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The Importance of Grace and Courtesy

Kala Reyes – Rewarewa Head Teacher

If you have a child in preschool, you might have heard of grace and courtesy. Grace and courtesy is a fundamental aspect of Montessori philosophy rooted in respect, empathy, and kindness. These are delivered as group lessons to help tamariki learn socially acceptable ways of doing things, fostering a harmonious and respectful learning environment. Tamariki learn to navigate social situations with kindness, empathy, and respect for others’ feelings and boundaries.

The adults in the environment play a pivotal role in weaving grace and courtesy into daily activities and interactions. As kaiako, we model the behaviour and language that we want to see and hear from our tamariki. We show them how to move gracefully, for example opening and closing doors gently, walking around someone’s mat or table without knocking over their work, or helping an upset friend. We also share language like “are you available?” when a tamaiti wants to engage in a conversation, or saying “no, thank you” as a polite way to decline an invitation. Tamariki are keen observers who imitate the social behaviours they see around them. Through grace and courtesy lessons, they learn to communicate their needs and emotions effectively, as well as respond empathetically to the needs of others.

In the book Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom: preparing an environment that fosters respect, kindness & responsibility, authors Nelsen and DeLorenzo list numerous grace and courtesy lessons for all Montessori age groups. Here are some examples:

•    Introducing yourself •    Basic table manners •    Coughing/sneezing into your sleeve •    Listening when others are talking •    Offering food or drink •    Joining a group or a game •    Saying “no” / receiving “no” respectfully•    Resolving conflicts peacefully •    Introducing others •    Dividing labour in a group project •    Declining an invitation politely •    Asking for help •    Initiating conversations •    Giving and receiving meaningful compliments•    Representing the school in public •    Stating opinions respectfully •    Cell phone etiquette •    Negotiating conflicts between friends •    Expressing empathy •    Listening openly to different perspectives and opinions
Source: Nelsen, J., DeLorenzo, C. (2021). Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom: Preparing an Environment that Fosters Respect, Kindness & Responsibility (pp. 74-79). Parent-Child Press.

Montessori is focused on the education of the whole person, not only the intellect. Grace and courtesy lessons sit alongside all the other curriculum areas like mathematics and literacy; when there are less challenging behaviours to manage, then there is more time for kaiako to connect tamariki to meaningful work.

It is important to remember that children are not born with social skills; they first learn these from their families at home, then at school and other social environments. When we think about our own childhoods, we might remember being scolded for breaking a social norm that we didn’t know existed! By instilling the principles of grace and courtesy in our children from an early age, we empower them to become compassionate, respectful, and socially responsible individuals who contribute positively to the world around them.

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