Chaos and Dancing Stars
It's October... about four weeks or so into most classroom's academic year, and the time when we start to think of the environments settling in. The tears of the first few days of school may be less often. Hopefully, by now, the children have practiced rolling their rugs and carrying their chairs. The Pink Tower is off the shelf most days and the Practical Life area is abuzz. Maybe there's even some cool Math and Language happening.
Maybe it's still louder than you think it should be. Maybe you're still reminding children every day, "I think you forgot to put away your rug." Maybe you're starting to wonder whether this is the year the children won't ever settle in. Maybe you're considering a move into administration. Or retirement.
Remember: while we, as teachers and parents, may like to think about the process of normalization on a predictable timeline, none of us steps into the same river twice. Each classroom, even the ones comprised of almost all returning children, is different. Not only from year to year, but from day to day. The dynamic, human messiness of an environment with twelve or twenty five or forty people in it each day interrupts our adult-driven plans and demands, instead, that we pay closer attention to the signals the children are giving us.
If your classroom remains chaotic, step away from the adult-centric perspective that there is some new intervention to implement or new system to install. Remember the qualities of the "normalized child" we learned back in training:
- A love of order
- A love of work
- Spontaneous concentration
- Attachment to reality
- A love silence and of working alone
- The sublimation of the possessive instinct
- The power to act from real choice
- Independence and initiative
- Spontaneous self-discipline
Physician, heal thyself. Are you demonstrating a love of order in yourself? A love of work? Concentration? Reality? A love of silence and working alone? Are you working against the possessive instinct and toward real choice? Are you obedient, not to some external power, but to the responsibility you share with your community? Are you showing initiative? Self-discipline? Joy?
If your classroom has not yet settled, settle yourself. There is no strict timeline for normalization, and our panicked efforts to move it along more quickly by changing our daily routines or implementing new systems, by trying new behavioral rules or dramatically moving around the furniture in the room... these efforts, well-intended, disrupt the predictability and constancy of the prepared environment. Slow down. Settle down. Trust that the children need the same responses, every day, every time, to believe that the environment is reliable. Trust that the child who is challenging your timeline is following an intrinsic one with far more relevance than yours will have. Remember that the normalized child may choose to be obedient to you, but the path to normalization come from following the child.
Our timelines for when classrooms will be normalized distracts from our intent to support the normalized child. The solution is not in new systems, but in the careful, daily, reliable observation of the child, to understand the obstacles we may have unintentionally created, to understand the opportunities to seize his or her interest and celebrate what is distinct and unique and, therefore, unpredictable in his or her nature.
Slow down. It'll come. Maybe not October this year. Maybe November or December. Observe. Observe. Observe. Take only those actions your observations have suggested. Then observe some more. It'll come. The timeline is not yours.