Guide for Parent, students and any other interested parties

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SAMA MEMBER MONTESSORI SCHOOL

Choosing a Montessori School

Montessori schools operate throughout South Africa. Each school reflects the interpretation and personality of the individual owner. We encourage you to visit as many schools as you can to ensure you find the environment that will complement your home life best.

  • The environment is peaceful, attractive, homely and inviting.
  • The adults encourage hands on learning following the child’s interests rather than following the state curriculum or rote learning.
  • The children are self-motivated and rewards and/or punishments are not used to manipulate behaviour.
  • The adults and children demonstrate a reciprocal respect towards one another.
  • Children can be found working at a table or on the floor; indoors or out, with a variety of multi-sensory, manipulative materials.
  • Collaborative learning is encouraged. Children can be seen assisting, teaching and encouraging each other.
  • It is evident that the environment caters for children of mixed ages, particularly over a three year age span.
  • A Sense of unity and excitement and joy should permeate the air.

Mixed age groups

Vertical grouping (Mixed Ages), refers to at least a three year span between ages.  Traditionally Montessori classes are grouped 0-3 year, 3-6 years, 6-9 years, 9-12 years, 12-15 years and 15-18 years. Some schools, due to logistics, may extend the 3-6 age grouping from 21/2 year or up to 7 year olds.

This implies that there is no separate Grade Ror Grade 0 in a Montessori school.  The 3-6 class may include children preparing for primary school but they are not separated from the rest of the class.

Developmentally the children in the older age groups prefer working and interacting with their peers. Here the focus is on smaller groups, co-operative and collaborative learning experiences. Children working at their own pace.

The work cycle

There should be an uninterrupted work cycle of no less than 3 hours. It is imperative that the child be given the opportunity to develop his/her concentration through meaningful work, free from adult interruption or intervention. This time should exclude all group activities and extras.

In a Montessori classroom, each child is working at his/her own pace within a mixed aged grouping. This allows for natural inclusion of children with special needs as the pace of learning is based on the child’s potential.

Intrinsic motivation

A sense of happiness and peace prevails throughout the school. The children are comfortable in their environment and demonstrate a love of learning.

A Montessori environment provides for intrinsic motivation, as rewards and punishments deny children the opportunity to make their own choices and be responsible for their own behaviour.

A child is supported to analyse situations and make wise decisions, rather than make decisions based on what an adult might do to (punishment) or for (reward) them.

The prepared environment

A Montessori classroom should be clean, neat, ordered, and well equipped with Montessori equipment and materials. These are accessible to the children – at their height and are always be complete and in good condition. There is a reflection of the home and it is aesthetically pleasing.

A well prepared environment is based on reality and nature. The learning areas for practical Life, sensorial, language, math’s, cultural subjects and areas for art, creative expressions and music activities, as well as a free flow to garden/outdoor activities, support the child’s development for physical independence.

The primary classroom provides for the intellectual independence of the child through richly resourced materials and books in different learning areas.

The prepared adult

Staff should be trained and qualified as Montessori directresses/directors and assistants.

The adult in charge of these environments requires unique preparation.  It is internationally accepted Best Practice that educators in Montessori schools should hold a Montessori teaching qualification and undertake ‘Continued professional Development’.

SAMA offers to our members:

  • A code of conduct and 6 fundamental Montessori principles to guide our member schools.
  • Professional development and support
  • Awareness and guidance on new policies and legislation.
  • A central information resource through our national office and website.
  • An annual national Montessori conference.
  • A mediation process to facilitate conflict resolution where necessary.

 

Understanding Quality assurance

SAMA has a three tier school membership system to guide our member schools, whom are independently owned Montessori schools. This system of quality assurance supports and inspires schools who are in different stages of operation (from new to well established) to develop and reflect on quality Montessori practices within their organisations. Through this SAMA grows its pool of members, allowing us to be representative, while at the same time allowing the promotion of quality without excluding schools requiring further support.

Initiate  membership  – School membership at initiate tier can be further divided into two groups:

  1. a) Not yet Operational (with zero enrolments) and the school does not have to be operational nor does it have to be registered. This will make a range of services, such as support, advice and resources for setting up a new school available to those very people who need it.
  2. b) Operational – After the first enrolment, schools will be noted as being operational. This will include new schools or schools facing economic challenges which do not yet meet all the criteria outlined in various documents. This will allow emergent schools an opportunity to interact with, and benefit from the association, and mentorship from more established schools and experienced Montessorians.

Initially all existing member schools will be in this category until they submit evidence of compliance with the criteria required at the Progressive tier. Schools will be at this tier for no longer than three years while they work towards the Progressive membership.

Progressive Membership:

Is for schools who are working towards compliance with all the requirements for Full membership. It is expected that most schools will achieve Full Membership within three years. Moving to full membership will be on request and after completing Annexure C: part 2.

Full Membership:

Is for a school committed to following globally accepted best practices in Montessori pedagogy, interpreted within the South African context. All classroom lead directresses hold a SAMA recognised Montessori qualification in the level(s) they are teaching. The School meets all SAMA fundamental principles.