Posts tagged Michael Waski
Deep Dive on Characteristics of the Adolescent

Deep Dive Summary: Scientific Observation

Submitted by Michael Waski

We started off by grappling with what we meant by “characteristics” and how these were linked to the idea of a need.  Characteristics describe who the adolescent is.  They are universal and timeless, unchangeable, given from nature, and they assist in development and allow us to adapt to our environment.  The needs are the driving force (requirements?PM) which allow them to develop and adapt to their environment properly.  Therefore, the needs and characteristics are intrinsically linked.


    We spent a good deal of time looking over Montessori’s writings and seeing who she said the adolescent was physically, psychologically, and socially.  We then discussed our observations, being careful to try to not misidentify behaviors resulting from needs not being met (lethargy, depression, etc.) for true characteristics.  We also tried to not limit our thinking to what we may see in a specific environment, but tried to understand the true nature of the adolescent. 


    The following table is a summary of what we have discussed, with some of our supporting quotes from Montessori below. 


Physical Developmental Characteristics:

·       Rapid physical change

·       Tremendous growth e.g. longer limbs

·       Coordination challenges (less graceful)

·       Sexual maturation

·       Hormonal changes (e.g. more body odour)

·       Boundless energy <-> lethargy

·       Fatigue/decreased stamina

·       Changes in sleep patterns/need for more uninterrupted sleep

·       Vulnerability to physical damage

·       Susceptibility to (mental or physical) unwellness


Physical Developmental Needs:

·       Regular movement

·       Physical activity to practice using growing body

·       Movement to challenge strength and coordination

·       Understanding and self-awareness of physical and sexual changes

·       Rest and relaxation

·       Healthful diet and sleeping habits

·       Manual work

·       Necessary and sufficient (only) protection


Psychological Developmental Characteristics:

·       Rapid psychological change

·       Decrease in cognitive concentration

·       Developing critical thinking

·       Capable of mature thought (if framed in a personal context)

·       Creatively expressive

·       Increased impulsivity

·       Increased risk taking

·       Egocentricity

·       Developing self-awareness (insecurity and self-criticism)

·       Concern with personal dignity

·       Alertness to social injustice (as righteousness > taking practical action)

·       Emotional unevenness e.g. optimism <-> despair


Psychological Developmental Needs:

·       Adult models

·       Supportive relationships with peers and adults

·       Connection to place and nature

·       Contemplation and reflection (meditation)

·       Solitude (as well as society)

·       Personal dignity

·       Psychological safety

·       Experience of the value of meaningful work

·       Valorisation (through contribution)

·       Creative expression of thoughts and emotions

·       Understanding and self-awareness of habits of mind

·       Skills of self-sufficiency

·       Increasing independence and adaptability

·       Economic exchange

·       Moral experience and ‘grappling’

·      Necessary and sufficient (only) protection


Social Developmental Characteristics:

·       Interplay between personal and social identity

·       Humanistic – observant of and seeking to understand human behaviour

·       Alertness to flaws and hypocrisy

·       Distancing from family

·       Identifying with and belonging to group(s)

·       Solidarity with/loyalty to peers

·       Sensitivity to views of others

·       Questioning of bounds and norms

·       Developing (exercising) capability and contribution

·       Developing social and economic independence

·       Seeking service and purpose/longing for place in society


Social Developmental Needs:

·       Experience in building and maintaining a community (social organisation)

·       Variety of adults and adult relationships as models

·       Contribution (social/economic)

·       Collective work

·       Glimpses of future self (purpose, vision)

·      Necessary and sufficient (only) protection

Supporting original source quotes:

Life in the open air, in the sunshine, and a diet high in nutritional content coming from the produce of neighbouring fields improve the physical health, while the calm surroundings, the silence, the wonders of nature satisfy the need of the adolescent mind for reflection and meditation. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


If puberty is on the physical side a transition from an infantile to an adult state, there is also, on the psychological side, a transition from the child who has to live in a family, to the man who has to live in society . These two needs of the adolescent: for protection during the time of the difficult physical transition, and for an understanding of the society which he is about to enter to play his part as a man. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 60)


These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying : 'Help me to do it alone!' (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


Productive work and a wage that gives economic independence, or rather constitutes a first real attempt to achieve economic independence, could be made with advantage a general principle of social education for adolescents and young people. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 66)


Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of "Help me to do it alone!" ought to be applied. (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 67)


From the psychological viewpoint also this is a critical age.  There are doubts and hesitations, violent emotions, discouragement and an unexpected decrease of intellectual capacity. The difficulty of studying with concentration is not sue to a lack of willingness, but is really a psychological characteristic of the age...The chief symptom of adolescence is a state of expectation, a tendency towards creative work and a need for the strengthening of self-confidence.  (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 63)


These defects may have very dangerous results, either for the future of the individual (timidity, anxiety, depression, inferiority complex), or for society (incapacity to work, laziness, dependence on others, or cynicism and criminality.   (From Childhood to Adolescence, CLIO p. 63)


 We also read heavily from Development and Education of the Adolescent: Essay from Kodaikanal and feel this is also a fantastic resource of insight into the chracteristics of the adolescent.






Brian SenseMichael Waski
Deep Dive on Psycho-Disciplines

Deep Dive Summary: Psycho-disciplines

Submitted by David Kahn and Michael Waski


          For this topic we first decided to tackle what is meant by the term “psycho-discipline” and found quickly that there was not a lot of this term used specifically in Montessori’s writings.  So we first looked at the word “discipline” and said that it is a human construct that helps us organize and classify the complexity of information we encounter in the world which has both a body of knowledge (content) and ways of interacting with that knowledge (methodology).  Disciplines are the bridge between the natural world and human understanding of the natural world.  They help humans to orient and put order to information.  They are human constructs and can thus evolve and change over time as culture changes.  The word “discipline” also comes from the same root as “disciple,” meaning following out of love.


          A “psycho-discipline” then can be defined as the study of a discipline (subject) based on the psychology of the child.   It connects the psychology of the developing human with the qualities and attributes of each discipline, for the purposes of: teaching the discipline and supporting the self-construction of the human being.  It includes which aspects of the discipline we share at each stage of development, how we approach the discipline to support the developmental goals of each stage, and an awareness of the human tendencies and how they can be supported by our approach to teaching the discipline. 

          One visualization for the multiple facets of a true psycho-discipline is as a three-dimensional sphere of intersection of the individual’s psychology, the discipline itself, and trans-disciplinary connections.  At the center of that sphere: the soul, psyche. It’s a mystery what goes on inside. But when we experience learning as psycho-disciplines, what’s learned becomes incarnated in us (the developing human) and become a part of us.  As the psycho-disciplines integrate into the soul of the new human, and also as our knowledge in any area deepens, silos fall away. When all the disciplines are deeply a part of you, you can no longer exist or think solely within a single silo.  The disciplines in isolation, with no consideration of psychology, can lead to fragmenting, fracturing and siloing of knowledge-- the old human. When we isolate ourselves in a silo, how can we be a citizen of the world?  This creates a deep experience of interdisciplinary knowledge, while still respecting the nature of each discipline.

          Psycho-disciplines liberate us from teaching the disciplines as “arid transmission of knowledge” (p. 84 From Childhood to Adolescence) and allow the discipline to give aid to human development. A psycho-discipline should elevate the spirit, and open the way to cooperation and action.  From the Latin, discipline means “Order necessary for instruction.”  A psycho-discipline, in a Montessori context therefore could be defined as “order necessary for self-construction.”

          Lastly, the use of the psycho-disciplines are a support to peace.  “If man were to grow up fully and with a sound psyche, developing a strong character and a clear mind, he would be unable to tolerate the existence of diametrically opposed moral principles within himself or to advocate simultaneously two sorts of justice-- one that fosters life and one that destroys it. He would not simultaneously cultivate two moral powers in his heart, love and hatred. Nor would he erect two disciplines, one that marshals human energies to build, another that marshals them to destroy what has been built.” - Education and Peace p.20

Third Plane Approaches

          We then identified ways we took the disciplines and strain them through the sieve of adolescent psychology to have an approach to the discipline informed by the needs of adolescents; hence psycho-disciplines.  These include:

  • We don’t expect learning for facts’ sake but for how it can be applied to serve the community (1st sub-plane) or in the broader world (added in 2nd sub-plane)

  • We offer work for the hand, head, and heart

  • We provide for group work

  • We offer choices connected to the human tendencies: pace of work, type of output or activity

  • We respect the diminution of intellectual capacity in early adolescence by connecting academic work to immediate practical application

  • We work side-by-side with the adolescents (this is connected to problem-solving and application)

  • We call in specialists, who serve a social function as role models as well as sharing their knowledge

  • We connect the discipline with adolescents’ social interests and with the larger community

  • We consider how the discipline can support adolescents’ need to understand society today and to become fully oriented to their time and place

  • We don’t usually give lists of things to memorize; ideally they have learned lots of needed terminology (names and parts) in 1st and 2nd plane

  • We offer adolescents “just-in-time” learning, not “just-in-case” learning

We also identified subtle differences between the sub-planes:

First sub plane

  • Process in class with group, then take home to consolidate understanding

  • “How will I use this?”

  • Inductive is enough; just want to know through experience

  • Manual side by side work with adults

  • Real work in the school community and connected to larger world, collectively

Second sub plane

  • Work independently for homework, then process together in class the next day

  • “How does it apply in the world?”

  • Deductive approach is appealing; see value in defining precisely and creating rules (Euclid’s Elements)

  • Intellectual side by side work; internships with experts

  • Real work in the real world, more individualized

          Working in one discipline may provide a supportive limit for young adolescents.  For older adolescents it is especially beneficial to have contact with experts who know the discipline.  The complexity of content within each discipline is respected by having specialists to work with older adolescents.

          We also considered different components of adolescent programs.  Residential life supports psycho-disciplines by allowing students to engage in the work in a different way, providing time, space and community to support real work, and allowing for greater ownership of the environment.  Land-base education has the adolescent is at the center, the land as an organizing agent, and the disciplines as a framework and engagement point.  Organizing around the work that needs to be done on the land necessitates breaking out of silos but not leaving behind disciplines.

          There is also a connection between the second and third planes.  As students transition to the 3rd plane, the focus narrows down from the whole universe to “my community and me.”  Cosmic education is all still there, now as background for the more local and personal 3rd plane work.  At later adolescence, the knowledge gained in the 2nd plane can explode in the student’s areas of interest, in Intensity and immediacy of approaching adulthood.  Seeds sown in the second plane germinate in the first sub-plane of adolescence (as we keep education broad), then focus into more specialization in 2nd sub-plane.

Key Experiences

          The group did not spend as much time discussing key experiences, and recommend further study and exploration be done in this area.  We thought of a “key” as “ intentional opening up of something that comes after.”  We raised questions such as Does it follow a key lesson?  Does it open a door to further study, or can it be a consolidating experience?  Should it be common to all programs or is it site-specific?  Is it a highlight?  A pivotal experience or peak moment?  Is it one-time or repeated or both?  Does it connect to multiple disciplines and areas of inquiry?  Are they adult-created?  Can they be student-initiated?  They’re keys to what?  Formation of the new adult?  Opening of a discipline?  Do key experiences integrate disciplines? For the adolescent, do key experiences integrate disciplines and social organization?

          We did discuss that there is a connection between a key experience and the formation of self.  We believed that seminar is a key experience for younger adolescents

Deep Dive on "Ideal Outcomes of a Montessori Graduate"

Montessori Deep Dive Executive Summary

     Outcomes of a Montessori Graduate

Cleveland, March 23-25, 2018

Summary by Michael Waski

What does this work represent?  Through our observations, readings of Montessori, experience with adolescence both through observation and in speaking with them and having them be reflective while they are in adolescence, and further in speaking to graduates in both the fourth plane of development and beyond, these are some of the most outstanding and universal attributes of a Montessori adolescent education.  

If our methodology in years 12-18 foster the development of these ideals, we should see growth in these areas throughout their adolescent years, though many of these ideals will not be fully realized until adulthood and maturity.  We should also focus our program elements on helping to develop the natural growth that is happening in these years and assist nature with its goals of the adolescent phase. 

We have also identified some essential tools which we use to create a prepared environment in order to help the students.

Also, the list is a continuation of developmental aspects which may be indirectly prepared for during the primary and elementary years, but which are now have prepared for more directly.

Outcomes - From Observations of Practitioners

The realization of one’s own value born into consciousness...p.87 CtA

  • Capable of Self Assessment

  • Knows what they find fulfilling

  • Contributor to family/ community/ world

  • Demonstrates competency navigating adult world

  • Understands their position in a global context

  • Socially and morally conscious

  • Ability to make healthy sexual and relationship choices

  • Understands diversity

  • Has a growth mindset

  • Is friendly with error

  • Has developed a will

  • Has a sense of self efficacy/ awareness of one’s own capacity

  • Has a healthy curiosity about the world

  • Appreciates and understands the human progress and the building up of civilization

  • Is in awe of human intellectual endeavors

  • Respectful of the evolution of human intellect

  • Recognizes the nobility of human endeavors

  • Appreciates the heroic nature of the human spirit

  • Safe and healthy choices including strategies for mental health


ATTRIBUTES OF A MONTESSORI GRADUATE (As informed by interviews with graduates)

  • Self-reflective

  • Adaptable

  • Independent Self/Directed

  • Metacognitive

  • Confident

  • Comfortable with the adult world

  • Self advocate / Self disciplined

  • Belief in limitless potential

  • Respectful of the learning process/Personal/Quality

  • Responsible/ Sense of Duty and Honor/Service/Citizenship

  • Collaborative

  • Ability to critically evaluate the world

  • Ability to work with increasingly abstract knowledge

  • Curious

  • Demonstrates a Strong Work Ethic

  • Comfort with Error/Failure

  • Empathetic/Humble

  • Compassionate

  • Joyful


  • Side by side work, Intimate with adults


  • Engaging students as young adults

  • Opportunities to create learning opportunities

  • Opportunities for authentic student voice

  • Seminar, Socratic dialogue

  • Learning through the disciplines

  • Exposure to the adult community beyond the school

  • Provide Environments that promote living in experienced interdependence (community)

  • Purposeful work (authentic)

  • Interactions and exchange with outside adults

  • Care of the environment