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How the directress assist the child in psychic development

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“Education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being. It is not acquired by listening to words, but in virtue of experiences in which the child acts on his environment. The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” (Dr . Maria Montessori; The Absorbent Mind, Chap.1) The founder of the Montessori Method of Education was Dr .Maria Montessori. She was born in Italy in 1870 and became the first women doctor in her country’s history. She devised a method of education, which combines a philosophy with practical approach based on the central idea of freedom for the child within a carefully planned and structured environment.

The great pioneering achievement of Dr .Maria Montessori was to recognize the crucial importance of the child’s first six years of development. Montessori felt that there is an urgent need for new education since the prevailing educational system cannot find a solution to the many problems faced by man. She felt that if we could focus our energies on children, understand them, we should be able to provide for an educational system that will help solve problems faced by the world instead of going to war. She believed that if education followed the natural development of the child, then society would gradually move to a higher level of cooperation, peace and harmony. Montessori felt that adult should not assume that the child is an empty vessel waiting to be filled with our knowledge and experience.

She also felt that adult must aim to diminish their egocentric and authoritarian attitude towards child and adapt a passive attitude in order to aid in his development. Montessori discovered a world within the child. Through her observations of the child, Montessori became convinced that he possesses an intense motivation towards his own self-construction. She discovered mental concentration, love of repetition, love of order, freedom of choice, love of work, no need of reward and punishment, lovers of silence, a sense of personal dignity, writing and reading and spontaneous self- discipline. It is really these observations, which has made her famous, not her method. “Because, in the child, instinct has withdrawn to give place to something higher to the intelligence and will of man”. (DMT101, Montessori Principle & Philosophy, p.31) To explain the child’s self-construction, Montessori concluded he must possess within him, before birth, a pattern for his psychic unfolding.

She referred to this inborn, psychic entity of the child as a “spiritual embryo”. The two conditions of an integral relationship with the environment and freedom for the child must exist if this embryo is to develop according to its plan. Unlike other creatures of the earth, he must develop his own powers for reacting to life. He has however, been given special “creative sensitivities” to help him accomplish this difficult task. Maria Montessori identified two internal aids, the Sensitive period and the Absorbent mind that help the child to develop. Sensitive periods are the blocks of time in the child’s life when he is absorbed with one characteristic of his environment to the exclusion of all others. There are six sensitive periods. Sensitivity to order, this sensitiveness appears in a child’s first year and continues through the second year.

The child manifest his need for order to us in three ways: he shows a positive way in seeing things in accustomed places, children’s insistence on putting things back in their place, crying or throwing tantrums at unfamiliar places or people. If this sensitivity lacks, child will feel insecure and has no confidence in himself and cannot construct a mental picture of the world. Second sensitive period, Learning through their five senses appears as a desire to explore the environment with tongue and hands. Through taste and touch, the child absorbs the qualities of the objects in his environment and seeks to act upon them. If the child is deprived of the right environment during this period, it will inhibit the child from learning and lead to poor concentration and it would be difficult for the child to make comparison and judgement.

The sensitive period for walking (2.5-4yrs), Montessori viewed this time as a second birth for the child, for it heralded his passing from a helpless to an active being. In this period children are continuously developing their gross and fine motor. Sensitivity to language (1.5-3yrs) , begins early in the child’s life. The child must be exposed to language during this sensitive period. The child in our culture is usually surrounded by the sounds he needs in establishing language. If a child is not exposed regularly to language, his language will be irrevocably damaged and become less confident and develop low self-concept. A fifth sensitive period involves an intense interest in small objects so tiny and so detailed they may escape our notice entirely.

It is as if nature set aside a special period for exploring and appreciating her mysteries, which will later be overlooked by a busy adult. If this is stunted, it will discourage the curiosity of the child in discovering new things and the child may become passive. A sixth sensitive period is revealed through an interest in the social aspects of life. The child becomes deeply involved in understanding the civil rights of others and establishing a community with them. This social interest is exhibited first as an observing activity, and later develops in to a desire for more active contact with others. If the child is deprived of the right environment, he becomes very unfriendly and anti-social. The absorbent mind explains the process by which the child gains knowledge from his environment.

It contain two process; Unconscious Mind(0-3yr), they collect impressions or ideas from the environment but they are not knowledge because he is in unconscious mind, whatever he collected, he don’t know what is good or bad. When the child is learning through the five senses, he is passing through the unconscious mind to Conscious Mind (3-6yr). Now he is in conscious mind where he has Memory and Reasoning power, therefore impressions or ideas will become knowledge. “The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality.” (Montessori; A Modern Approach, Chap.4) The principles or natural laws governing the child’s growth reveal themselves only through the process of his development.

Using the period of development, Montessori was able to observe the natural laws (psychic pattern) at work in children. One of the most important of those she observed is the law of work. It is because work helps the child to become truly himself that he is driven to his constant activity and effort. The work of the child is very unlike the work of the adult. Children use the environment to improve themselves; adults use themselves to improve the environment. Children work for the sake of process; adults work to achieve an end result. The child seeks no assistance in his work. He must accomplish it by himself. The rhythm of the child’s work is different from the adult. The aim of the child’s work is not an external one but of an internal one. A second principle revealed through the child’s development is the law of independence.

He uses this independence to listen to his own inner guide for actions that can be useful to him. A third psychic principle involves the power of attention. At a certain stage in his development, the child begins to direct his attention to particular objects in his environment with an intensity and interest not to seen before. As he has more experience, however, he builds up an internal knowledge of the “known”, which now excites expectation and interest in the novel unknown. When the child achieves this focusing of attention based on intellectual interest, he grows calmer and more controlled. After internal coordination is established through the child’s ability for prolonged attention and concentration, a fourth psychic principle involving the will is revealed.

Montessori observed three stages in the development of the child’s will. First, the child gets self-development through the repetition of an activity. Then the child moves to second stage of will development that is self-discipline. After achieving self-discipline, the child reaches a third stage of developed will involving the power to obey. “To help the development of intelligence is to help put images of consciousness in order” (DMT 101, Montessori Principle & philosophy, p.44) The development of the intelligence governs the key to understanding life itself. The beginning of intellectual development is the consciousness of difference in the environment.

The child makes these perceptions through his senses; he must then organize them into an orderly arrangement in his mind. The child’s imagination and creativity are inborn powers in the child that develop as his mental capacities are established through his interaction with the environment. The environment must itself be beautiful, harmonious, and based on reality in order for the child to organize his perceptions of it. Next psychic principle deals with the development of the emotional and spiritual life of the child. Montessori believed the child possesses within him at birth the senses that respond to his emotional and spiritual environment and thereby develop his capacity for loving and understanding responses to others and to God.

Next psychic principle is related to the stages of a child’s growth. The transformation of children from birth to adulthood occurs through a series of developmental stages or planes. There are four stages in the development. In the first plane from birth to age six, the child is characterised by his or her environment, language and culture. In the second plane from age six to twelve, child use a “reasoning mind” to explore the world with abstract thought and imagination. In the third plane from twelve to eighteen, the adolescent has a “humanistic mind” eager to understand humanity and the contribution he or she can make to society. In the last plane of development, from age eighteen to twenty-four, the adult explores the world with a “specialist mind” taking his or her place in the world.

“To help such development, it is not enough to provide objects chosen at random, but we (teachers) have to organize a world of ‘progressive interest”. (Dr. Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p.206) Montessori considered her emphasis on the environment a primary element in her method. The prepared environment prepared by a talented teacher must contain the mental food necessary for the development of his psychic embryo or pattern. Montessori environment is a loving area and also a nourishing place for the child. If the teacher is to play the key role in the environment for the child, she clearly must be open to life and the process of becoming herself. If she is a rigid person for whom life has become existing rather than growing, she will not be able to prepare a living environment for the children.

There are six basic components to the Montessori classroom environment. They deal with the concepts of freedom; it is only in an atmosphere of freedom that the child can reveal himself. If the child possesses within himself the pattern for his own development, this inner guide must be allowed to direct the child’s growth. The underlying Structure and order; of the universe must be reflected in the classroom if the child is to internalize it and build his own mental order and intelligence. Montessori environment is based on reality and nature. The child must have the opportunity to internalize the limits of nature and reality if he is to be free from his fantasies and illusions, both physical and psychological. Atmosphere and beauty; true beauty is based upon simplicity. Everything within the environment must be of good design and quality.

The Montessori materials are tools to stimulate the child in to logical thought and discovery. They are simple, enticing and provocative. Each piece of material presents one concept or idea at a time and has what is known as a “control of error”. If the child has done something incorrectly it will be self-evident. Being able to see his or her own mistake allows the child to work independently-“auto education”. Development of community life; this development is aided by several key elements in the Montessori method like sense of ownership, responsibility and inclusion of children of different ages in each class.

Children work harmoniously, co-operate, and provide moral and reciprocal help to each other. “The Montessori teacher plays in the child’s life, however, for her approach is actually an indirect rather than a direct one.” (Montessori –A Modern Approach, Chap.3) The Montessori teacher who is responsible for the six components of the prepared environment for the child should perhaps not be called a teacher at all. Montessori called her a “directress”. To understand and follow the child, the directress must develop the desire and ability to observe him. The ability to hold observation of life in such esteem does not come readily to the adult. The spirit has three aspects. One is an interest in humanity; then it is ability to see children as individuals, each unique and unlike any other; finally, it is based on faith that the child can and will reveal himself, and that through this revelation the teacher will discover what his role must be.

Montessori gives the following “guide to psychological observation” of the child in three key areas: his work, his conduct, and the development of his will and self-discipline to include voluntary obedience. In addition to her role as an observer, the teacher serves as the preparer and communicator of the environment for the child; exemplar in the environment; and also the link that puts the child in touch with the environment. Montessori teacher has an important role, not only as an interpreter but also as an evaluator, supporter, respecter, protector, facilitator of communication, demonstrator, peacemaker, and a consistent good example of desirable behaviour for the children. Aim of a Montessori directress is to develop the whole personality of the child through motor, sensory and intellectual activity.

We need to observe to learn more about the child, about his specific needs and the sensitive periods that the child goes through and to see what motivates him and where his interest lie. The directress observes much, she is physically passive, but mentally active in her observation. It is important not to interrupt the child or there is no need for us to come to rescue for the child but instead we should calmly give the child time to settle him-self down and resume his activity or work when he is ready. The role of adult is not like the teacher in a traditional environment however – whose role is to teach the children. The role of the adult in a Montessori environment is to facilitate the child to teach himself by following his own internal urges that will lead him to take what he needs from the things and people around him.

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