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.