Most of our society thinks of children as impulsive and chaotic beings. Dr. Maria Montessori found, however, that even the youngest children display a need for and a sense of order in their environment. The infant needs the constancy of his mother’s and father’s faces; the toddler must have his “blankee” and favorite stuffed animals to go to sleep. The room in which the young child spends most of his time must remain constant in the location of his bed, toys, chair, etc. because his environment is, to him, “like the sea to the fish and the air to the birds”, said Dr. Montessori.
Even young children will see items out-of-place and put them back. This is his divine drive for constancy, as part of his construction, and we must recognize it and allow it to be expressed. A parent once asked one of our teachers, “Why does my son take the front door mat to his room and put his toys on it?” Of course we know the answer: The child loves an orderly environment and has learned how satisfying it is to have a safe place to “work.” Adults do not realize how young children thrive on the same environment, and things always in their place. As Dr. Montessori mentioned, during the period of active construction of his psyche, “the child often feels the deepest impulse to bring order into what, according to his logic, is in a state of confusion” (1995).
One year I allowed about twenty teachers in training to visit one of our large classrooms for a short while, maybe thirty minutes. The adults came in while the children were working, and the new teachers took off their shoes and put them by the double doors. Then they found places around the room to sit and watch. Not too long afterwards, we all looked over and saw two children by the doorway. They observed the twenty pairs of shoes and found the matches for each one, placing them in pairs along the wall.
Although the child appears to be primarily fixed on his external world, he also possesses an internal order in his body. The internal sense of order “makes him aware of the different parts of his own body and their relative positions” (1966). He thrives on a definite schedule of eating and sleeping, playing, and learning. Without it, he becomes distracted and loses concentration.
Interesting events of the day:
1. I was amazed and inspired by the beautiful, complete shelves of materials in all areas, especially cultural and language. This was a surprise because the materials were not completed last November when the class began. Every small detail was in place. Wenru surprised even me with her ability. I made the right decision to choose her as our trainer in China, but now I remember that God told me she was His choice as Chinese trainer.
2. I presented in-depth philosophy, especially about parenting, which seemed to touch the students: unconditional love, forgiveness, eating dinner together as a family, words of respect in the family and in the classroom.
3. I outlined the parts of circle planning and gave examples of themes. The students seemed to understand them, including grace and courtesy (pantomiming the tea party), group snack and the words of “thank you,” “you are welcome,” and “yes, please.”
4. The active songs we sang gave the students a chance to move and see another way of relating to children.
5. I saw a joy and confidence in the students’ use of the geopgraphy materials.
6. I was invigorated by presenting the new, lovely history materials to the new students, as if it were a toy given to newborn babes.
Wenru picked me up at 8am as class was to begin at 8:30am. Fortunately, we are only 5 minutes away from the training classroom. It is on the second floor of a training facility.
Wentru has arranged the areas of learning very beautifully: the large classroom holds everything except practical learning, sensorial, and language. When I came in, students hugged me and were happy to see me. I was thrilled to see them, again. There were 14 women and 1 man. (PS: The man owns 7 schools with 100 children in each. He laughs a lot and some of his ways are rather manly).
I began reading, “Mama, Do You Love Me?,” and asked why I would show them this book. We talked about how they will give parent classes and lectures, and how important bedtime “tucking in” is and the time to tell your children that you will “always love them.” Wenru will take this book home to see what her smart twin daughters say about it.
One young woman asked how to conduct cirle and what it was. So, I spent about an hour discussing:
1. Traditional versus Montessori thinking
2. The change of heart and mind needed to be a Montessori teacher
3. The current problem of intervention of work and using Montessori materials as teaching materials at circle.
The morning “bowl test” for practical life went exceedingly well. I can see Wenru’s hard work in giving good lessons. There were the usual problems of standing up with the work in hand, or using one hand to wipe the table. Wenru had prepared matching large water activities that were beautiful.
After lunch I showed the Good Shepherd. I had shown it last November, so I had told the students that they could have a longer lunch if they didn’t want to see it again. All of them came, including Ruth, Wenru’s friend, who took the London Montessori Course and taught in Shanghai for two years. Since the students had already had a “bowl test” over the Chinese language materials, we had a test over the English materials. I was shocked how well the 15 Chinese students did on the test, especially capable of pronouncing the short phonetic sounds very accurately. A couple of the students needed help in feeling the complete sandpaper letter without lifting their fingers. Most of them did a lovely job of picking up the pencil with two hands.
Even though I was freezing in the classroom, I was warmed and in awe of God’s work through MIA in China, of what His plans for these students might be, and how they will assist children to learn through their full potential. We ended the day by summarizing the bowls a discussion of the lesson as a scientific learning experience for each teacher and child.