“Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world” Dr. Maria Montessori
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
An interesting occurrence that takes place in Montessori classrooms is false fatigue. This is something that often happens about 1 to 1.5 hours into the morning provided there has been a period of focussed work beforehand. Almost as though on signal, most of the children seem to finish their work, behaviour becomes disorderly, and the noise level rises. However, if the teacher does not over-control at this point, the children will return to work by themselves and that work will be at an even higher level than before. By anxiously stepping in and 'managing' at this point, teachers replace the child's will with their own. In fact, interference will actually prolong the period of false fatigue. Difficult though it may be, during false fatigue, a teacher must step back and trust both the method and the children. "If in the period of 'false fatigue', at 10am an inexperienced teacher, interpreting the phenomenon of suspension or preparation for the culminating work as disorder, intervenes, calling the children to her, and making them rest, etc., their restlessness persists, and the subsequent work is not undertaken." (Montessori) False fatigue is a requirement in order for the children to return to a higher level of focus and concentration.
False fatigue can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes. This may sound odd but if one thinks about it, false fatigue is not much different than an adult taking a coffee or tea break after a period of work. After the break, we are refreshed and ready for more concentrated work.
This is another reason why the uninterrupted, 3 hour work period is so very important. If the morning is constantly being interrupted by children arriving late or specialists coming in to give language or music lessons to large groups, the children never manage to achieve that deep, prolonged concentration that I'm talking about. This long, uninterrupted block of time is fundamental to an authentic Montessori program because it allows the children time to select the work required to hone whatever skill they're practising and gives them time to practise as long as needed. If this process is constantly disturbed by others (other children, teachers, specialist, etc.) the full development of a child's focus and concentration may never occur.