Practicing peace

Outdoor learning

I recently read an article in Montessori Life magazine (published by the American Montessori Society) that described a three-year study conducted with children in Montessori schools and children in conventional schools. The study was designed to identify environments that are conducive to self regulation in the child.

One question and answer caught my attention. The question was asked, “What would you do if someone at school teased you?” Seventy-five percent of the Montessori children answered with various strategies: talk it out, go to the peace rug, walk away, etc. Just about one hundred percent of the children in conventional schools answered with one strategy: tell the teacher.

The Montessori environment is designed to have children interact with each other constantly, in all sorts of ways, all day long. The peace-building nature of the environment isn’t found only in the conflict resolution skills we offer the children, the peace corner in every classroom, or even the broad ranging curriculum. It is found in the daily working out, or practicing, relationships inside the classroom. It is the regular negotiation going on, the attempts at understanding the needs of another, the requirement to share or be patient when a material is being used, and the underlying understanding of the number one ground rule: “Treat each other as you would want to be treated.” The “cosmic education” curriculum in the Montessori elementary school ties all children to each other and to the universe itself, so the ongoing figuring out of relationships inside the classroom is actually an arm of the foundational educational philosophy itself: we are all intimately and irreversibly connected.

I attended a taekwondo class one Saturday morning, and seven of the eight children were Montessori kids. At the end of the lesson, the instructor said, “Now, children, what we did today, you do not do outside. You do not kick or punch…” and went on to describe the need to use these skills for self defense only. At the end of her explanation, she said, “Now if someone is bothering you at school, what do you do?” and then she answered her own question: “You go to the teacher.”

One of the Montessori children in the group, looking a bit perplexed, raised his hand and said, “Or you can invite that person to the peace corner.” He wasn’t being disrespectful, he just didn’t understand why you would talk to a different person than the one with whom you have the conflict.

Explore posts in the same categories: elementary education, Montessori, Montessori Method

One Comment on “Practicing peace”

  1. Donna Bryant Goertz Says:

    It is not possible to overestimate the effect on society that personal responsibility for relationships promoted through the understanding and practice of peer mediation from an early age can make. Thank you, Daniel, for your role in promoting peace through Montessori education. Donna Bryant Goertz

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