‘The transition from one stage to another always follows a piece of work done by the hands with real things, work accompanied by mental concentration. ’ (Montessori, 2007a, pg. 186) This is what Montessori termed ‘normalisation’. Montessori (2007a) said that the life of an individual from 0 to 18 years may be divided into three periods – 0-6 years, 6 – 12 years and 12-18 years old. The first period 0-6 years old is the most important part of life which is one of creativeness.
It is important to note that from birth to three years adults cannot directly influence the mind of a child hence it must be nature that lays the foundations. A child in this first period mentioned above does not know right from wrong as he is unaware of adults and society’s principles. In the second period of 6-12 years the child begins to become conscious of right and wrong of his actions. Moral consciousness is being formed and this leads later to social sense. The third period from 12-18 years is that of patriotism when social awareness is apparent.
Although each period is different each lays the foundation for the one following and the success of each foundation positively influences the subsequent. ‘We serve the future by protecting the present. ’(Montessori, 2007a, pg 177) The most critical years of life are those from birth to three years, as a child’s personality is developed however if obstacles are encountered the child’s personality deviates. Montessori (2007a) believed that a model individual is one who at three has not encountered any deviations.
Her prognosis of a child between 0-3 years with deviations was curable during the period of 3-6 years as this is when nature is still perfecting many newly formed powers. However if the defects in this period are not corrected they remain and get worse and have an influence on the second main period when as mentioned above begins the awareness of right and wrong. Montessori (2007a) further classified deviations into two groups, – those shown by strong character and those shown by weak character. The strong type resists and overcome obstacles.
They display tendencies of violence, insubordination, rage, disobedience, are noisy and display sudden mood changes. The weak child may not be noticed due to being quiet, not showing any initiative for anything, and being clingy to their parents who often mistake this as sign of affection. These problems can be solved if we understand the cycle of constructive activities which every child should naturally pass through. The neglect of children at this age was the cause of an empty mind and the lack of unplanned activity.
However the defects disappeared when children where placed in an environment where they could experience their surroundings, whereby they had the freedom to chose there own activities, freedom to repeat the activities as many times as he/she wishes and finally the freedom to move around and choose where to sit or where to work. The child of this age not only needs something interesting to do but is found to be captivated by a task which was freely chosen and he/she had no interruptions.
He then repeats the same movements continuously completely absorbed by the task, due to an instinct to coordinate his movements and acquire better coordination. The repetition of the task brings about a profound mental connection which leads to a concentration of the activity. This display of concentration brings about normalisation. The environment as mentioned above played a vital role in normalisation hence the immense preparation of such. It had to be suited to the child’s needs, providing freedom for the child to express. Evidently due to the physical needs of the child, the tables and chairs were made proportionate to their size.
They were light weight which further encouraged freedom of movement. The main room had low cupboards with activities. There was also a wash basin, dressing room with a shelf, sitting room with appropriately sized armchairs and a completely equipped dining room for the child to easily perform daily life activities. Further the child was free to continue with activity without having to ask for items and encouraged self confidence as the child made his own decisions. Pictures, plants, ornaments and table cloths beautified the environment and Montessori believed this encouraged a deviated child to respond to reality.
These were all orderly presented and constantly maintained and further brought about order and organisation in the child with his mental development. The characteristics of normalisation are experiencing a task or activity by hand, continuously working on the task repeatedly, concentration, discipline which occurs when the child concentrates and finally a characteristic of friendliness which occurs as a result of the above mentioned, because a child becomes happy and calm and becomes more aware of the other children around him. “But when the ttractions of the new environment exert their spell, offering motives for constructive activity, then all these energies combine and the deviations can be dispersed. A unique type of child appears, a ‘new child’; but really it is the child’s true ‘personality’ allowed to construct itself normally. ” (Montessori, 2007a, pg. 185) The teacher is the key link between the child and the environment. She is required to observe the child and determine the child’s needs at any given point and further support those individual needs. She should not interrupt a child during his activity and not offer to help unless requested to do so by the child.
The unnecessary interruption disturbs the flow of activity and thought. More than this, the teacher must protect the concentrating child from interruption from anyone. More especially when a child has reached concentration stage and is clearly displaying their interest in the exercise of practical life is a time when a teacher should not interfere. This behaviour is the transition stage of normalisation which opens up new cycle of activities. The teacher does play a more active role with new children who join the nursery. Most often this is the first time the child is separated from home.
The teacher assists the child by introducing the daily practical life activities such as the daily routine upon arrival, where to place the child’s belongings which is a designated spot, the introduction to all the materials within the environment. The teacher hence builds the foundation for a routine, order and the child further develops a work pattern. As this new child goes about a routine a sense of confidence and independence forms and this is when the teacher begins to step back allowing the child more freedom within the environment.
As the child begins to concentrate he/she begins to be the active force in the relationship, the teacher becomes more passive, observing and maintaining the environment. To further elaborate the teacher’s role changes through different stages. In the first stage the vital preparation of the environment takes precedence over the children’s restlessness. It is here that she prepares the environment by ensuring it is neat, clean, orderly, beautiful and that all is in good condition. The same should be applied to her appearance as this seemed the first step in gaining the child respect.
It is clear that without a proper prepared environment the child is unable to be positively influenced towards reaching normalisation and further revealing his true personality. The second stage is the teacher’s behaviour towards the children. As the children have not shown the concentration level yet they are at this stage more disorderly and can be interrupted. The teacher’s role here is to entertain the children in activities which do not necessarily add value to their education but rather occupies them creating a sense of calm.
During this stage if the teacher encounters a child who is disruptive to the others, who constantly interferes with other children, the teacher at this stage can interrupt the child which will break the flow of this disruptive behaviour. The teacher distracts this behaviour by using affection leading the child away from the group. Finally is the stage when the child achieves concentration. It is extremely important for the teacher not to interrupt the child who begins to display interest on an object and who finally concentrates on this piece of work.
Should she interrupt by trying to assist a child who is finding it difficult to do something the child loses interest and lets the teacher do it her herself. Interruptions of any form during this time breaks the child’s focus and seizes the child’s desire to overcome the difficulty. Finally what is required is for the teacher to eventually play a part of an aid when and for the child to be actively independent. ‘The great principle which brings success to the teacher is this: as soon as concentration as begun, act as if the child does not exist. (Montessori, 2007a, pg 255) In conclusion, it has become evident how the child, the environment and the teacher is connected and dependent. The stages that followed and dependencies of them all was the basis for Montessori teaching. Bibliography 1. Montessori, M, (1972). The Secret of Childhood, Ballantine Books, New York 2. Montessori, M, (2007a). The Absorbent Mind, Montessori – Pierson Publishing Company, Amsterdam 3. Montessori, M (2007b). The Discovery of the Child, Montessori – Pierson Publishing Company, Amsterdam