Humans, unlike any other species on the planet, do not enter the world with any predetermined function. While other species serve Nature using their instincts, humans alone have free will. Nature provides humans with an inner prompting rather than an instinctive demand, as in animals. This inner prompting directs each individual to develop his/her own unique potential. Humans are fundamentally inclined to acquire those characteristics and traits common only to humans.
Dr. Montessori identified the fundamental needs of humans by observing the behaviors and development of children, which she determined as universal to all cultures. To satisfy basic human needs, innate tendencies guide us. These tendencies are inner urges for growth of the personality and adaptation to the world of humans. They prompt the patterns of behavior that form the individual personality. Each individual has free choice, not predetermined instincts, like those of animals, for survival.
Montessori observed that children adapt to the physical conditions of their environment and the social requirements of the culture in which they grow up. If children grow up in an environment which promotes conditions that allow them to take action in satisfying their own needs, they will be naturally acquire the human traits necessary for the formation of their personalities and the opportunity to become stable members of society. From this point the individual is able to meet his/her individual needs in harmony with those of society. An individual will forever imprint a personality which enables him/her to satisfy personal needs in unity with the culture and natural world around.
Orientation, Exploration and Order
The fundamental tendencies which play the most important role in the individual’s adaptation to the world of humans are orientation, exploration and order. In the critical period of infancy, the individual must select from a myriad of impressions those which will form the human characteristics and provide for the acquisition of traits.
The Tendency to Orient: This is the unconscious urge to absorb and concentrate on certain impressions, in brief but fixated periods, that builds characteristics necessary for membership in the human race. This urge to orient is inner directed. Nature enforces Her own program in the individual’s making of personality. With the ability to orient and choose key impressions, the individual goes on to explore the environment.
The Tendency to Explore: As the individual focuses on key sensitivities, the work of the individual becomes purposeful in assisting his/her own personality development. Continuing practice and repetition assist in imprinting the individual’s unique personality. This imprinting is not isolated in the growing mind but prompts the individual to seek order. The integration of these acquired traits is the tendency to order.
The Tendency to Order: The innate need to order creates another need for one’s distinguishing between the relationships of things. The individual perceives his own reactions/impressions as integral parts of a greater whole. This is what Montessori termed “inner order”. Outwardly, the individual has a tendency for order by recollecting the place and function of things and is distressed by inconsistencies and random change. The individual seeks to tidy and preserve the objects of his/her understanding as a way to gain a grip on reality. The understanding and ordering of the objects and their relationship to life around them are necessary elements of healthy mental growth.
Work, Imagination, Exactness and Repetition
The individual needs the time, means and scope of activity to fully develop and realize his/her potential.
The necessary time is dictated by the individual’s tendencies for exactness and repetition. This is the process of fixing one’s attention on a key experience and engaging a unique concentration which promotes the necessary repetition to imprint the experience within one’s own personality.
The means the individual uses to acquire knowledge and experience comes in special work, or relevant and important activity, where the personality develops without conscious decision making. Human nature guides the individual to do those things that are naturally good for him/herself.
Unconscious prompts or urges, eventually encourage the direction the individual will take. The mind takes the raw stuff of reality and shapes it beyond the limits of real life. This provides the older individual with a new reckoning, one in which the imagination explores and orients the individual to the world of humans.
The sophisticated ability to communicate is unique to humans. The individual absorbs language and learns to bridge the gap between his own mind and that of others with verbal expression. This is the passage from perceiving an idea to taking the idea to a deeper level, or abstraction. Children leave behind a world based merely on the senses and integrate their thoughts through the use of language. This communication is a final stage in the ordering of impressions.
Tendencies Support the Development of Culture
The child is the dynamic link between human existence and civilization. The tendencies of the child act as a bridge from the characteristics of one generation to the transference of these into the next generation. The special absorbent qualities of the young mind allows the ability to take in the whole as well as all the details and thereby sustain the evolution of the species.
Tendencies Support Self Construction
The child does not inherit human behavior and has no preprogramed instincts for survival. Without the nurturing environment provided by the family the child would die both physically and psychically. This human support is necessary and elemental to activating innate tendencies within the child to promote independence. These tendencies steer the activity of the child to meaningful experiences that are good for him/her.
Tendencies Guide Work in the Classroom
The understanding of human development has significant implications on education. The Montessori Method promotes an education for living in harmony with the world of Nature and the world of human culture. The promotion of these tendencies in the classroom enhances growth, stabilizes the personality and contributes to the development of the whole individual. It is therefore necessary for the guide/advisor to observe and record these innate tendencies exhibited in the child’s work so as to direct activity that is good for the child. In this responsive model a different pattern of teaching emerges, which is unlike the traditional forms. Montessori said we must look within the child to see the fundamental guidelines for teaching