Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013, 3:49 pm

View from QCA: Montessori — Peaceful classroom, peaceful world

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By Renee M. Detloff

We often hear people bemoan the lack of kindness, peace, and civility in the world today. What do children learn when they see and hear sarcasm, rudeness, lack of respect, and a "me first" attitude on television, in their relationships with others, and in society as a whole?

To change tomorrow's world, we must begin with today's children.
Montessori Education Week is celebrated worldwide Feb. 26-March 4. The century-old Montessori approach to education is based on the concept of respect for each child and the potential of the adult he will become. Children learn what they see and experience.

There is great power in the small acts of respect and kindness that the child should experience as part of his childhood, instead of acts of cruelty or even worse, disinterest. The Montessori philosophy believes a child should learn to live with a grateful attitude and compassion and develop a balanced life.
When bringing body, mind and emotions into harmony, the child learns to adapt to change with flexibility and strength and develops a stable mind, a steady vision, and an open heart that respects the value of relationships with friends, family, and his environment.

To become responsible adults, children need to cultivate mindfulness, which is the process of paying attention to life around them, without judgment, but with gratitude and joy. They need to develop gratitude for the sky, the water, the seeds of Johnny Appleseed, and an inner peace that grows compassion, joy, and beauty throughout their lives. Children should care for their homes and their classrooms, their community, and their world because they have learned to be grateful in every aspect of their lives.

In a Montessori multi-age classroom, serving others is a demonstration of love in action; the older or stronger child has empathy for the younger, smaller child through natural interaction, and does not need to "be taught" empathy. Students have a desire to help- not because of any external reward -- but simply because it is what a good person does. Bullying is seldom an issue for children taught within the Montessori philosophy.

Children should be shown the connections between themselves and their world and foster responsibility through their choices and actions. Children who develop self-reliance are also independent, but understand the consequences of their actions.

In a Montessori classroom the child has freedom of choice, but within reasonable parameters. Understanding the value of history as a living process develops an empathy for the whole human experience, and the Montessori classroom creates a microcosm of society for the child.

Children learn to appreciate the wisdom and value we each have, as well as those before us -- the life cycle is an integrated part of the human experience. All life passes through nature, and helps the child learn who he is and from where he came.

Millions of children who have attended Montessori schools worldwide, including those who have attended Villa Montessori School locally, demonstrate the message of kindness and respect as they have become self-reliant, kind, and compassionate adults.Montessori schools have three very simple rules for a peaceful classroom: respect yourself, respect your friends, and respect your environment.

Children learn what they see. A Montessori teacher and the Montessori family make a commitment to the personal development of the child to help him learn to live with gratitude and compassion, develop strength of character, and honor the child as the future of mankind.

If we honor the child and follow the three simple guidelines of respect we give the child, we also honor the world.
Renee M. Detloff is head of school for Villa Montessori School, Moline.