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Normalisation

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Normalisation is a very controversial issue in the non-Montessori circles as it is surrounded by lots of misunderstandings hence in this assignment i will shed the light on the process of the child’s growing normalisation and how it affects the role of the teacher. I will also define the term normalisation and link it with the concept of deviation. The prepared environment that supports a child’s normalisation process will be explained and linked to the child’s growing social development. Moreover I will describe the teacher’s initial approach with a new child in the setting and how the teacher’s role changes with the child’s growing normalisation. I will also give some reasons as to why a child might regress.

Montessori believed that the child is born good and capable to construct him/her self and reach his/her full potential and become a perfect human if left free in an environment that suits her/his needs and caters for it. However, many children meet various setbacks and regressions during their developmental journey and do not end up being the perfect adults they meant to be. This should be the main aim of education and teachers should provide conditions that guide a child towards this natural path they are born to take that can be referred to as ‘normalisation’ (Montessori, 2007a, 183).
Maria Montessori used the term normalisation to refer to a process or a phenomenon that she saw in her work with the children at San Lorenzo in Rome. This process occurs when development is proceeding normally and the child’s natural development is not deviated from its path.
For this process to successfully happen certain conditions must be provided such as a prepared environment which includes activities that uses the hands and link the mind, it should arouse the child’s interest so he/she will concentrate fully. In the prepared environment the child must be allowed to complete an activity without any interruptions and be allowed to repeat it until he/she has mastered it. The activity must also be reality based and freely chosen by the child.

The beginning of the normalisation process can be identified when the child has an awareness of his/her self and the needs of others around, enjoys his/her work and shows great deal of concentration and happiness in carrying out the tasks he/she chooses for him/her self.

“ 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” (Montessori, 2007a, p.188).
A normalised child should have the following characteristics; love of work, concentration, self discipline and sociability, these four characteristics are a sign that the process of normalization is happening.
We can summarise the process of normalisation as lack of deviation from the normal and natural developmental path of the child but what is ‘deviation’? (Montessori, 1966, p. 154)
A deviation is a defence mechanism created when development cannot proceed in a normal way. All children have some sort of deviations and the defects in adults can be traced back to a lack of development in the first years of life.
Deviations can take two main directions; deviations as fugues and deviations as barriers. Deviations as Fugues are like hiding away and concealing behind a cover. It can be manifested in the children who are never still whom their movements are without purpose. Deviations as Barriers are an inhibition which is strong enough to prevent the child from responding to her surroundings. It shows itself as dependence, possessiveness, power craving, inferiority complex, fear.
When the child is able to concentrate on and complete a task and will find joy in her/his work then he/she is going through the normalisation process, Montessori said about concentration “this is the most important single result of our whole work” (Montessori, 2007a, p.186).

If a child enters nursery with one or more of these deviations how to help him/her reach and achieve a state of normalisation? Montessori says that through concentration on activities that occupies the hands and engages the mind the child can be aided into normalisation and once this process starts to happen the child’s character will change to enable him/her have more control and independence over the learning process.

The child can self construct through active play and achieve concentration this phenomenon as Montessori explains can be achieved only through activity “the activity, which is carried out by the hand under guidance of the intelligence, can absorb all the psychic energies.” (Montessori, 2007a, p. 153)
However, there are three factors that have to be in place to aid and support the child through this journey, a favourable prepared environment, a prepared active teacher and carefully designed materials and equipments. “from this we can see that the special circumstances surrounding the children were a suitable environment, a humble teacher and material objects adapted to their needs.” (Montessori, 1966, p.137)
Firstly we will discuss the favourable environment; the characteristics of the favourable environment should be one that provides opportunities for the child to explore freely with furniture small to suit his/her physical abilities and it should have a sense of beauty and order to it. It should enhance learning in different ways such as the vertical grouping of children as the age-mixing classes provide a brilliant opportunity for children to learn and model from one another. The favourable environment should also provide a reality based and purposeful activities to help the child connect to the real world and aid them to be independent.
Moreover, the child should have the opportunity to repeat his/her work as long as he/she wishes. “It is important for us to know that the nature of s child’s work. When a child works, he does not do so to attain some further goal. His objective is the work itself, and when he has repeated an exercise and brought his own activities to an end, this end is independent of external factors.’ (Montessori, 1966, p.196)
To help the child experience the desired spontaneous concentration that is needed for the normalisation process he/she should work in cycles that can be around three hours, this period of time is not too short the child would not feel rushed and not too long that leaves the child feeling agitated and restless. The activities and materials selected may be done alone, with a friend, in a small group or with one of the teachers.
As for the materials and equipments that are provided they should be self corrected ones or auto-didactic so that the child does not feel pressured or criticised if unable to complete a certain task instead the child feels he/she is the master of his/her own self and can control the outcome of his/her learning. The materials should assist the child and capture his/her attention and aid the concentration process (Lillard, 1972).
The materials should fulfil five qualities; control of error, the lesson object is clear and simple, it should be relevant without distractions, they should be interesting and appealing and they should involve movement gross or fine motor ones.
The third factor is the teacher as she/he has an important role in facilitating and preparing the environment so the child reaches his/her full capacities. The teacher is the ‘dynamic link’ (Standing, 1984, p.305) between the child the environment and the materials.
“ The first thing required of a teacher is that he be rightly disposed of his task... we insist the fact that a teacher must prepare himself interiorly by systematically studying himself so that he can tear out his most deeply rooted defects, those in fact which impede his relations with children.’ (Montessori, 2007a, p.149)
The Montessori teacher or directress works as facilitator that creates a well-prepared environment and an atmosphere of learning that helps to move students from one activity and level to the next, she also should ensure that all materials and apparatus are in pristine condition, complete, and in their proper places and all items in the classroom are ready for use.
Montessori believed that the teacher should have a positive attitude towards the child and stay away from labelling the child and to carefully examine his/her prejudices towards the children. She must be alert to changes in the child’s interest, progress, mood, and behaviour which can be achieved through observation of the child. She further proposes that as soon as a child has found work and shows deep concentration, the teacher, at this point, should refrain from any type of interruption. “A guiding principle which brings success…is this: as soon as concentration has begun, act as if the child does not exist” (Montessori, 2007a, p.255).
The ability to concentrate is not a finale result but a starting point for the normalisation process and the teacher has to understand the different needs of the child pre the stage of concentration and after. When the teacher provides the exact help and support needed according to each individual stage the normalisation process can be fostered and nurtured.

When the child first enters the nursery he/she comes with some deviations he/she acquired from people around him/her. Therefore, the teacher should give the child a chance to settle and understand the routine and the rhythm of the nursery and how things work then slowly provide activities and materials that can spark the child’s interest and aid his/her concentration like practical life activities such as pouring or transferring then gradually introduces more diverse choice of activities.

“When we speak of ‘environment’ we include the sum total of objects which a child can freely choose and use as he pleases, that is to say, according to his needs and tendencies. A teacher simply assists him at the beginning to get his bearings among so many different things and teaches him the precise use of them, that is to say, she introduces him to the ordered and active life of the environment. But then she leaves him free in the choice and execution of his work.” (Montessori, 2007b, p.63) Only after normalisation starts to develop the child starts to demonstrate unique qualities such as ability for long period of joyful work, spontaneous discipline and urge to help others. The teacher’s goal is to aid the child reach his/her utmost independence that he/she can choose an activity complete it and go through a self educating journey as if the teacher is not there.

Montessori highlights the importance of the teacher’s role and how it changes as the child gradually takes over the management of his/her own learning (Standing, 1984). For this process to successfully occur the Montessori teacher must understand the important role he/she plays in ensuring that the favourable environment satisfies all the developmental needs and interests of the child.

Once the child achieves concentration and the normalisation process begins the work of the teacher changes to help nurture the process and support its development however some teachers might consider concentration as end not means and consider their work is done. Far from it the work of the teacher has just begun to stop the child from going through a regression process and lose that invaluable treasure he/she was able to acquire. The teacher should also notice any changes in the child’s life at home or different experiences he/she going through and adapt the environment to suit his/her needs to help the child from regressing. An example to that I encountered while reading this blog (Montessori Moments) The teacher noticed a change in one of the children’s behaviour in her Montessori class and after investigation she discovered that the child is expecting a baby brother and he started to regress and act like a baby as he is worried he would lose all the attention and it will be directed to the new baby, the teacher in this blog changed the lesson plans to suit the little boy and focused on practical life activities to give the student a sense of purpose and achievement to help him overcome his fears and come out of this regression phase he is encountering. Upon examining all previous concepts and definitions we are left with the understanding that the world we live in today is in dire need of drastic change and for this change to happen the humans should go through inner reconstruction to help themselves and consequently help the children grow up in a healthy, prepared and loving environment so they can plant the seed for a different present and a better future. Bibliography

Lillard,P.P. (1972) Montessori: A Modern Approach New York: Schocken Books
Lillard, P.P. (1996) Montessori Today New York: Schocken Books
Montessori Centre International (MCI) (2010) Module 1 Philosophy London: MCI
Montessori, M. (1966), The Secret of Childhood New York: Ballantine Books
Montessori, M. (2007a) The Absorbent Mind, Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (2007b) The Discovery of the Child, Amsterdam: Montessori-Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori, M. (2012) The 1946 London Lectures Amsterdam: Montessori Pierson Publishing Company
Montessori Moments, available online from: http://montessorimoments.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/regression (last accessed 01/08/2014)
Montessori St. Nicholas Charity: London available online from: http://www.montessori.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/50582/guide-to-early-years.pdf (last accessed 01/08/2014)
Montessori St Nicholas (MSN) (undated) The Philosophy [online] available from: http://www.montessori.org.uk/what_is_montessori/the_philosophy (accessed 01/08/2014)
Montessori St Nicholas (MSN) (undated) The Environment [online] available from: http://www.montessori.org.uk/what_is_montessori/the_environment (accessed 01/08/2014)
Standing, E.M. (1984) Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work New York: Plume…...

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