloom, I completed an internship at a public elementary school. I had the opportunity to work both in classrooms with children and in afterschool care programs. Additionally, I spent a lot of time observing the work of other teachers and learning from them. I believe the biggest difference between that school and Bloom is that children spend more time in our school. Therefore, we have the opportunity to truly get to know the children, their strengths and weaknesses, and to bond with them.

Another significant difference is our approach to working with children. While in the public school system, children learn through frontal teaching methods (all students simultaneously covering the same material), we approach each child individually. This allows each child to succeed according to their abilities and interests, and we can adjust the content to meet their needs. This approach is closely connected to freedom. Children have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to specific topics for as long as they need, without the interruption of school bells, transitioning to other subjects, or sitting at the desk for 45 minutes. This freedom is necessary for them to reach their full potential.

How would you define your purpose at Bloom?

I believe that my purpose at Bloom, in addition to imparting academic knowledge, is to teach children to develop into versatile and authentic individuals. I want to help them understand that with effort and dedication, they can achieve anything they want while also being valuable members of society. All children are unique individuals and have their own way of expressing their personalities. We must nurture, support, and encourage this so they can develop confidence and motivate themselves to overcome any obstacles. In this way, they will be ready to show the world as confident and autonomous individuals capable of inspiring others on their journey of learning and growth.

You are in charge of the subject Ethics and World Religions (EWR) in the P1 and P2 classrooms. Can you tell us a bit about this?

For several years now, I have been teaching this subject in both classrooms. EWR typically covers a wide range of topics related to society, culture, and religion. It may include learning about culture, tradition, history, ethics, morals, as well as various religious practices and beliefs present in Bosnia and Herzegovina (and beyond), such as Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, and other less represented religions.

The learning outcomes of the subject include understanding different religions and cultures, history, and moral principles. Children develop the ability for critical thinking, communication with different people, and solving societal challenges. They also learn about the importance of tolerance, dialogue, and active citizenship for building a harmonious society. What I would like to particularly emphasize is the learning, understanding, and demonstration of human virtues as part of the holistic development of each child.

Can you share with us an interesting situation that happened during EWR?

Every EWR session is interesting in its own way. What children look forward to the most is when we play games focused on a specific topic. Then everyone becomes impatient and wants to participate as soon as possible. Our conversations are also interesting - children honestly talk about themselves or situations they have been in. That's when we really learn a lot about who they are as individuals, what their goals and interests in life are.

What do you hope to teach your students?

I want to teach my students that life consists of ups and downs - what matters most is what we do after each rise or fall. Will we stop after a rise or strive for something more? Will we stay down after a fall or keep trying until we succeed? This is a very important lesson they will always need in life. Mistakes happen, and they are proof of our efforts, but every mistake should teach us something so we don't repeat it. And most importantly, we should strive to be virtuous people.

What have your students taught you?

They have definitely taught me that happiness truly requires very little and that happiness comes from small things: the arrival of a best friend at school, sitting with a friend at the table, or having a tea party on Pyjama Day. We adults often tend to rush into everything. Sometimes we need to stop, look around, and enjoy the things around us.

Do you have a favourite memory from this academic year?

My favorite moments are made up of the children's joy, smiles, pride, and increased self-confidence when they succeed in doing something they couldn't do before due to fear or any other reason, especially if we went through the whole process together. This happens every day, and it's truly impossible to choose just one.

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