Interview with Biljana Loteska, kindergarten teacher and author of picture books: Five days a week I wake up the child in me

Photo: Private archive

Biljana Loteska has been a kindergarten teacher for 30 years and with this experience and the inspiration that comes from her dedicated work with preschool children, she became the author of the first interactive picture book for children "Yellow Socks". And there will be more...

First of all, I congratulate you on the two occasions for celebration: three decades of your work as an educator in the kindergarten "Detska radost" and the author's work - the interactive picture book "Yellow Socks". How long have you been thinking about the picture book?

- Thank you! Truly occasions to celebrate and, for me, very significant. The first is something in which I found myself, my work contains everything that I love immensely - children, and at the same time it is a place where I can express all my creativity, all my warmth and love. In fact, I wake up the child in me five days a week and, at the same time, I try to bring joy to the children in my group. My work brings me smiles, and every day spent in kindergarten with children is new and interesting. And the second occasion is a part of the first, in that everyday creativity is also writing for children. Thanks to "Libby", part of "Ars Lamina Publications" and to the editor and writer Olivera Čorveziroska, who contributed to my manuscript not remaining in a folder on my laptop, as well as to my two daughters Bisera and Denica and my husband, who they supported and cheered on "Yellow Socks" along with me. As much as I work with children, I have been considering this and my other picture book manuscripts for a long time. This means that the maturation and creativity in me were complemented in parallel, and in that, of course, I had the greatest help from the children, the future beneficiaries of "Yellow Socks".

As a result of my experiences, in addition to this picture book, I expect three more related picture books to be published in "Ars Lamina", which bring new, interesting and interactive examples and make it possible to realize puppet shows, theatrical performances and a series of cartoons after them. movies.

Photo: Private archive

What does "interactive picture book" mean, how and with whom is it interactive?

- My educational work has shown me that a picture book as the first book a child encounters should fulfill three conditions, to intrigue him about what is contained in the picture book, to give the parents the opportunity to work with the children, and to the educators to offer activities such as telling a story, dramatizing the text and illustrating the characters, and finally a workshop with the children inspired by the picture book. The child listens, the parent and/or the teacher reads, performs the text - together with the children, he makes a dramatization and organizes a drawing lesson. That trinity aims to enrich the child's knowledge and world with very specific animals and objects and to extract from them those processes that affect his knowledge of the world and growth. So, through the picture book I have communication on three levels: linguistic, artistic and psychological, through the story and the activities in the picture book. That's why my picture book "Yellow Socks" in the second part offers these interactive components with additional learning of quick words, riddles and, with a creative approach, the offered objects with thinking, so that children can connect them where it fits.

Of course, many years of experience play an important role in understanding the child's soul, but considering that the emphasis in the book is on the expression of emotions through colors, did you also consult psychological literature?

- I came to this working knowledge through actively following professional literature from psychology and color theory, but also from the trainings I followed in our country and abroad. In fact, here we are talking about the picture book as a tool that serves not only in the daily work of the educator, but it should also be a tool for parents. I am aware that parents in a transitional period have little opportunity to be longer and more creatively with their children, therefore this type of publications allows that vacuum space to be creatively filled. I tried to create a new space in which children will receive the knowledge and values ​​of the colors that surround us. Therefore, I decided that the picture book "Yellow socks" would be a starting point from which children will learn the meaning not only of colors, but also of emotions, and it will enable parents, with the help of various objects or specifically with colored socks, that knowledge to determine it. My goal is for this to become a movement in which the socks we wear, the ribbon in our hair, tell us in advance what the psychological state of the child or adult is. This is a new psychological approach, with what we wear to send a message to those we interact with.

Photo: Private archive

Are today's children very different from previous generations, as many claim. Is your experience like that?

- Generation from generation differs in only one thing: the acquisition of extended knowledge and relationships that are dictated by many external factors that enter families in a controlled or uncontrolled manner. If the previous generations had the outdoor games, with natural materials, these generations, in turn, have educational games on a tablet. Each generation is given opportunities to learn something more than the previous one and with that wealth to advance faster. However, the same thing is important for every generation – the more we (educators, parents) invest, the more they (children) will be good and successful. Each generation left a beautiful memory in me so that I could remember them and be happy for them, and they would remember me and make me happy with their life's successes. I am especially happy to meet them again, now as their children's teacher, and it is interesting that they bought the picture book "Yellow Socks" and are reading it to their children.

Do you notice changes in children after the two-year period of the pandemic, which conditions the educational process to take place mainly without physical contact, mostly via the Internet?

- Thank you for the question, because you give me the opportunity to say what is not known in our public until now. Namely, we educators had just finished the training for socio-emotional development in children, when the covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly broke out. Unlike other activities, we in the kindergartens took a break at the peak of only six months (while the break in schools lasted longer) and continued our regular work, yes, with a reduced number of children, but this time enriched with our new knowledge. The pandemic caught us in the kindergartens like everyone else and we had neither heard of such a new situation, nor were we ready to work with children. In the six months we tried to find new psychological-pedagogical methods for working with children in these conditions, and I think we succeeded in that precisely with the new knowledge. We managed to find a creative way to make wearing masks and doing remote activities interesting and fun for children. And for those children who stayed at home, we shared activities, games and stories on the kindergarten's website. Parents could realize them with their children in their homes.

Photo: Private archive

Part of your rich experience is working with migrant children from 3 to 10 years old. How are these children different, do they have more psychological problems and how do they overcome them?

– "Hello, I've been waiting for you!" These games with you are the most beautiful thing in my day and here where we live now!". When you are greeted by such words from someone whose life changed overnight and is only a child, no one can remain indifferent, and I, on the other hand, invested even more to continue and protect the development of migrant children. In the workshops that I realized in the foster care centers where the migrants were placed, I worked with children aged 3 to 14 years.

Since all the children in the groups were with wounded hearts and migrants from a young age, I tried to overcome the unconscious fear in them by finding contents that I believe worked positively to get rid of the fear, to forget about the calvary of traveling, to they rejoice with their parents and realize that we are their friends here and that we do our best to make the conditions for growing up favorable and unforgettable. I carried out the activities in English and it was interesting that the older ones spoke very well and helped me by translating what I was saying to the younger ones.

And finally, considering the participation in several international projects, how do you evaluate the quality of the educational process in Macedonia in relation to other countries? In what are we lagging behind, and in what are we in advantage?

- Macedonia has an excellent program for early childhood development, and with the addition of the two modules - socio-emotional development, learning through play and constructivism, I think that our good practices for encouraging early learning and development make a huge contribution to the creation of quality education process. Maybe in a small part we lag behind the work in kindergartens in several countries, as, for example, in the number of children in the groups, in the number of teachers in the groups, but I am firmly convinced that until now in the educational work in psychological-pedagogical and methodical work we are at their level, even a little higher. Educators in some of the countries are significantly different from ours in terms of social status, namely, they have a real and dignified place in society and are rewarded much more than us.

Finally, I would end with Kahlil Gibran, who in "The Prophet" shares a piece of wisdom for children: "You can give them love, but not your thoughts, because they have their own thoughts. You are the bow from which your children soar like living arrows towards the future."

Photo: Private archive


Dear reader,

Our access to web content is free, because we believe in equality in information, regardless of whether someone can pay or not. Therefore, in order to continue our work, we ask for the support of our community of readers by financially supporting the Free Press. Become a member of Sloboden Pechat to help the facilities that will enable us to deliver long-term and quality information and TOGETHER let's ensure a free and independent voice that will ALWAYS BE ON THE PEOPLE'S SIDE.


Video of the day