Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! This time of year is a special time for many reasons; it is a time for family traditions, for quality time with loved-ones and for reflection and appreciation for the year as it winds to a close.
As a Montessorian, the holidays and coming new year bring to mind one of my favourite aspects of Montessori pedagogy: the role peace plays in education. I often find myself reflecting on Dr. Montessori’s eminent quote: “The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” She spoke these words during an address she gave in Copenhagen on 22nd May, 1937 as part of the Educate for Peace congress.
I invite you to reflect and meditate on this quote with me during these festive holidays, a time that many feel to be the most spiritual and peace-filled of the year.
Dr. Montessori regarded education as “the true salvation of humanity”. She termed the child “a spiritual embryo” who possessed the sensitivity and creativity to move humanity forward. She believed the child’s experience in the Prepared Environment was a step on the ladder to world peace.
The hope and promise that Montessori referred to can be seen everyday in our classrooms. Peace-making skills can be found in all aspects of Montessori education, from having the freedom to choose one’s own work and pursue individual interests, to developing a sense of self through respectful interactions with teachers and peers. Montessori-educated children learn and practice what we call Grace and Courtesy activities on a daily basis such as politely greeting a guest with eye contact and a friendly handshake or offering help to a friend in need. We also strive to teach our children how to express their feelings and to take part in conflict resolution. Many classrooms have a Peace Table for children to have a quiet space for this specific purpose.
We bring the world to the child: we give our students opportunities to work with and develop empathy for living things such as plants and animals, to care for the greater environment, to be charitable to those in need and to explore and celebrate different cultures.
I like to imagine how much good can be accomplished for the future should the children we teach continue to practice these small but important peace-keeping skills into adulthood. In consideration of these daily practices (that quickly become second nature to our students) it is easy to see why Dr. Montessori deemed the child “a hope and a promise for mankind.”
May you have a joyous, peace-filled holiday season with your loved-ones.
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