On Normalization

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 10.04.19 AMAs they reach comfort with themselves and the classroom, students of all ages achieve what Maria Montessori referred to as “normalization.” In a 2006 lecture, Dr. Rita Shaefer Zener described normalization in a way that parents find particularly accessible.


There are many personality types, of course. However, when children enter the process of normalization the same characteristics appear… love of work, concentration, self-discipline, [and] sociability.  

                         — Zener (2006)
Love of Work
For Montessori, love of work was an essential component of an education system aligned with how success is actually achieved: “Love of work includes the ability to choose work freely and to find serenity and joy in work” (Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p.202).


“The second characteristic of the process of normalization is concentration. Concentration appears as individual children in a group become absorbed in their work — each one in a different, freely chosen activity.” (Zener, 2006).


“Self-discipline refers to persevering and completing cycles of activity that are freely begun” (Zener). There has been a recent boom in the publication of books stressing the importance of perseverance (or “grit”) in success and happiness. Maria Montessori observed this over a century ago and put it at the heart of her method.



“Sociability refers to patience in getting the materials one wants, respect for the work of others, help and sympathy for others, and harmonious working relationships among members of the group” (Zener).

It is so interesting that the characteristic of normalization most commented upon by visitors to our classrooms is sociability. While in traditional schools achievement may become focused around competition, at TMS, high individual achievement goes hand-in-hand with respect and tenderness. Through daily experience and observation, children learn to honor the work and individuality of their schoolmates.

For further reading, the complete text of Zener’s lecture can be found at this link: http://www.michaelolaf.net/lecture_secret.html.

Contributed by Shelby Driskill

tmsOn Normalization