I’ve been wanting to discuss the Montessori view of gratitude.
We spent much of the second semester looking at civilizations and creating our own civilizations. Why look at the civilizations? Who cares about neolithic people groups? Who cares what arose in the distant pre-literate past? Doesn’t what matter to humans arise from the present and what we have developed now? I would argue that to ignore the coming of civilizations is to breed ingratitude into our culture. What humans need and what cultures value provide us with an understanding of the tendencies of man – the ingenuity, creativity, and luck of humans in the cosmos.
Deep in mankind is their own needs and tendencies. These needs are valuable to understand as a guide and a parent.
The needs and tendencies of mankind place humans in their unique position in the cosmos. A number of scholars assert that the inborn tendencies of humans were implied when the writer of the Pentateuch asserts that “God created man in his image.” The way mankind meets our basic needs allows mankind to be creators in this world.
In the six to twelve classroom, the fundamental needs of humans are explored to help the children develop a sense of gratitude for those who lived before us and also to help the children be aware of the interdependence among all peoples. At the same time, the fundamental needs are a beacon which guides the teacher in providing ways for students to meet their own academic and personal needs through their tendencies.
At the core of the creative spark in humans are the universal needs inborn into mankind. The potential that each child is born with is imbued and strengthened by the collective knowledge, understanding, and expectation of their particular culture. There are basic needs in each person which have provided for the survival of the human race. These needs are universal but the expression of these needs vary from culture to culture.
The universal needs of man (in summary) are:
- movement/ transportation
- logical/quantitative processing
- social connection
The needs of mankind have provided for the rise and fall of individuals, families and cultures. Inside each child are the potentialities to succeed in meeting their needs or to fail in their attempts. The six to twelve year old is beginning to face the possibilities of failure in a society. This realization must be observed as the teacher contemplate the proper way to help the student become successful.
The way we help children meet their needs in the six to twelve plane of development is based on a thorough understanding of these basic human needs. Speaking strictly of the classroom, if the teacher finds ways for the child’s human tendencies to be expressed and successfully operate, then the teacher has become the guiding nurturer of the child’s potential. Conversely, if the needs are suppressed or their expression is thwarted then the human child will not grow into the full potential that would have been possible.
Each culture reaches for its ideal of perfection as defined by their uniquely emphasized areas of the needs of man. To do this a culture finds valued tendencies and encourages people in the culture to meet their needs by utilizing their tendencies. Unfortunately, the tendencies of the individual may not be valued as deeply by one culture as by another. Irregardless, the innate drive for mankind to use his tendencies to advance cultures is impressive.
Maria Montessori identified ten human tendencies. They are:
- ability to abstract ideas
Exploration: Exploration is how Montessori children are taught to view the world. To experience the world through the five senses is much more powerful than just to read a book or listen to a lecture. Teachers must be very aware of providing ways for the real world to be explored both inside and outside the classroom.
Orientation: To thrive children must orient themselves in their environment. Children must know where they are and how to negotiate that space physical and socially. Consistency and explanation are key ways for children to orient themselves in the six to nine classroom. A child must be orientated before he may fully explore.
Order: The human mind strives for a logical processing of information. This clarity is found in order. In the six to nine classroom, this order is no longer expressed by outward precision as often as it was in younger stages of development. At this plane of development, order has moved inward, and the child is developing a sense of internal order. Although the child may begin to seem not to care about rugs, shelves, and an ordered classroom, he has internalized the order and has moved it into a more intellectual process whereby he classifies, logically observes, and reviews information much more in his mind. Order is essential to proper orientation.
Ability to abstract ideas: The power to abstract ideas into other situations is beginning to bloom in the six to nine classroom. This ability is developed by concrete experiences that provide a framework to build the ability of abstraction. This ability is often forced in traditional classrooms at a young age. Dr. Montessori observed that provided enough concrete experiences children will naturally abstract very complex ideas with deep and thorough understanding.
Work: Having a purpose in an activity encourages children to work. Work brings great joy when it is voluntary and allows for mastery.
Self-discipline: Self-discipline is the ability to anticipate the future and sacrifice to achieve a goal beyond the moment. This act of the will allows the child to order his world. Choices and consequences aid in the creation of self-control.
Repetition: Mastery of tasks requires repetition. Humanity has a drive to do something over and over until we gain control over the task. Dr. Montessori encouraged children to repeat items as often as desired. The child’s repetition was complete when she decided that she was finished. This produces within the child the ability for powerful concentration.
Perfection: The drive to repeat tasks until mastery reflects the human tendency to reach for perfection. Children who are allowed to repeat until mastery is achieved are joyful people. Internal satisfaction through completing internally set goals is much more satisfying than completing a task assigned to you. This is not a perfectionism that crushes creativity and joy, but the deep satisfaction of a job well done.
Exactness: Exactitude allows children to know how to know when perfection is achieved. Through the tendency of exactness, the logical processing of information has allowed man to reach many scientific planes. Children use the tendency of exactitude at a young age to know through physical exploration whether or not they have reached perfection. As children reach the six to nine classroom, the lessons of deep physical exploration have encouraged the children to have an innate awareness of perfection.
Communication: Communication makes it possible for us to live in a society. Expression of needs and reactions to others is made possible through communication. Instruction and explanation are received through communication. Proper communication allows for the mind to more fully explore the world, intellectually and socially.
The needs of man are the engine that drives individuals and societies forward. By being aware of and encouraging these inner, innate motivations, the teacher is providing the child with a source of motivation that will last and be strong into the child’s adult life – long after the effectiveness of the external motivations of teachers and parents have faded. The child’s tendencies teach the child to look inward for motivation and goals instead of depending on others to provide the impetus for movement; they were given to us by God and are healthy motivations but must be nurtured and balanced. When encouraged they make the child more creative, a better problem solver, and a natural leader. These traits are highly valued in our society, and culturally in traditional educational systems, a thoughtful emphasis has not been developed. However, Montessori education does provide a reasoned approach in its classrooms. Guides are extorted to observe, encourage, and value tendencies.
This is why many Montessori children find lasting success in our culture.