Montessori education, like other professional fields, has a great deal of jargon. One of the most confusing terms is normalization. Normalization in a Montessori classroom might be termed being in the “zone” or a “flow state.” Normalization is when everyone in the class is regularly engaged in work which they find meaningful and personally fulfilling, seamlessly moving from one task to the next.
Sometimes as adults it is not as easy to see why stacking one pink cube on another until a tower of ten cubes, balanced carefully, can stand on its own would be a challenge. But for a person who is only 3 years old, with the limited experience associated with that age, takes on that work it feels much harder. The struggle to place each cube exactly on the former takes a great deal of planning and muscle control. Two things which a young child is still working to develop.
“The goal of the teacher is the ‘normalization’ of the class. Montessori’s term means that the children will have thrown off their abnormal behaviors and discovered the enjoyment and concentration that comes from work that challenges them at just the right level of difficulty. Normalization comes from work that meets the child’s needs, and in Montessori’s thought, this has a positive effect on all levels of the child.” -John Chattin-McNichols, The Montessori Controversy
Dr. Montessori expected a high level of social and emotional competence in her students. This may seem like an unreasonable expectation until you consider the pieces she put in place to facilitate that development.
- The children are in a multi-age classroom where from the earliest days in that environment they are surrounded by good models and leaders
- The children stay with the same teachers for three years allowing them to develop a deep relationships in which the children trust the teacher and the model she represents.
Montessori believed that these high levels of social competence were evidence of the child’s normal development.