I was reading an article online this morning arguing that schools should teach kindness and as I started reading it I realised, once again, that what happens in a Montessori classroom isn’t typical across the board.
It would be easy to think that kindness is an innate part of our character and that it doesn’t need to be taught. But then, some people think love doesn’t need to be cultivated in a marriage either (I disagree!).
I’d argue that encouraging humility and kindness in our children is perhaps one of the most important things we can teach them. I want my children to go out into the world with empathy and compassion for others – these two values are very dear to my heart and they are topics we talk to our children about often.
I love this fabulous quote from L.R. Knost:
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
It’s so true.
And it’s just one more thing that I love about our Montessori school and what my children are learning there.
My eldest son’s classroom has a peace table on the verandah outside where children can have some quiet time or use it as a space to resolve disputes, where everyone is heard and the children are encouraged to come to a peaceful solution themselves.
The peace table also has a jar of paper scrolls on it. The children know they can – at any time – write something kind about a fellow class member and then scroll the paper back up. At regular intervals, their guide distributes the notes to their worthy recipients.
My children went back to school this week after our long summer break here in Australia. My 5 year old was standing next to my bedside at the crack of dawn on the first day back. “Is it school today, mummy?” he asked. When I said yes he said “At last. I’ve been waiting all holidays.”
Apparently my sparkling personality wasn’t enough to keep my boys occupied at home for much longer and they were ready to get back to school for some more stimulating company. They were dressed and ready to go before I was and while it is fantastic to see that kind of enthusiasm, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a smile as big as the day my eldest son brought home his first scroll.
“Mum, mum. I got a love bucket scroll today!” he said (my children often talk about us all having a bucket inside us that can be filled with love, either by someone else’s kind act, or by loving ourselves).
He read the scroll out to me and I stifled a laugh.
“I like Cooper because……he had a nice t-shirt on today,” it said.
Not quite what I was expecting, but you know what? I love it – and so did Cooper. That scroll was on his bedroom wall for months, in pride of place next to his bookshelf.
It wasn’t too long after that, that he brought home his second scroll. I was amazed that it was from his little brother, as Mitch isn’t even in his class.
“I like Cooper because….he is my brother,” it said.
I asked Mitch when he had filled it out, and he said he’d written it one day while he was waiting for Cooper after school.
I love that the first little boy got to practice being kind to my son – and I loved it just as much when it was his brother who had something nice to say (vague, but nice). I realised that it doesn’t matter what it is about – it is the act of doing something for someone else that is reward enough for the giver, not to mention the receiver.
Teaching kindness takes many forms in our Montessori classrooms, and it can be so subtle that we can miss it. From the ‘Conversation’ activity in our 3-6 environment (where children take it in turns talking and listening while an egg-timer keeps time), to helping a classmate with an activity that we know, but is new to them, to waiting our turn when someone has an activity we want to use – they all teach kindness and care for others. Even sitting in the circle for birthday celebrations and engaging in the birthday walk ceremony is an expression of kindness as the children pay homage to the birthday boy or girl and each year of their life so far.
In fact, often there are really only three real rules in a Montessori classroom – care of yourself, care of others and care of the environment around you.
Kindness is actually a fundamental aspect of Dr Montessori’s philosophy, as described in this quote from Dr Montessori’s Own Handbook, published in 1965:
“Let us treat them (children), therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” – Dr Maria Montessori
What a fabulous environment to grow up in.
We didn’t have peace tables or love buckets when I was at school, but I can think of a few children who would have benefited from some kind care and attention from their peers, rather than the attention they did receive.
Imagine if every school had kindness as a core part of their curriculum? Imagine if you could study a Bachelor of Kindness degree and then go out and share what you’ve learned with others?
The world would be a better place.
And our children are making it a better place. One kind gesture at a time.
Until next week,
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