Grace and Courtesy is practiced in a very real way. This is where a teacher has a perfect opportunity to model how she/he expects the children to behave. Children always rise to expectations when given a chance to.
My place/space: Teacher directed by example.
1) The work rug when in use by a child is their space, not to be stepped on or over by anyone else.
2) The table work space, when a child has laid out material, the addition strip board for example, until he/she has completed the work no one else removes or disturbs it.
3) Working in pairs or groups, by general consensus, and with equal responsibility as far as the materials are concerned.
4) If one child is working with a material and another wants to join in..only with agreement of the first child with the material.
5) If a child is working with material and another wants it..this sort of language is appropriate ” please could you tell me when you have finished with the golden beads Tim, because I would like to use them”
6) When a very popular piece of material is wanted, I place a piece of paper by the equipment and a child can write their name down for their turn. This way they can get on with something else without having to hover around for their turn. When it is their turn the last child to use it can let them know.
7) Once a child has finished with a material, he/she needs to put it back in its place on the shelf as she/he found it before another child can use it or before that child can use another material.
8) Snack can cause “pile up” around the snack table. Children help themselves to snack, at will, and sit down at only one snack table with 3 or 4 children at a time. No crowding or hovering. Some schools adopt a snack neckless, the child with the neckless is the one able to have snack, when the neckless is returned to the hook another child is free to use it and have snack. If the snack table is open all morning there should be no need for this, every child will have an opportunity to have snack. I have also seen a timer in use ” a 5 minute” hour glass to prevent over snacking or lingering.
9) Sense of order is liberating: The classroom environment is very carefully prepared by the Teacher at the beginning of the School year and should be maintained by the teacher and children through out the year so at the end of the work period the classroom should look as it did when the children arrived in the morning. Materials carefully back in their places, rugs rolled and put away, books straightened, pencils, scissors etc. all in order. Because you have instilled a sense of order in your classroom the children naturally follow your lead and become respectful of the environment and each other.
10) Noise level and interruption, in Montessori classroom conversation is encouraged, in a respectful way. This means a teacher getting up to talk to a child (how many of us have just raised our voice to carry the message across the room..gosh I know I am guilty of that especially when occupied with something else..and then could have kicked myself for it!) and encouraging the children to talk in low voices. When a child needs a teachers attention a hand on her shoulder or arm will attract her attention. The teacher can acknowledge the child but carry on uninterrupted. When the teacher is finished she can address the child who is waiting and every one is respected.
11) Waiting and transition: “discipline yourself so others dont’ have to” one of the difficult things to manage in a classroom is waiting and transitions, they involve discipline and self discipline. It is difficult for young children to have to wait their turn and be patient about transitioning for example from work period to play or lunch to nap. Avoiding pushing and cutting at the cubbies or racing to their beds or hanging out in the bathroom all takes much skill from the teacher in modelling behaviour and making sure empathy and respect is tantamount. The key to a smoothly running classroom is organisation and routine, and tell the children, empower them and don’t switch routines on them without letting them know. Soon you will find that they respond to the routine, will know exactly what they have to do, where they have to be and you will find they will help others too. Grace and Courtesy working beautifully.
12) Using your words: Children are often reminded to “use their words” when trying to communicate, and encouraged to keep their hands to themselves, respectfully being listened to and with the knowledge that they will have a turn too all develops self discipline and respect.
13) Body Fluids we all need to blow our nose, cough, go to the bathroom at some point. So let’s try and do it the best way we can. Sneezing or coughing into an elbow rather than a hand can help prevent the spread of something nasty, teach the children this technique and explain why. Blowing ones nose and getting rid of the tissue (not setting it down on the table) and washing hands. Washing hands after visiting the bathroom and leaving the bathroom respectable. Excuse me’s and thank you’s expressed and modelled. Circle time is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate acceptable and non acceptable methods. Knowhow is the key, teach the children and they will try hard to accomplish good habits and practice Grace and Courtesy until it becomes second nature.
I cannot emphasise enough how vital Grace and Courtesy is to the growth of a child’s self discipline, respect, concentration, independence and total normalisation. As well as Grace and Courtesy being vital to the peaceful hum and organisation of a smoothly managed Montessori classroom.
Empower the child.