If we call our adult mentality conscious, then we must call the child’s unconscious, but the unconscious kind is not necessarily inferior. An unconscious mind can be most intelligent. We find it at work in every species, even among the insects. They have an intelligence which is not conscious though it often seems to be endowed with reason. The child has an intelligence of this unconscious type, and that is what brings about his/her marvellous progress.

The Absorbent Mind

Maria Montessori


8 Comments on “Thoughts

  1. Hmmm, the absorbent mind. I know what Maria means, here! Their internal blueprints shaped my teaching blueprints. I grafted Murrary’s ideas about pre-writing and writing and applied it to instructional design and development always keeping my audience in mind: students. The internal stories of students were retold in the external stories of their responses to their ideas and the ideas from fellow-students. Two parts of my vision were described: a struggle between my personal conscious and collective conscious to give up control. My theory was the more I allowed students to experience their “quiet-awareness-surprise” response the more information I could gain to help shape lesson plans that were truly differentiated and came from the creation of new knowledge.
    I looked for interruptions, allowed student responses and their need to be seen help me find a free learning space within me.  Creation of a free learning space began within me. Like Kittle who looked to her own writing to give up more control I looked to my own “unwritten dialogue” within my writing-teaching mind or what I call internal teaching talk as I workshopped with students.  Thus began the pathway to honesty, clarity and discovery within myself:  it changed and revitalized me as a teacher.

  2. I seek to avoid taking this subjective response out of the equation when I am teaching, especially when making curricula. Socrates wrote: “I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only make them think.” Free thought is subjectivity. More accurately I want to avoid denying it’s there, imposing order and certainty. I want to respond honestly and begin with doubt.  Doubt is the basis of all scientific inquiry.  Why not use it to make curricula?

  3. Why do I omit it? My theory is fear of giving up control and time. Did you ever notice when watching someone solve a problem it feels longer than actually solving one yourself? Is knowledge invented or discovered? Is efficiency an illusion? If imagination is more important than knowledge because it increases our knowledge, then every discovery is created at different speeds depending upon different situations.  I’d like to graft Einstein’s ideas about relativity into my ideas about relative creation of knowledge.

  4. Could Maria’s “unconscious intelligence” of a child’s “absorbent mind” be reached more effectively through constructivism!? Why has constructivism dominated theoretical discussion in math and science? How have constructivist views had an impact on teaching emotional and academic learning?

    • Hi Kirk, First of all, thanks for all your comments. 🙂 The “unconciousness” of the human child is something that fascinates me to the utmost. I was in the fortunate position to attend the orientation course for adolescents in Sweden this summer. This was a complete refresher. I like your thoughts. Interesting.

      • Hi there, you’re welcome. Thank you for letting me, Christoph. Unconscious thought could be more important than imagination because it increases our imagination. ALSO it is the place where creativity can be found and unlocked inside what I call “the idea event horizon” which shapes a child’s “curiosity switch”. Thank you. I like your thoughts too! Wow, what did you see and hear at the conference!?

  5. John Dewey was one of the first to look at the psychology of learning and ask “what is my student (deeply) thinking” and “how does s/he learn best!?” Murray considered the psychology of writing and importance of a positive, supportive climate for writing in which “the student speaks and the teacher listens.” Watching a student’s “unwritten dialogue” (Dr. Donald Graves of the University of New Hampshire) inside the writer’s mind or what I call a child’s “internal social talk” is based in a belief that writing is “meaning-making” (Smagorinsky) and comes from learners who think about and make things that are important and useful to them, and flows from who they are, the way they are and their unconscious. According to Murray pre-writing helps their inner voices be seen. As Dr. Graves points out productive writers are “in a state of rehearsal all the time”, which he saw young children doing as they began to write. He watched them draw what they would write and heard them, as we all have, speaking aloud what they might say on the page before they wrote.

  6. How can I enter a student’s inner world if I am blocked by my own thinking patterns created by my daily life? (I practice my own creative recovery) Journal Entry: “Thursday morning – I do my morning pages, a ‘brain drain’ to get past my inner censor and put my head into my heart’s hands before I arrive to my teaching assignment with a group of sixth graders. Morning pages help me to unblock and listen to my internal dialogue: ‘plan from what makes you feel different!’ I arrive to the classroom and find a note from the permanent teacher: “Feel free to be flexible!”

    I make a slight curricular change, instead of writing my name on the chalkboard, in a linear mode, I draw a storyboard with three scenes to tell a story about who I am. As I draw another picture for a guided writing prompt a student asks, “Is that a scarecrow!?”

    “No!” I said as I dismiss the student and write my inquiry question: ‘What do you see in my drawing!?’ I’m in the driver’s seat, now, setting the stage for my great American lesson plan. Suddenly Joe runs to the back of the room! My inner censor resists: ‘he interrupts my strategic plan’, but my inner voice says: ‘wait, creativity is pre-verbal, simply watch and listen!’ Joe’s friends follows him, as he grabs a paper model of a pool table on top of a filing cabinet, “See what I made!?”

    My inner censor prompts me to redirect him back to his seat, but my inner voice nudges me again to wait, listen and look for the voice that rises from the classroom, I smile. I do not know what Joe’s secret is but I have a hint, which is all I need as I enter Joe’s world and new curricular choices keep turning in my head. I simply let him be the center, create a conversation about his model as we circle around him. I (we) listen and wait, for my new curricular choices to appear.

    Everyone is creative, but not everyone knows how to let themselves be (Julia Cameron). I zoom in, center on the student and let him simply create. I (we) circle around him, celebrate what he makes, which is useful and important to him! I create a new curricular choice out of his new seed growth within the creative clutter on our forest floor, and I (we) simply change directions. I follow his lead, add water and help spin out his idea into a new curricular choice. What do you see in your world? Write your own story. Let’s write a graphic novel! Write your story using six different scenes. Draw boxes for your scenes . . .

    Suddenly Joe’s airplane story morphed int a 3D paper airplane with cut out figures for passengers and I feel my inner voice moving me again into Joes world and scenario planning: what if, we try something a little different. Alex, a red-headed boy follows his lead and creates a cut out figure, then walks over to the trash and pitches it into the garbage, head first! I ask him if I can keep his figure. Alex escorts me over to the trash, scoops him up and places him into my hand. We walk over to our display table. I tape him together, prop him up next to Joe’s model and ask Alex, ‘What’s his name!?”

    “I call him Red!” Alex says with a smile. Then he morphs his story into a 3D pop up graphic novel and asks me to help him create a string mechanism to hang his model, like a mobile, from the knob of a door, which Autumn and I decide to use to display our ‘Graphic Novels’. Then, Autumn creates a sign: ‘Our Graphic Novels’! Again I change directions: ‘Build the story your way: 3D paper models with captions, thought bubbles, whatever! And nothing goes to waste!’ Our creative clutter is sacred. WRITE WHAT YOU SAY, SAY WHAT YOU WRITE. USE YOUR OWN VOICE!

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