As Montessori teachers, we start the school year by teaching grace and courtesy to the children. We know that grace and courtesy lessons help children become oriented to the prepared environment. We know these activities serve as tools for functioning in the classroom, using the materials, and interacting respectfully with others.
Children become accustomed to using polite words, walking around a rug, greeting each other, and knowing how to politely interrupt. These and other grace and courtesy activities become second nature. By the end of the year, the children are interacting beautifully and we have a collection of anecdotal evidence (stories!) that support Montessori principles. I’d like to share some of my stories.
First, the Snack Table!
The snack table is a wonderful source for stories that illustrate grace and courtesy, warm our hearts, and make us giggle.
Four-year-old Mario loved to invite me to have snack. “Would you like to join me for snack?” he’d say. Once I sat down at the snack table, Mario would ask me, “May I get you a cup of water?” “Yes, please,” I’d say. He’d continue, “Would you like warm or cold water?” (I found out later that Mario’s mother preferred warm water.) “Cold, please.”
Mario would serve me my snack, and we’d sit and chat. The conversation topics ranged from sports to his older brother to our favorite animals. At the end of snack, we’d thank each other for the delightful experience, clean our dishes and glasses, and tuck in our chairs.
Another child, Tyler, loved to motion to the snack table (seating for two) and say, “Let’s have snack together!” His brother, Dylan would inevitably ask, “Excuse me. May I join you?” and carefully carry an extra chair to the snack table. Always polite, we’d take turns speaking as we ate snack. We used our napkins to wipe our mouths. Always eager to tell me about their latest trip to the lake, Tyler and Dylan’s banter always made me smile.
Shake Hands With Sandy
Montessori is education for life. We can prepare children for social and business encounters at an early age. Young children love to start the day by greeting the teacher, shaking hands, making eye contact, and saying a pleasant, “Good morning.” Sometimes it takes a child a few months to ease into this practice. Here’s a story that illustrates the point.
At the beginning of the school year, Sandy, a three-year-old, loved coming to school but was not quite comfortable shaking hands. Each day I’d extend my hand. Sandy wasn’t ready yet. No pressure. We’d try again the next day. Sandy observed the other children shaking hands, and one day she decided it was time. She confidently shook my hand from that day forward. When I met Sandy in the grocery store (teachers go shopping?), she politely extended her hand, ready for the handshake!
Now in high school, I’m confident Sandy will make a good impression when she meets college interviewers (more about the importance of choosing Montessori for the preschool years in a future newsletter!).
Marilyn Rolls Rugs!
The older children like to help their younger friends acclimate to the Montessori environment. When older children give lessons, they build their self-esteem. They are also reinforcing knowledge they’ve already acquired.
Marilyn, a five-year-old, took pride in helping the younger children. She offered to lend a hand whenever needed and she did so in a kind and loving way. A true Montessori child, she was never boastful. She always offered a polite “May I help you?”
Marilyn loved keeping the rugs tidy. If a younger child was having difficulty, she politely asked, “May I show you how to roll the rug?” She demonstrated it with care and precision (the “pat the ends of the rug” step was her favorite part).
Acting as a role model, Marilyn walked around the classroom ever so carefully. The younger children noticed how she walked around the rugs the children were using. They imitated her, as they slowly maneuvered around the rugs, as well as around the children who sat beside them on the floor. Marilyn’s posture, that of a ballerina, was inspiring to all (teachers included!).
Stories From Beyond the Classroom
It’s rewarding to hear how children benefit from the Montessori Primary class. Anna’s mother stopped me at a clothing store. Anna is now in third grade at a local elementary school. Her mother thanked me for those early Montessori lessons, including grace and courtesy.
Anna’s mother told me her child always tucks in her chair (at home, at school, and in restaurants). When other parents are prompting their children to say “please” and “thank you,” it comes naturally to Anna. Always respectful of her parents, Anna knows how to interrupt politely. Her mother told me she couldn’t be more pleased with Anna’s Montessori school experience.
Recently, I needed some technical support with my computer. I hired Steven, a college student, who arrived promptly at the appointed time. He immediately extended his hand, introduced himself and said a polite, “Good morning.” As I explained my computer problems, Steven listened carefully and spoke to me respectfully. He wasn’t impatient with my problem or me. As he worked, I asked him if he attended Montessori school when he was young. Yes! He had.
Steven was intrigued. How did I know? All of the above and more. I prepared lunch for him (we have three computers — there was lots of work for him). He waited for everyone to sit down before he began to eat. We had a pleasant conversation and he thanked me for lunch. When we got up from the table… he tucked in his chair! Montesssori is education for life!
Montessori school prepares children to become citizens of the world and it begins with grace and courtesy in their own environments at home and school.
Please share your grace and courtesy stories with us. We’ll post them on the Montessori Services FaceBook page so other teachers can be inspired and encouraged. Bonus: Smiles and giggles. Thank you in advance!