The Human Tendencies  

By Tania Gaffney – Rata Teacher & Deputy Principal Primary

After reading Krista’s column a fortnight ago about the Sensitive Periods, I thought I would follow with the Human Tendencies, since after the 1st plane of development (i.e. Preschool) we do not talk of Sensitive Periods any more, rather how we are catering to the Human Tendencies of the 2nd plane child.

Human tendencies are innate characteristics that every human has from birth throughout life which they use to meet their own needs. They do not follow any sequence, rather they work with each other in an interconnected way. They are as follows:

– Tendency to Order, e.g. following a sequence, understanding cause and effect, following a train of thought or an argument.

– Tendency to Orient, e.g. adapting to new situations.

– Tendency to Work or Manipulate, e.g. putting ideas into action, manipulating equipment.

– Tendency to Repeat, e.g. repeating a skill/s to build competency.

– Tendency to be Exact or Perfect, e.g. getting something to match the idea in your head.

– Tendency to Explore, e.g. the urge to investigate, to broaden our knowledge or horizons.

– Tendency to Abstraction, e.g. beginning with the concrete form which leads to being able to play with an idea without the concrete form.

– Tendency to Communicate, e.g. sharing, cooperating and collaborating with others.

When a Montessori teacher thinks about their class they ask themselves, “How are we allowing for the human tendencies to be lived out by the tamariki?”  Communication is an example. When I was young, we each had our own desk which the teacher generally arranged individually or occasionally in pairs but always with the idea of restricting the flow of communication and movement.  Consequently, we did everything in our power to communicate covertly with each other by whispering or passing notes.  Our ākonga have the freedom to move about and communicate with each other in class. This leads to children helping each other, collaborating on projects or chatting over morning tea.

What about the Tendency to order?  The 6-12 mind is quite different from the 0-6 mind where for the young child, the tendency to order is more about the external environment.  At the older level there is always creative disorder during work time, but everything still has a home and the environment should still be as beautiful as the 3-6 class.  The order that is being developed here is more in the mind of the 6-12 year old, e.g. learning about the order of the universe, the world and society and how they work.

It might be interesting for you to watch your tamariki and see how they are trying to fulfil their human needs through these tendencies and ask yourself, ”Is there something I need to do to help my child communicate with me or adapt to some new situation?”

The Importance of Order

By Krista Kerr – Preschool Head Teacher

Dr. Montessori began to wonder how and why it was that children at a certain age were universally drawn towards the same things in their environment. She discovered it is because human beings have special times in their early lives termed sensitive periods. A sensitive period is a particular moment in a person’s development in which they have an intense reaction or heightened response towards a particular part of their environment for a set period of time. Dr. Montessori likened this specific focus of the child to a torch in the dark; the beam of light focusing on one direct point.

These sensitive periods assist the child in their construction and occur at particular times in a child’s life during the first six years in order to help with his/her development, providing an unconscious pull towards specific parts of the environment. Montessori observed six sensitive periods – language, movement, order, refinement of the senses, small objects, and social behaviour.

The sensitive period for order begins between birth and one year of age. This also underpins all the other sensitive periods, as without order a child will not be able to absorb language, fine detail and other human characteristics. When we have a sense of order of the world we live in, knowledge of routines, objects and people in our environment, we feel safe and secure. However when a child is born, they have no such knowledge and no past experiences to base anything on. So, as Dr. Montessori puts it, the “young child has a vital need for order” (1972). As they are learning what everything is in this new world, it can be distressing if things are suddenly changed in some way, whether physical changes within the environment or intangible changes, such as changing the way you do things or changing the daily routine.  This sense of disorder is often the cause for the phrase “the terrible twos”. At this age, the child likes knowing what to expect and takes great pleasure in doing things ‘the right way’. A variation to this can cause frustration and not being articulate enough to voice this frustration, leaves the child resorting to tears and/or anger.

The environment and support needed for this sensitive period is for there to be external order. Everything in the environment should have a specific place, the adult’s behaviour should be consistent and the routine should remain as unchanged as possible. This is handy to remember as we all start to get into ‘back to school’ routines. Ideally, for the younger tamariki especially, the more you can keep the morning routine the same, the more likely they are to arrive at school happy, on time and ready to come into the akomanga (classroom). Tamariki will know what to expect each morning and will feel safe and secure and be able to settle into their day of exploring. Setting up these routines now will help lead to a wonderful year ahead.