Caution- Normalization in Progress!
(…or: what is with that door, anyway?)
The first 6 weeks in any Montessori classroom is focused on “normalizing” the children. Normalization is a term that Dr. Montessori coined. It refers to the discipline that manifests in children when their psyches have been piqued in such a way that intense and prolonged concentration develops. A normalized child is focused, purposeful, and calm.
But how does this happen?
It happens because of the interplay between the child, his/her environment, and the teacher. The teacher acts as a facilitator who makes the environment accessible to the child. Through careful presentations and precise modeling of appropriate behavior, teachers inculcate the children in the expectations of the classroom. (Presentations and emphasis are different at each level.
The important thing is not the lessons themselves but what those lesson cause to develop when the child subsequently adopts those behaviors into his/her being. The lessons at the beginning of the year range from how to walk around a rug and blow your nose in Primary; to toast making etiquette and the do’s and don’ts of lighting the silence candle in Junior Level; to how to check out a book or sit in a cozy arm chair during class in Upper Level; and finally, in Middle School, how to run the morning meeting, call in attendance, and load and unload the dishwasher).
Normalization will only occur if a sense of order reigns supreme in the classroom. Unwavering order creates a structure that allows children to move freely and with confidence in their environments.
This freedom results in the development of independence, and the unleashing of the child’s innate desire to work.
We try to maintain a sense of separateness between the foyer of our buildings and the classrooms. We do so because normalizing classrooms is our first priority.
We want to maintain the sense of order so carefully crafted by our teachers and to instill and foster independence in our children.
Those big doors that keep the classrooms off limits, (those same doors which sometimes seem off-putting to parents), really represent a demarcation line- think of them in the vein of the yellow ticker tape that delineates where turtles are nesting.
If there were a sign at the juncture, it might say:
Caution: Authorized Entry Only:
Greatness unfolding; Normalization in progress..