Aspire, Adapt, Affirm: Inspirational Montessori Conference held in Knysna
“An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking; it involves the preparation of young people … to understand the times in which they live” Maria Montessori
After a Covid-induced year of isolation and reflection, Montessori Educators from all over South Africa re-grouped on 24&25 April to attend the 2021 South African Montessori Association (SAMA) Conference, which was hosted by the Knysna Montessori School, to share their experiences and discoveries. Their Montessori training and wide-ranging experience, together with insights gained during the lockdown, distilled some critical educational principles into a particularly stimulating and absorbing weekend which more than fulfilled the conference theme of ‘Aspire, Adapt, Affirm’.
Films and guest presenters including Shamiemah Jassiem, Nabeelah Armie and Storm Pringle, covered a number of topics chosen to ignite curiosity and encourage robust discussion. Innovative real-world workshops and demonstrations were staged to impart practical ideas, positively influence respect-filled learning and support progressive classroom space use.
Forward-looking, bold and experienced Montessori educators and attendees also engaged with the difficult areas of special needs education, diversity and transformation. Educators were encouraged to advance their personal growth in order to better serve the child. Meeting the child’s needs and yet acting in their best interests can set up conflicting choices, so care-filled observation, shrewd perception, deliberate patience and compassionate creativity are required to navigate these dilemmas. Jane Cope’s presentation highlighted how Montessori education nurtures yet challenges, and how Montessori children experience order, develop excellent concentration independence, but these need to be fostered alongside moral and social maturity.
Montessori children live in a global village and Montessori schools, which espouse peace as one of their fundamental principles, consistently instill and promote anti-bias and anti-racism. To this end presenters including Sam Streak promoted self-assessment as a valuable tool to evaluate the realisation of this within both children and schools.
Supporting children in their joy-filled learning adventure means meeting their emotional needs by supporting their brains and coaching them in their responsibilities in and to the universe. Sam Streak and Nicky Rodseth explored the interconnectedness of the mind and body and the body to the world, reminding Montessori educators to practise with purpose in a holistic way to develop whole, empathetic, people. Sue Swain, a biomimicry expert, further encouraged innovative ways of viewing the world which will better equip our thriving on earth.
Mark Collins, expedition racer and passionate conservationist, presented a stunning motivational lecture covering self-belief, setting goals and dealing with the unexpected. A love of learning is applicable at all ages! After a weekend of stimulating lectures, inspiring workshops and fantastic networking opportunities, the Montessori educators returned to their schools feeling grateful, energized and excited.