Grace and courtesy is a part of the Montessori practical life curriculum that seems to amaze people more than others. Children learn how to be polite and caring, toward each other and toward their environment. They wait their turn before speaking. They spontaneously share without being forced into it. They take great care with tiny objects and breakable items that are usually hidden from their reach. They walk around each other's activities and don't bother each other.
How does this happen? It starts on day one with the ground rules of the classroom. It requires concentrated effort on the part of the teacher to demonstrate and discuss these rules on a regular basis. It requires consistency from all adults in the classroom. It requires stepping in when necessary to individual situations. It requires constant vigilance in being a good role model as an adult.
Some days, it feels like the kids have completely forgotten how to be kind to one another. That is when you have to take a step back and try to ascertain what is going on. What kind of energy is being brought into the room and by whom? What needs to change in the environment? Where is the moon in its cycle? How did the cranky child come into school that day? So many factors are truly in play with mood swings.
Most of the time, though, they are doing a good job being good citizens. Take time to observe your children when they are in other environments. How are they treating teachers for other classes, such as PE or computer? How are they treating people in the office? How do they respond on the playground? You will often find that Montessori children behave differently from other children. One of the greatest compliments I received was a few years ago after one of my students had a birthday party. He had invited some neighborhood children from his former [traditional] school, as well as friends from our class. His mother said she could tell which children were from my class because they willingly took turns and worked together; whereas the other children were pushing and bickering all of the time. That made me feel good. I hold onto that observation, even on the days when the children are having difficulty.
What are some of your favorite grace and courtesy lessons?