One day last month I had a teacher observing from another school. Near the end of the morning she said, “This is a truly normalized class.” “Normalized” is Maria Montessori’s term for a class where individual children are pursuing their interests with enthusiasm and concentration and where children are gracious and helpful to each other and solve conflicts with finesse.
It was true.
- When the music was on for dancing, Max figured out how to do a pivot turn. We all held hands and skipped in a circle and no one fell down.
- Katie did algebra for most of the morning, saying, “I know the answer now before I do it!”.
- Natalie wrote a story, Emily wrote a story, and they read them to each other.
- Charlie worked making planets, being sure that Jupiter had its red storm and Uranus had rings running vertically. Lea finished her planets and started working on the Sun, wondering if yellow and orange together had a fire look.
- Nikhil made a drawing based on Paul Klee’s painting “Outside, Life is Gay”.
- Rachel stopped working on the 8 chain to go cover Madison who was taking her mid-morning nap after polishing the constructive triangles for an hour.
- Allen read the names on the musical instrument cards and Charlie was impressed.
- Gwendolyn did the trinomial cube and asked me to “watch, but don’t help.” Michela did the trinomial cube and asked Gwendolyn to “watch, don’t help.”
- Taylor and Dana and Emily and Blair asked if 4 people could work on Silly Things books at the grey table even though there’s only room for 3, “so no one will feel bad.”
- Eric played the melody for The Rajah’s Secret on the xylophone.
- Brendan and Colin were working at the workbench and when I went over because I heard them arguing they said, “It’s okay, we’re taking care of it.”
- Alicia used the colored cylinders for an hour and almost forgot to have snack.
- David did the solar system puzzle and then helped everyone else who did the solar system puzzle.
Definitely a normalized class, but if she had been here the day before….
- In spite of changing the music, I couldn’t get the dancers to do anything except run at high speed to the music.
- Children who were insisting that they wanted to read to each other on the pillows by the book shelf were actually hiding books under the shelf and throwing pillows at each other.
- Everyone who went in the coatroom to use the xylophone or the drums seemed to be making random banging noises.
- Everyone else seemed to be wandering around or taking work out and putting it away without actually doing it.
- Whenever I turned around, someone was complaining that they were left out: “He said he would have snack with me, but now he’s working with Colin.”
- Arguments seemed to simmer rather than get solved: “You’re never going to be my friend.”
- And several basins of water were spilled.
So I had to say to her, “Yes, it’s a lovely class…but it isn’t always like this.