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Grace and Courtesy

If you are just beginning to learn about Montessori education, you’ve probably heard the phrase grace and courtesy. You may be wondering why we go out of our way to identify it as something special. Simply put, grace and courtesy is all about helping children to understand polite social norms.



As a Montessori school, we understand that even very young children are capable of much more than is traditionally expected of them. For example, you might picture a preschool classroom in which children are running around or shouting loudly if they are excited. After all, children of 3 or 4 years of age can’t be expected to have mastered such behaviors yet, right?


If you were to observe children of the same age in a Montessori classroom, this would not be the case. Just as with any other skill, Montessori children are taught how to behave appropriately. This is not to say that they are never allowed to run around and be loud; outdoor playtime is a perfectly suitable environment for those behaviors. They have simply learned that the classroom is an environment dedicated to learning and concentration, and they must do their part.



Modeling


Grace and courtesy starts with intentional modeling. Teachers and other adults are very careful about how they behave in front of the children. When interacting with one another, or when interacting with a child, they are always thinking about showing the children what they hope to see mirrored.


If the teacher expects the children not to shout across the classroom, she or he will not do so themself. When managing a classroom full of children this can be challenging at times, but we understand that the children are always watching us and learning from our behaviors.


Adults in a Montessori school are always very careful not to interrupt a child’s work. They have a deep respect for the child’s autonomy, but they are also aware of the power of their modeling. When adults refuse to interrupt a child’s work, the children learn the importance of doing the same.


Lessons

Aside from modeling, Montessori teachers give lessons to explicitly teach grace and courtesy. They will show the child step by step how a certain behavior or activity is done. Here are just a few of these types of lessons a child might receive:

  • How to greet one another

  • How to welcome a visitor

  • How to get a teacher’s attention without interrupting

  • How to participate in a group discussion without interrupting

  • How to listen in a conversation

  • How to walk carefully around the classroom

  • How to follow directions

  • How to resolve a social conflict

  • How to unobtrusively observe another’s work

  • How to hold a door for someone

  • How to use polite words such as please, thank you, excuse me, etc.