Dr. Maria Montessori took serious note of Socrates' view as she created this beautiful, holistic system of education.
Big Words. Big Changes.
by John Shepard
Okay, I'm going to start off by using a familiar word within the Montessori community: Normalization. It may sound a bit scary as if all children should fall in line and goose step to the same beat. But it's not. It's a word borrowed from anthropology and relates to how one becomes a contributing member to society.
For Dr. Montessori, normalization involved seeing certain characteristics in children as they "normally" developed. For her, normalization was the greatest result of our work with the child. Through careful observation, Dr. Montessori saw that when the children first enter the classroom, they often don't exhibit these normalized characteristics yet, but hopefully, will over time. This early condition may be described as the child's unnormalized state. (For more on normalization, see lecture given by Dr. Rita Shaefer Zener, on the AMI 3-6 course Nakhon Pathon, Thailand, April 2006. Published at Michael Olaf)
Now for the good part! A profound influence on the child happens through properly preparing a reality-based environment and putting into play the Montessori philosophy. In time, voilà, new characteristics unfold! Each child will freely choose his/her work and begin to concentrate and work together respectfully and peacefully in the classroom. While normalization will happen at different times for different children, the end result is that the child shows the ability to concentrate on purposeful activities. The key to seeing normalization in the child and the classroom: CONCENTRATION
So today, here are five of these new characteristics of the normalized child and a quote for each one by Dr. Montessori.
"If a child’s cycle of activity is interrupted, the results are a deviation of behavior, aimlessness, and loss of interest…So whatever intelligent activity we witness in a child – even if it seems absurd to us…we must not interfere; for the child must be able to finish the cycle of activity on which his heart is set."
"This inner drama of the child is a drama of love. It is a great reality unfolding within the secret areas of his soul and at times completely absorbing it. These marvelous activities wrought in humble silence cannot take place without leaving behind ennobling qualities that will accompany the child through life. All this happens quietly and unnoticed as long as the child's environment adequately corresponds to his inner needs..."
Tomorrow, I will finish up with several other new characteristics of the child in the normalized classroom.