Archives for May 2016
Today’s article, finishes our initial look at some wonderful quotes of Dr. Montessori which reflect her understanding of the characteristics of what she called normalization.
The first one here, “willing compliance” or “obedience,” was believed to have three levels to its development in the child. A very young child starts out obeying simply because the request is something they also want (first phases/level). The second phase is when the child obeys out of habit or, again, because s/he will get the result they desire. The third phase, which Dr. Montessori considered the highest motivation for obedience, is when a child does what they are asked because it is purely and simply the right thing to do! The child knows it and wants to do it. Coupled with this is the child’s own self respect which enables him to respect not only him/herself but the rights of others and their needs. Unlike blind obedience, this is what Dr. Montessori called joyful obedience.
Joy, I believe, is the very essence of real learning. Without it we diminish the importance of ideas, habits, and work. More than that, we otherwise insult the very nature of ourselves as inquisitive and thoughtful human beings who have purpose and value.
Now, for the quotes. Here are some of my favorites:
- Willing compliance (or joyful obedience)
“So what we call the first level of obedience is that in which the child can obey, but not always. It is a period in which obedience and disobedience seem to be combined.”
“The second level is when the child can always obey, or rather, when there are no longer any obstacles deriving from his lack of control. His powers are now consolidated and can be directed not only by his own will, but by the will of another.”
“He responds promptly and with enthusiasm and as he perfects himself in the exercise, he finds happiness in being able to obey.”
- Elimination of possessive instincts
“If a child finds no stimuli for the activities which would contribute to his development, he is attracted to things and desires to possess them. A man’s attachment to many things and his reluctance to give them up, even if they are of no use to him, is a deadly poison that can upset his basic equilibrium.”
“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity which is derived from a sense of independence.”
- Spontaneous self discipline
“The children have shown love of work which no one suspected to be in them, and a calm and an orderliness in their movements, which surpassing the limits of correctness have entered into those of ‘grace.’ The spontaneous discipline and obedience which is seen in the whole class, constituted the most striking results of our method.”
“Social grace, inner discipline, and joy. These are the birthright of the human being who has been allowed to develop essential human qualities.”
- True joy of learning
“Once a direction is given to them, the child’s movements are made towards a definite end, so that he himself grows quiet and contented, and becomes an active worker, a being calm and full of joy.”
“Any child who is self-sufficient, who can tie his shoes, dress or undress himself, reflects in his joy and sense of achievement the image of human dignity, which is derived from a sense of independence.”
The journey continues…
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Big Words. Big Changes.
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.
- A love of order
“We (adults) are rich in experience; he (the child) is poor, and therefore much more dependent on his environment. Our experience is already ordered, with pigeonholed memories and reasoned principles. Not so his. The order which he is able to find in the environment is almost his all; it is his foundation.”
- Love of work activity
“An interesting piece of work, freely chosen, which has the virtue of inducing concentration rather than fatigue, adds to the child’s energies and mental capacities, and leads him to self-mastery.”
“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ’The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ “
“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.”
- Attachment to reality
“But in our specially prepared environments we see them all at once fix themselves upon some task, and then their excited fantasies and their restless movements disappear altogether; a calm, serene child, attached to reality, begins to work out his elevation through work.”
- Love of silence
“Children are not only sensitive to silence, but also to a voice which calls them … Out of that silence.”
“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.
Montessori and the Child
Yesterday, I wrote on why quotes are helpful and one of my favorites from Dr. Montessori, who had many memorable ones. Dr. Montessori immersed herself in understanding the child and, in particular, how a child learns and develops. Here are a few on the results of her research and discoveries about the child.
“As soon as children find something that interests them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate.”
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
“Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”
“The things he sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul.”
“Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them.”
“These words reveal the child’s inner most needs: ‘Help me do it alone.’ ”
Do you have a favorite Montessori quote? Share it. Leave a comment. Thanks.
Why are quotes helpful?
This week, we are taking a reflective look back at some of the great quotes of Dr. Maria Montessori. There are so many that help us grow in our thinking and understanding, as teachers/instructors and as human beings.
Quotes are helpful for several reasons. They help draw out the inspiration that is already within us and stimulate those meaningful words which are often on the tip of our tongue but are never quite spoken. Quotes are tried and tested over the years helping us focus on what is important. They can rekindle meaningful relationships and prompt us to be more disciplined. Quotes also remind us of others who, just like us, have experienced both failure and success and from those moments have learned pivotal lessons for life.
Perhaps best of all, quotes are short and to-the-point, leaving us a great deal to reflect on and ponder.
So to begin, here is one of my favorites that remind me of my own inner preparation in life:
“The real preparation for education is the study of one’s self. The training of the teacher is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.” Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, pg. 131
What is one of your favorite Montessori quotes? Perhaps you have several. Add yours in the “Comments” and may each of these gems help inspire us!