It’s partway through your morning work time, and here are your symptoms: brain on ice (or scattered), lethargy (or restlessness), total aversion to the work on your desk. You’re frustrated with yourself; it’s not time·to be tired yet. You’re not even sleep deprived, so what is going on?
I say “you,” but of course I really mean “me.” The above is what invariably happens to me around 10 or 10:30 when I’m trying to power through an academic article or a frustrating fiction task. I used to take this feeling as a sign that I needed a break, but wait a minute: I already take a 5 minute break every half hour. On other days, sometimes I’d decide that the fatigue meant that I just wouldn’t be able to accomplish all the writing I’d hoped to and would simply have to switch to a zombie task.
But at some point during our older son’s journey through Montessori early education, I learned about the notion of “false fatigue,” which one Montessori guide describes this way:
Beware of misinterpreting the restlessness that is common an hour or so into the morning. Montessori tells us that the children are simply in search of their “maximum interest.” One could easily conclude that the children are not able to continue working. It would be a mistake to gather the group at this point, though our observations might indicate that just such an action is necessary to avoid chaos. Montessori tells us that the child’s “great work” occurs in the second half of the morning. If we resist the urge to interfere during the agitation of false fatigue, we will find the children returning to activity, choosing more challenging work, and becoming deeply absorbed in it.
Thanks to the notion, I’ve gotten better at embracing my inner preschooler and toughing out the mid-morning false fatigue. I might even have a couple (or six) sticky notes over my desk cautioning me against such things as false fatigue. Because, hey, I don’t want to miss the chance to accomplish my day’s “great work.”
So there you go. Get your Montessorian act on.