Well-being of Total Environment

“Allow the whole to function together and there is discipline, but otherwise there is not!...There is only one problem, and it is human development in its totality…everything else follows spontaneously and harmoniously.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from To Ed. the Hum. Potential , p.9

Montessori teaching follows laws of nature, which the IMS technology approximates in a series of twenty specific protocols. Applying these protocols, you have an effective control of error for conducting your experimental interactions in the scientific approach to normal being of children as described by Dr. Montessori. The first and most important of these protocols is well-being of the total environment, which directs you to allow the environment to have its full indirect normalizing influence on children.

Indirect Influence

“The teacher’s first duty is therefore to watch over the environment…its influence is indirect, but unless it be well done there will be no effective or permanent results of any kind, physical, intellectual or spiritual.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Absorbent Mind , p.253

Montessori teaching creates a normalizing environment by being committed to infinite and eternal laws of nature. From this spiritual context, your function is then to control the tangible environment, consisting of other children, physical objects and the adult personality around each child in the group. The “total” environment includes all the other children and all the physical objects around a single child in the entire group of children. Following such protocols as well-being of the total environment, you must control the indirect influence of what is around each child in the group, removing the various obstacles to the free self-directed activity of children.

Removing the Obstacles

“…we must therefore create a favorable environment…all that is needed is to remove the obstacles.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Secret of Childhood , p.136


Montessori teaching aims to control the environment, not the child by removing the detrimental influences around a central hub child in question. In a specific misbehavior scenario, this means to analyze and resolve whatever is detrimental in that particular scenario, even as other problematic scenarios may exist elsewhere in the environment at the same time. In the total environment, you will therefore likely notice other scenarios for your attention, each one having its own particular drama and level of priority for your involvement and resolution. The well-being protocol directs you to employ a linear concept in resolving these various scenarios, dealing first with those having the highest priority issues of physical harm to children.

Linear Concept

“The linear concept of evolution…is no longer enough. There exists…a force for harmony, uniting the efforts of all, so that they work towards a common end.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Absorbent Mind , p.57

While life perfectly evolves as a total unity in the present moment, we can only act in a linear manner to resolve obstacles as they come to our attention. Based on the well-being protocol, you must first deal with the highest level priority problems, leaving for later such low priority issues as “fantasy” escape from reality only. While engaging a single scenario, however, you must also recognize the impact of the adult presence on those children not directly involved.

Adult Presence

“…the teacher…must take care never to turn her back on the class while she is dealing with a single child. Her presence must be felt by all these spirits.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Absorbent Mind , p.270-71

The well-being protocol directs you to notice the impact of what you do in any scenario as it relates to the larger impact on the total environment. For example, while using the technique proximity to approach one misbehavior scenario, you are also calling attention of other children to the adult presence as well. The unintended consequences of your actions might then distract some of these children from their own concentrated activity. To avoid this harmful effect, it is therefore important to move as little as possible, following the guidance of another important protocol known as least amount of adult involvement.

Least Amount

“We must…prepare an environment in which we do as little as possible to exhaust the child with our surveillance and instructions.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Child in the Family , p.27

The protocol least amount of adult involvement directs you to restrict your action with children as much as possible; e.g., doing only what is necessary and no more in any problem situation. Couplin

g this protocol with the protocol well-being, you will not be able to completely resolve every problem scenario when it first occurs. Rather, you must use the idea of partial and successive resolutions, leaving the ultimate completion of these problems for children to work through later on their own by independent exercise and experience with each other.

Exercise and Experience

“Only exercise and experience can correct a disability, and it takes long practice to acquire the various kinds of skill that are needed. The undisciplined child enters into discipline by working in the company of others: not by being told he is naughty.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Absorbent Mind, p.224

Montessori teaching plays only an indirect role in resolving misbehavior, allowing children to resolve their own problems through exercise and experience with each other and the physical objects as much as possible. You must therefore control the conventional tendency to “help” children in an excessive, dependent manner. Instead, trust the perfect inner guidance and natural instincts of children to reach a suitable adaptation to their environment on their own.

Adaptation

“The great power of man is that he adapts to every part of the environment and that he modifies it…while developing himself he unconsciously develops his own adaptation of his environment.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Meaning of Adaptation , p.5

Montessori teaching functions experimentally on the premise that children have their own inner guidance for perfect adaptation with their environment. Trusting this guidance, you allow non-adult influences in the environment to have their positive effect over time; i.e., restraining the tendency to act out impulsively to feelings of stress and impatient needs for an immediate resolution of every problem you notice. In a group, children will show their ability for self-directed resolution of issues as a spontaneous sense of community, helping each other for the well-being of all.

Sense of Community

“There is among children an evident sense of community…the emotional life reaches a high level, and the children’s personalities are normalized, a kind of attraction making itself felt.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from Absorbent Mind , p. 231

Children have natural instincts of friendship, love and compassion towards others. Removing the detrimental influences in the environment, you are allowing this normal sense of community to emerge as children accommodate their individual needs and interests to those of the group. Once normalized, children gradually express these qualities outwardly by functioning with others as part of one whole unity.

One Whole Unity

“…all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from To Ed. the Hum. Potentia l, p. 8

Young children unify their personalities by normalizing through concentration on work with physical objects. Thereafter, these normalized children become one whole unity in the social situation, adapting themselves to their unique time, place and group. This unifying purpose for the well-being of all is the cosmic plan of nature, demonstrating itself more consciously in the learning and interaction of children after the age of six.

The Cosmic Plan

“If human unity…is going to be organized, it will be done only by an education that will give appreciation of all that has been done by human cooperation, and readiness to shed prejudices in the interests of common work for the cosmic plan…”
Dr. Maria Montessori
from To Ed. the Hum. Potential , p.50

Children naturally adapt themselves to function in harmony with others in the present moment. In the proper normalizing conditions, they unfold this cosmic plan, creating in time a whole new type of spontaneous order, harmony and peace in the world. Following the protocol well-being of the total environment, you are working in harmony with this cosmic plan, allowing children to fully reveal their true normal nature as described by Dr. Montessori.