Practicum: Duration and Models for Early Childhood
The practicum experience allows the adult learner to observe a good model of the Montessori method in action and to practice what has been presented in class. The requirement is that a major part of the academic section must be completed prior to starting the practicum so prior experience cannot be counted.
DURATION – EARLY CHILDHOOD
The practicum phase entails approximately 3 3/4 hours per day, five days per week, of experience in a Montessori Early Childhood classroom for the entire school year. This totals a minimum of 675 hours of class preparation work, teaching, clean-up, meetings, parent conferences, etc.
During the summer academic phase of the program, you will receive additional information on the practicum but the information below will help you look for a site now if you do not already have one.
Choosing a Practicum Site
The responsibility of contacting schools and locating a qualified practicum site is yours. MEIPN does not operate any Montessori schools. To have the most options, it is wise to make arrangements for your site as soon as possible, preferably prior to starting the course. Choosing a practicum site will present different challenges to each individual. Some will have already signed an agreement with a school prior to enrolling in the course. Others will have visited several schools and will have applications in process as their first and second choices. For students located in this area, one resource is the Pacific Northwest Montessori Association’s website which lists names and contact information for their member schools. (www.pnma.org)
After familiarizing yourself with the requirements listed below, consult MEIPN to see if your school is approved or if it needs a visit from MEIPN.
NOTE: Students who select a practicum site located more than fifty miles from the course location or the nearest field consultant will be charged an additional fee (mileage, bridge and ferry tolls, overnight lodging and meals) to cover reasonable transportation expenses.
Practicum Site Requirements
- AGE RANGE: The practicum site must have the full age range for which the student is seeking certification. Kindergarten age children must be included with 2 ½ to 4 year olds, not separated in their own class or included in Elementary I.
- UNINTERRUPTED WORK TIME: The classroom must observe the AMS recommendations for uninterrupted work time. These are as follows:
- Early Childhood: A 3-hour uninterrupted work cycle, 5 days per week, is optimal. The school must provide at least a 2- to 3-hour work cycle, 4 days per week.
- CLASS SIZE: A minimum of 12 students, although a group of 20-25 is preferred.
- MATERIALS: The classroom should have the full complement of Montessori materials, purchased and teacher-made, appropriate to the age level.
- RESPONSIBILITIES: The school administrator must understand the responsibilities of the school and the head teacher. For example, interns are required to assist their head teachers in classroom maintenance, clean-up, preparation (such as filling paint jars, etc.), but are not expected to perform all the janitorial work for the school. Interns are not allowed to take full responsibility for a class to cover absences of the head teacher.
In cases which warrant it, exemptions to the requirements for AMS/MACTE training for the head teacher may be applied for to the Director. In general, only circumstances such as remote location or personal hardship would warrant exemptions.
The relationship between the school and the intern is an employer-employee relationship, which should be spelled out in full in a written agreement. The agreement should cover pay and benefits, responsibilities (including supervision times, such as recess or lunch, and participation in after-school activities, if expected), illness policy, material-making policy, etc. The internship is a paid position, ordinarily taxable. Pay should be negotiated between the two parties, based on the amount of time to be worked and the responsibilities assigned to the intern. MEIPN and the intern should receive copies of this agreement.
Supervised and Self-directed Interns
Many students will work in the classroom as interns under the supervision of a certified teacher with three supervisory visits from a field consultant. Highly qualified individuals will be allowed to choose a self-directed internship. These individuals work without the benefit of a supervising teacher in the classroom. Self-directed internships for Elementary and Early Childhood are automatically two academic years in length. This will require three additional visits from a field consultant and additional fees. The course director will determine eligibility for a self-directed internship.
Practicum visits are intended to provide support and feedback to the student as well as to evaluate student progress. Students should view these visits as opportunities to ask questions and discuss concerns with an experienced Montessori professional. In our experience, most students feel somewhat apprehensive about the visits before the practicum begins, but during the actual practicum, they are glad to get the help and support of program supervisors. You may also get shorter contacts from the program, in the form of brief, “drop-in” visits, and telephone calls.