Grace and Courtesy in the High School

By Stuart Mason – High School

Grace and Courtesy is the theme at the Parent Education Evening this week.  In the high school this term is most often applied to seminar discussions.  Students prepare for weekly seminars by reading an article on a current issue and then participating in a 45 minute round-circle discussion in groups of 10 to 15 students.

Seminar begins with the chairperson – a teacher or in the 15-18 years programme, a student volunteer – inviting questions about the text from the group. Questions can be categorised as factual (seeking to clarify facts or definitions of terms), interpretive (arousing interest and seeking meaning) and evaluative (encouraging expression of opinions). The questions asked and the main points made by participants are recorded and a five-minute review back to the group at the end is provided.

From David Kahn of NAMTA (North American Montessori Teachers Association) we have the following list of ten Grace and Courtesy Rules for Seminar:

  • Wait until a person finishes speaking before responding or starting another comment.
  • Do not continue talking for a long period of time. Make your response clear but concise, so others can speak.
  • Make sure you finish your comment clearly so no one is left guessing whether or not you are finished.
  • No one may monopolize the discussion.
  • Politely request for others to have a turn or for a new question to be asked when the discussion seems to narrow to a few participants.
  • Make eye contact with the person who is speaking.
  • Watch the body language of others to recognize when they wish to speak.
  • Advocate for people who have been trying to speak but have not gotten the chance.
  • Call people by their names.
  • Agree or disagree with ideas ­ not with people.

On the subject of rules, Maria Montessori wrote (Childhood to Adolescence) “… in order that individual action should be free and useful at the same time it must be restricted within certain limits and rules that  give  the necessary guidance … The rules must be just those that are necessary and sufficient to maintain order and  ensure progress.”

The rules above obviously contribute to order and also ensure progress by providing the safe place students need to practice reading body language and communicate freely face-to-face.  It is an opportunity to practice expressing ideas out loud without preparation and to share ideas about justice and morality that are important for students of this age.  As with everything in the high school, seminar provides a chance to try on the adult world.

Discovery through Exploration

By Amy Johnson  – Kowhai Head Teacher – Pres

During the first weekend of the holidays, many of the Wā Ora staff were lucky enough to attend the MANZ conference in Hamilton that focused on the topic ‘Exploration – a joyful experience! Hoparatia – he wa pai’.

Since our return to school, I have been part of many different conversations among teachers applying ideas and strategies that came directly from the inspirational presentations and discussions at the conference. It is so encouraging to be reminded that the child’s exploration is an essential part of our curriculum.

One of the unique and amazing aspects of a Montessori education is the encouragement of children to explore their world, their interests and the prepared environment around them. Combined with the child’s natural curiosity and tendency to explore, the materials that surround them in their classrooms allow for personal and self-satisfying discovery.

A child will discover cultural, mathematic, linguistic or scientific facts and gain understanding through their own curiosity, ideas, effort and exploration. Because this information is not just handed to a child by an adult, every child, at each stage of development in a Montessori environment, feels that the learning and discovery is their own personal reward and accomplishment. From very early on they are gifted with the idea that knowledge is something that is gained by exploring one’s own interests and abilities, not something to be chosen or dictated by an adult. All of this self-satisfaction, self-recognition, self-discovery and self-confidence is linked directly to the experience of exploration that the Montessori learning environment encourages for our children as they grow and discover.

There are two key elements required for true exploration that are important to keep in mind, not only in the classroom environment but at home as well.

  • Time is the first thing that children need to explore as their curiosity and inner guide dictates. It is a precious commodity in our modern world and is something that is easy to overlook as we approach each day with our own adult priorities and perspective. It is important for those of us with our eyes on ‘the big picture’ to make a conscious effort to create plenty of free time for children to try things out, to discover on their own, to think creatively about different ways to do things and to make attempts and mistakes as they explore.
  • The second thing children need in order to feel free to explore their world, is what we call, a ‘friendliness with error’. Encouraging the idea that a mistake as a valuable learning opportunity, rather than a failure or problem is one of the best gifts we can give a curious, growing child and it is vital if they are to develop a thirst for exploration and a love of learning.