By Melissa Bright
Normalization in the Montessori classroom is not the forced act of conforming to the environment; rather it refers to the concentration, independence, and focus of the child through their choices. Children learn to find their internal motivation to initiate individual or collaborative work, to freely adhere to the rules of the classroom they have helped to establish, and to achieve independence.
In The Absorbent Mind, Dr. Montessori says, “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 normalized child in a Montessori environment will focus on her work without experiencing fatigue, but instead feeling joyful and refreshed.
At the start of the school year, the Montessori Guide will focus on “Grace and Courtesy” activities to help the child become familiar with the prepared environment – to learn how to move about the room peacefully, to use classroom materials respectfully and how to positively interact with others.
By working with the Montessori materials, children learn to become independent, trusting in themselves and their abilities to accomplish tasks. Through the process of learning to work independently in an environment that is enriching and stimulating, children create a sense of order, concentration and coordination. All of these things help to develop self-direction as well as a true love of learning.
One of the beautiful aspects of a Montessori classroom is the multi-age environment. It is with great pride that the older children in the classroom act as mentors for the younger students as they work independently. The older children have proven their ability to manage their time effectively in the classroom and have grown as responsible leaders within the community. The older students love to help the younger children and the younger children admire the older students modeling their behaviors through observation and direct interaction.
Maria Montessori asserts in The Absorbent Mind, “What is the greatest sign of success for a teacher transformed? It is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’” When normalization is achieved in the classroom children will be able to move freely about the environment independently, peacefully and with intent; all without the needed guidance of a teacher.