Caring starts in the cradle: ClevaMe Academy

| November 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

BY MARLIZE VISSER

Being the daughter of a midwifery specialist, I was involved in all aspects of baby and childcare, and I started babysitting at an early age to earn an extra income. 

After graduation from high school, I embarked on Montessori teacher training1 and worked in various
nursery schools (Montessori as well as traditional) to gain experience as a nursery school teacher.
I realised early on that not all teachers shared my vision of what pre-primary care should look like and the
general lack of innovative, creative environments where children feel safe to explore was quite
demotivating. I knew I had the passion to stimulate children, but lacked the support from educators already firmly set in their own ways in their privately owned schools.
I embarked on part-time studies (a bachelor’s degree in foundation phase, a qualification in preprimary
and primary education of children) while simultaneously teaching, offering ballet and dance
classes and planning for a bigger future. By the time I graduated my studies cum laude, I focused
on starting my own pre-primary school and finding the right teachers who shared my vision of stimulating the child optimally to reach their best potential. I wanted more – and wanted to prepare children for living creative lives.

An abiding interest in brain development

I became interested in the development of the child in totality, and specifically focused on brain development – perhaps because I had recently given birth and felt the need for children to develop in a holistic way. I saw the small child as a human being with a body, soul and spirit, and wished to cater to them in this way. In the nursery and pre-primary schools where I worked, I identified children with specific challenges and after researching the issues, felt the need to develop a stimulation programme for babies up to the age of two years. I did not develop this
programme on my own; I had to undertake extensive research and worked alongside educators and health professionals specialising in the field. The ClevaMe baby stimulation programme was extensively tested and refined over a period of three years before I implemented it in my pre-primary school.

A dream come true

When I felt I was ready, ClevaMe Academy opened its doors in September 2015 in Blackheath, Johannesburg, Gauteng. It was the result of a 16-year dream. Today I have honed the academy’s fundamental principle: it is, simply, conscious living, where every little student, their parents and staff are embraced and appreciated. We seek to develop independent, welladjusted, “big school”-ready children. The school is nondenominational and includes children from different backgrounds, religion and cultures. Up to the age of one year, we focus on the achievement of a
baby’s specific milestones, certain of which must be in place before a skill can be acquired.2 We are therefore led by the baby’s own individual timetable. During this phase, our motto is: “We are taking the lead from your baby.”
As the baby enters their second year, everything becomes more exciting as they begin to make their mark as a little person. They acquire physical, mental and social skills in an atmosphere of acceptance and unconditional
love; we skilfully guide them through difficult patches. In this phase of development, our motto is: “A confident child who reach her full potential is one who accepts herself.”

Providing one- and two-year-olds with the very best

ClevaMe uses a tested brain development programme. The growth and development of the baby is our primary focus. In the preprimary phase, a Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS)-compliant curriculum
is implemented. This, in turn, is imbued with some of the best elements of Montessori  techniques and principles.
ClevaMe Academy is supported by midwifery and neonatology consultant Diana du Plessis,3 who guides us through health issues and ensures quality assurance and health-related legal issues. We endorse breastfeeding and
accept breast milk if the mother of one of our enrolled babies must return to work. We employ staff who are dedicated to the advancement of each little learner, and who have the ability to create a strong foundation for them to experience success when they advance to formal schooling. Each class educator is assisted by a teacher assistant, and teachers who fulfil our educational requirements are appointed for a period of three months in a temporary capacity. In this way, we are able to determine if the staff member accepts and implements our philosophy of caring and teaching. Due to our special focuses, our student results are astounding, as evidenced by the many video clips posted on Facebook, illustrating the children’s progress.4

Keeping it calm and creative

It’s not always smooth sailing, as any school leader knows. One of the key challenges we have faced is the recruitment and selection of quality educators who would embrace our philosophy of care and teaching.
This was initially a difficult task, as not all teachers – despite being in pre-primary education for many years – were willing to embrace new and innovative teaching techniques. Some found it difficult to accept change and would revert to traditional techniques after the initial training period was reached. This resulted in some discomfort from
parents, as they, too, had to change their perceptions of pre-primary education. Changes to daily routine, contracts and time management created some discomfort for various stakeholders as well. It became necessary to negotiate more regularly with parents – and some found it difficult to express views without engaging in battle. However,
consistent, truthful dialogue makes the whole team work better in the long run and we can now look to our future plans. We are continuously working on effective techniques that allow us more time to interact with each child. Following on from that, we want to streamline the schooling system, to benefit the children and to assist their parents. We need to calm down our daily living, because the pace at which Johannesburg runs creates enormous stress. It’s our mission to be the change we’d like to see in the world. ClevaMe Academy is committed to
ongoing research and training. I also have plans to publish a book by May 2018 on the growth and development of children. It will include many of the tips we have gained through experience: our food menus, for example, are healthy, and we have a strict “no-sugar” policy. We furthermore believe that exercise can transform your child’s life.

ISASA an inspirational organisation

Recently, we started liaising with the various surrounding schools in our area. When we first opened, we focused on staff training and meeting various legal requirements. We are now ready to form partnerships, the most important of which is with ISASA. The school joined ISASA because I really felt the need for a support system, and needed guidance in some administrative aspects of running my own business. The guidance from experienced leaders in the field boosts my confidence and provides me with the assurance that I am on the right track.
Knowing that our school and curriculum are of a high quality, and that we have full ISASA membership because of it, gives me a sense of pride. The feedback I receive from ISASA staff assures me, despite the challenges that we
experience. Being accepted as an ISASA member gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have achieved
so much in such a short period. This is partly because I am a strong-willed person with a sense of commitment to facilitate change.

Playing an important role with conviction

Having an independent school reflects my own educational views. This I could not find in the traditional school system. I need to play an important part in preparing little people to walk out of this school as confident, well-adjusted, productive and proactive individuals. Finally, now I am the owner and manager of ClevaMe Academy – a position I would only vacate if forced to do so.

References:
1. See, for example: https://www.montessorisa.co.za/
2. See, for example: https://www.verywell.com/1-year-old-motorcognitive-
verbal-social-skills-289864
3. See: https://www.facebook.com/www.Clevame.co.za/
4. See: http://maskewmillerlongman.ning.com/page/capscurriculum-
info-1
5. See: http://www.dianaduplessis.co.za/

 

 

Category: Summer 2017

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