By Bart Theriot, Head of School, Administration
Grace and courtesy are essential elements of life as a member of a society. If done properly, grace and courtesy should promote harmony in all areas of life. It is true that nearly everything we say and do whether alone or with others contains aspects of grace and courtesy. It is important to recognize that these are learned skills and must be taught.
In the coming months we are going to delve more deeply into grace and courtesy. Today we will discuss the concept of peace, which figures heavily into the practice of grace and courtesy. Montessori teachers know quite a bit about peace because we practice it every day, often in the smallest of ways. Other times, we demonstrate peace on a larger and tangible scale such as our peace day projects and charity drives.
Our school even works to build peace on a global scale. Each year MAB faculty builds a peace wall which is displayed at the annual AMS (American Montessori Society) conference. This conference is attended by more than 3,000 teachers each year. The wall contains cards on which teachers from all over the world have written definitions of peace. Over the past 6 years we have accumulated hundreds and hundreds of cards in dozens of languages. Not one of them has been the same as any other, yet they all represent the meaning of peace.
When you finish reading this, I encourage you to find a piece of paper and write your own definition or draw a picture of peace. Stick it on your refrigerator (ideally at eye-level for your child to see). This is a fun idea to practice with your entire family. It’s always fun to hear your child’s answer when asked What does peace mean to you?
Whatever your definition, it is important to realize that peace is something which is far easier to destroy than to create. Sometimes it takes considerable effort to make peace. Then there are times when it only takes a few words. Sometimes it can be done by yourself, but other times peace simply cannot be accomplished alone. Regardless of when or how, building peace requires thought and practice and it is always worth sharing with others.
As you will see in future discussions, acts of grace and courtesy form and strengthen the bonds between us. These connections are what we use to define what peace means to each of us. Do all you can to help your child establish connections with the world around him or her. Start simply. A child can always understand that which he can hold in his hand. Pick up trash when you see it. Show your child that it is our human responsibility to protect life. Before you swat that fly or step on that ant, consider if there might be another way. Hold the door for others. Greet strangers with eye contact and a cheerful hello or good morning. Donate food, clothes, money and if possible, your time to those in need. Help children understand and value the life they have by exposing them to other countries less fortunate than ours. These are just a few examples of peace-building experiences. We would love to hear your own!
In every case, the key is always to explain your actions to reinforce the concept and remember that peace begins with you. Before long, you may find your child spontaneously following in your footsteps. Mahatma Gandhi once said Be the change you wish to see in the world. If we are conscious of grace and courtesy, we can take this a step further by ensuring that our children will also be the change.