Apple Montessori Blog
Teaching by Example: Grace, Courtesy and Compassion
When you think of preschool for your child one of the biggest topics that comes to mind is academics. What lessons does my child get? When can I expect him or her to learn math or how to read? Show me the work my child has accomplished. All these are important, but at Apple Montessori we place equal emphasis on life skills; skills that your child will benefit from and use now and far into the future.
Concentration, self-motivation, curiosity, time management, personal responsibility, respect for self and others, teamwork, and conflict resolution are just a few of the essential skills we actively teach. All schools are looking for these traits in their students and probably talk about them or hope to instill them through literature, the arts, and so on. The key word in that sentence is “hope.” We don’t just hope our students passively learn these skills, we actively teach them and incorporate them into every other piece of work or activity your child participates in.
We begin in the youngest classrooms with lessons in grace and courtesy. You see one of these lessons every time your child’s teacher shakes your child’s hand and they look each other in the eye. This is how we greet people or say good-bye and it is an important skill at any job interview. In the classroom there is only one of any game or material. Children learn that they may not grab from or interrupt the child who might be using it at the moment. They learn to wait. When the working child is finished with the work, he or she wipes up any spills, returns all the pieces to the box, replenishes any paper or other item that was used, and returns the material to its proper place on the shelf. Why? So the next child can find it, in perfect condition, and use it appropriately. Personal responsibility and respect for others – wrapped up in every piece of work in the room!
Our peace education and character development lessons directly teach many of our grace and courtesy lessons. For example, the “Road of Peace” and the “Road of Difficulty” lesson gives children vocabulary and concrete activities to get in touch with their own feelings and those of their peers. Perhaps their friend is less than kind today. He or she might be travelling the Road of Difficulty (for whatever reason). From this lesson, the children learn empathy and are encouraged to help this friend find his or her way back to the Road of Peace so that conflicts, hurt feelings, resentment, and other negative emotions can be worked through.
Walking the line, sitting on the line, pushing a chair in – so no one trips – carrying work carefully – so as to not bump anyone or anything, walking around work rugs, offering to help someone who needs a shoe tied or a coat zipped, having a conversation at the snack table or during lunch, are all designed to teach, reinforce, and provide children with plenty of opportunities to practice their grace and courtesy skills.
Even in the toddler room the children say please and thank you, take turns handing out napkins, wait for their turn, and politely ask for “more please” all during just one activity – food tasting. At the slide or trampoline you will notice pieces of red tape on the floor. We call these “visible rules.” They help these little ones remember to wait for their turn and to respect the child who is currently sliding or jumping. Even at this young age, the children quickly and joyfully return their work to the shelf when they are finished.
As children move into the elementary years grace and courtesy is still paramount. Morning meeting gives all children a turn to lead and a turn to participate. The children share news or ideas with their peers respectfully and begin to learn how to listen and wait to speak until the other person has finished. Working together on materials and projects build teamwork and cooperation as well as respect for the particular talents or skills of a peer. Most group projects require the children to decide amongst themselves who will take notes, draw illustrations, speak to the audience, or take on other tasks while considering the talents each child brings to the group.
Children learn best through repetition. Doing something over and over creates a habit. We work hard to help your child turn lessons in grace and courtesy into lifelong habits from the very beginning. We’re so proud of these confident, personable, and respectful young men and women. They truly shine.