There are many facets of a Montessori education that are easily recognizable, such as the carefully prepared environment and spotless organization. Yet one of the pillars of a Montessori education often goes understated within the classroom. Though it is extremely pivotal, Grace and Courtesy is a much more subtle lesson on which all others are built. Without Grace and Courtesy, the classroom wouldn’t function as well.
What is Grace and Courtesy?
Grace and Courtesy is where the Montessori education begins. It is the foundation on which the classroom flows throughout the day, from the early morning greetings, to asking questions, and to even getting through disagreements with aplomb. Grace and Courtesy helps Montessori schools in Philadelphia feel less like a school and more like a community. In short, grace is the child’s ability to use their will to show comfort and respect in themselves. Courtesy is showing that same grace and respect toward others.
Around the age of 3, up to 6 years, children become sensitive to social interactions with their peers and adults. This is when the importance of Grace and Courtesy becomes much more pronounced. Learning how to interact with others politely helps children understand how to converse and engage with others properly. Simultaneously, children gain helpful tools that support their independence.
Grace and Courtesy is also important in keeping the classroom quiet. Unlike other preschools where children are loud and the room may be filled with chaos and distracting stimulation, a Montessori space is dedicated to concentration and learning. The children involved understand this and their role in maintaining that environment.
When it comes to teaching Grace and Courtesy to young children, the most basic step is modeling the appropriate behaviors. Guides within the school are always aware of how they behave around the children. Whenever adults interact with one another or with a child, they think about how they can show a child Grace and Courtesy so that it can be mirrored.
For instance, when a teacher sees a child enter the classroom in the morning, the teacher will go to the child’s level, give them eye contact, smile and say, “Good morning.” In respect to autonomy, the teachers also try to avoid interrupting a child while they work. The guide doesn’t shout across the room or raise the volume. Whatever a guide does, they do so intentionally hoping the children will do the same.
Grace and Courtesy is first modeled by a teacher, but there are also lessons that are taught. The teachers will often invite groups of 3-4 students to engage with them to learn something new. During this time, the teacher will show a step-by-step explanation of Grace and Courtesy then have the children role play.
Some lessons that a Montessori teacher might introduce include:
- How to greet someone
- How to welcome someone into your home
- How to introduce family, friends, and acquaintances
- How to actively listen during a conversation
- How to get the teacher’s attention without interrupting the whole class
- How to observe someone else’s work without interrupting
- How to be polite or use please and thank you
- How to follow directions
- How to resolve a disagreement
- How to do kind things for others, such as holding open doors
Grace and Courtesy is the focus in younger age groups, but that doesn’t mean its importance is diminished as children get older. Once the students regularly demonstrate basic manners, there is still much to discover. Grace and Courtesy lessons must also evolve, because older students are different from younger ones in a couple of ways:
- Grace and Courtesy needs are important for making and maintaining friendships and having smooth social interactions.
- Children eventually develop their own sense of humor and need to learn what not to do jokingly.
For example, the teacher might notice that children are behaving in a less than ideal way during lunch. Perhaps the children are rambunctious as they go through the lunch line or they are displaying rude behaviors. The guide might act out these scenarios, such as running frantically to a seat, throwing a lunch bag, or snatching up food before someone else, and will ask what is wrong in each scenario. The teacher will then have the students model the correct behaviors then have them do the same thing again during lunch time as practice.
As you can see, Grace and Courtesy lessons can extend well into the upper age ranges of a Montessori education. Teachers are always looking for the opportunity to discuss appropriate behaviors that may not have been learned yet. The best part is that Grace and Courtesy is not just restricted to one classroom. It translates to every facet of life.
Final Thoughts on Grace and Courtesy
Grace and Courtesy is a necessary part of Montessori education, because it helps children develop and refine the lifelong skills of communication and self-control. With these important lessons, children can better orient themselves in any environment and feel confident about asking questions and participating in society. No wonder Dr. Montessori often stated: “A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises of grace and courtesy, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy.”