The lessons in Grace and Courtesy play an important part role in the Montessori Method. Not only are these lessons presented and learned in a Montessori classroom, they are also carried on to include courtesy to those outside our immediate community through community service. Maria Montessori believed that it is the duty of every person to work toward and be part of something great, which not only serves individual interests, but also those of all humanity. For children to understand this, they need to be nurtured in the ways of grace, courtesy, and service, in the hopes of letting these flourish and grow throughout their lives.
The first lessons of Grace and Courtesy in the classroom focus on building the community. The children learn how they interact and participate in their environment. Montessori teachers present these lessons using clear spoken and body language, modeling, and leading by example. As teachers and parents, it is important to remember that children are watching us all the time. Thus, it is necessary for adults to be mindful of their actions, modeling the proper behavior of how to be in a community every day. When leading by example adults show respect for self, others, materials, and the rest of the environment. With such modeling, children learn to show respect, not only in the classroom but even outside in their everyday experiences.
Grace and Courtesy lessons include moving gracefully, using good manners, saying “please” and “thank you”, etc… For Infants, lessons begin with the parents and caregivers who are their first teachers and models in all areas such as movement, kindness, and relationships. A great example would be a mother nursing her infant, giving her complete and undivided attention and giving the message that he is the most important person in the world, thus modeling future intimate relationships. Infants also start to become interactive with their trusted caregiver and also start to express their gratitude and good manners using sign language.
Toddlers are beginning to be empathetic. They become concerned when they see and hear someone cry and may even offer to help and give comfort by giving hugs. They are also starting to greet others and say, “please” and “thank you”.
Pre-Primary children continue to practice compassion and empathy. The children, who now have more control of their movement and express themselves verbally, can do so much more as shown to them by their teachers. Some Grace and Courtesy lessons are the following: greeting someone, making eye contact when speaking to someone, taking turns, waiting, asking for help, offering help, using a quiet voice, saying “please” and “thank you”, respecting others and the environment, sitting on and putting away a chair, walking in line, shaking hands, apologizing/ excusing oneself, being kind, making friends, etc…
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it is good to keep in mind how thankful we are to have each other. The children understand this as we show how we treat one another with respect and kindness and being joyful to be in each other’s presence.