Grace and Courtesy
The classroom routines are a very important part the management and operation of the class. One key aspect of this are the Montessori lessons on “grace and courtesy.”
When we think of “grace and courtesy,” we are generally referring to such things as how to pass someone, how to ask for help politely, how to greet others, how to communicate with others at the right volume, how to carry a chair properly, and so on. Therefore, this is what we do in the classroom. We give our children a demonstration and the opportunity to put it into practice, expecting to see an orderly, positive, peaceful, and cheerful Montessori classroom.
But it doesn’t seem to be enough, because I haven’t seen my ideal yet.
In late October 2018, AMI Trainer Louise Livingston arrived at Shenzhen Peninsula Kindergarten and selected some classes for observation. Luckily our class was chosen for Thursday, October 25.
The preparation was intense and as expected, after the “challenging” 1.5 hours of observation and 3.5 hours of uneasy waiting, I was finally able to meet Louise face-to-face.
“I come to help you” Those were Louise’s first words, and it was true. She also said that this meeting is not for giving “directions,” but to establish communication and share advice that can help me to help my children.
First of all, “grace and courtesy” is not limited to interpersonal relations. It can be broader and more nuanced.
How to walk in the classroom without stepping on another person’s work mat or bumping into others; how to take work from the shelf; how to hold materials and walk around the classroom; how to work on a mat or a table; how to put materials back on the shelf; how to clean up water on the floor; how to sit cross-legged; how to roll up the work mat; how to push in the chair; how to line up… Almost all the activities in the classroom environment are planned as a demonstration of grace and courtesy that can help children to regulate themselves and improve their self-control.
Second, the activities of grace and courtesy should be carried out continuously in class. We need to give children enough demonstrations, and then, enough opportunities to practice. At the same time, we need to allow our children to make mistakes. We can’t expect them to be perfect immediately after a demonstration. We need to encourage them to try, practice, repeat, and gradually attain precision. Through our daily observations, we can see the development of children’s self-confidence and joy in this process.
Third, in addition to the usual grace and courtesy presentations, we can also increase or adjust grace and courtesy demonstrations according to special circumstances. For example, most children wear long sleeves in autumn, so we can show them how to roll up their sleeves when washing their hands. At the end of the semester we can help children learn how to organize their own work; older girls can demonstrate how to comb their own or someone else’s hair and so on, and these additions or adjustments are derived from the teacher’s daily observations and notes.
Fourth, these grace and courtesy demonstrations need the joint efforts of teachers and children. The teacher should make a daily presentation plan based on observation and discussion with other adults in the class. Both the lead teacher and assistant teacher can do the demonstrations and follow up with the child to decide the next step in the plan. Organizing a successful and effective grace and courtesy small group activity also requires planning, such as deciding which grace and courtesy activity to present, who should be invited, and when, where, and how to start and end. All these require advance preparation. The cooperation of the other adult in the class during the activity is also very important.
Many thanks to Louise for her observation and conference. I learned a lot from her. She gave a lot of pertinent advice and shared her observations with me in a gentle, direct, and elegant manner. Thank you, Louise, and thank you to the school for organizing it. Looking forward to our progress and a better future.