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The Evolution of Peace
All Day Children’s House Assistant Teacher

As the year progresses, the classroom atmosphere arrives at a level of harmony that is a pleasure to behold. A vibrant, peaceful hum continues through the morning work cycle. We have lived this collective experience progressing through the initial phase of orientation and establishing routines. Relationships have been established, redefined and negotiated through shared experiences.

Children must often suppress personally motivated urges and act with regard to others because of the way the environment is prepared. As Dr. Montessori writes, there is “constant practice in dealing suitably with situations that no teacher would be able to invent”. (Absorbent Mind, pg. 204) The child exercises patience and self-control when a sought-after activity is already being used. Children who are in need of help go to the waiting spot. We often see other children rushing to help someone who sits there. In contrast, traditional schooling often teaches the opposite of cooperation. Montessori says: “in the schools of today, no one may copy another’s work and to help someone else is regarded as a crime.” (Absorbent Mind, pg. 219)

The lessons for care of self often translate to caring for others. A towel or polishing cloth must be placed in the basket for the next person. Children help one another with buttoning coats, tying shoes or reading a recipe.  Similarly, lessons for care of the environment such as watering plants and polishing wood encourage the child to make a contribution to the welfare of our communal space. The child learns not only how to care for the physical environment but also how to care for the psychological environment by respecting others at work, using soft voice tones, walking slowly and carefully. When a child is given freedom of speech, of choice and of movement, the repercussions of her actions become her responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. “The child comes to see that he must respect the work of others, not because someone has said he must, but because this is a reality that he meets in his daily experience.”  (Absorbent Mind, pg. 203)

The 3-year age span is a unique feature of Montessori, one that elicits protection from the oldest members and admiration from the youngest. Also, the non-competitive atmosphere nurtures understanding of different abilities.  “Our schools are alive. To understand what the older ones are doing fills the little ones with enthusiasm. The older ones are happy to be able to teach what they know. There are no inferiority complexes, but everyone achieves a healthy normality through the mutual exchange of spiritual energy.” (Absorbent Mind, pg. 207)

The cohesion of the social unit is developed through these experiences in an active community. The children delight in celebrating individual achievements. We join together to acknowledge holidays and birthdays. Specific lessons that foster community are walking on the line and the silence game. These lessons were especially created to develop control of movement in regards to respect for others. Did you know that Dr. Montessori once played the Silence Game with Gandhi?

However, more amazing than what the children learn is what the true nature of childhood reveals to us. Children have a strong need to show care and concern for one another. Children never hold a grudge. They are conciliatory and will absolve one another in an expression of unconditional love We have much to learn from them about building peace and cooperative social relations. I learn something new from them everyday.

It was Montessori’s hope that this growth in social consciousness from care of others to community service and social responsibility would transform the entire human race and result in a unity and solidarity that would negate the need for war. “The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.”  (Absorbent Mind, pg. 4)

In 1931, Gandhi wrote to her: “You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have the struggle, we won’t have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.” (M. Gandhi, Speech At Montessori Training College, London) Dr. Montessori was an early proponent for establishing Departments of Peace and was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Ruffing Montessori School   |   3380 Fairmount Blvd Cleveland Heights, OH 44118   |   Phone: (216) 321-7571   |   Hours 8am-4pm M-F   |   After Hours Phone (216) 321-0913