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As we develop a new vision and mission for our school, we continually refer to the guiding principles of Montessori philosophy. What are the values we impart to our students and how can we, as educators, leaders and parents, cultivate these in our own lives?

Two words regularly used in the Montessori classroom are grace and courtesy.

To inspire grace and courtesy in our children, we need to model these behaviours ourselves. So, what do we mean by grace and courtesy? How do they look in a Montessori classroom? And what role do they play in supporting the development of social relationships?

What is Grace? What is Courtesy?

Let’s first isolate each word. Here are the Google Oxford Languages definitions:

  • Grace is defined in two parts: 1. simple elegance or refinement of movement, and 2. courteous goodwill.
  • Courtesy is defined simply as: the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others.

Stated another way, grace and courtesy comprise how we move through the space around us showing respect for ourselves and others.

Learning Grace & Courtesy in the Montessori classroom

In our toddler and pre-school classrooms, grace and courtesy are considered part of practical life learning. We devote significant time to grace and courtesy lessons.

For example, the adults give explicit instruction on how to walk around someone’s work on the rug, how to wait your turn, how to offer help, how to tuck a chair under the table, or how to introduce oneself.

These lessons are offered one-on-one or in small groups and we often use role playing as a technique for exploring the skills.

We are very careful about how we introduce grace and courtesy to children. If we see something that needs to be addressed, we avoid confronting the child in the moment and we never offer grace and courtesy lessons as a form of punishment or correction. We are careful about this because children are often embarrassed when corrected by adults on the spot. When this happens, they can feel disrespected and not safe, and thus much less likely to perform the act on their own accord.

Grace and courtesy in the older years

As children enter their primary and adolescent years, our approach shifts slightly. Primary-age children are more focused on their social interactions and are learning how to navigate the ups and downs of friendships. As such, much of the grace and courtesy work at this level provides children with tools for communicating directly and respectfully, sharing perspectives thoughtfully, and even being discreet about something potentially embarrassing. In essence, they are learning the priceless skills of conflict resolution.

In addition, they are learning how to interact with the broader community as they arrange visits or interviews, conduct themselves according to the norms of different communities, and explore how to be a host or be a guest.

The Goal

The goal in Montessori education is that these acts of grace and courtesy aren’t rigid expectations, like insisting that children say please and thank you. Rather, they become part of how children want to be and interact.

Dr. Montessori is quoted as saying: “…the essential thing is that [the child] should know how to perform these actions of courtesy when his little heart prompts him to do so, as part of a social life which develops naturally from moment to moment.” 

Like all other exercises in Montessori prepared environments, we offer opportunities to regularly practice and repeat grace and courtesy skills.

Because these experiences are part of the normal functioning of the day, they provide a respectful way for young people to learn expectations and for adults to provide scaffolding and assistance for social skills

The Results

Over time, as we offer grace and courtesy opportunities and give children a safe place to practice, our young people eventually perform these skills independently.

When you visit our school, you’re likely to see two young children sitting together as one patiently shows the other how to tie their shoes. Or perhaps if you observe in a classroom, a couple of students might ask if you would like them to serve you tea or water.

Our children bring a sad classmate a tissue or rush to assist when someone has a spill. They tuck their chairs under tables so others don’t trip over them. They carefully place a tray upon a table. They greet each other and adults in the hallways. They hold the door open when they see someone coming their way.

In the process, Montessori children move beyond the basic niceties and think deeply about their impact on those around them.

We’d love to show you this in action! Schedule a tour to see the ways that grace and courtesy help children recognise themselves as caring individuals within a supportive community.

Contact us today to learn more or Book a School Tour below. Learn more or book a school tour today.

Denice Scala

Author Denice Scala

B.A, M.Ed, Dip ED, Dip RSA, Cert. Neuroscience. Principal, Forestville Montessori School. Denice Scala is an executive leader with extensive experience in key strategic roles requiring business transformation and innovation. As a passionate advocate for the power of education to enrich lives, Denice moved from classroom teaching to leadership positions in 1992 and since then has held international in roles in Scotland and Australia as Principal, Head of Junior School, and Head of Learning Support. She has an impressive working knowledge of early learning, primary, middle, and secondary schooling including gifted education and special needs. Her Masters in Gifted Education led her to work extensively to find ways to cater for gifted students. This led to providing professional development opportunities for educators to assist in their understanding of the characteristics of gifted children and the complexities of growing up gifted. Denice’s unparalleled grasp of current educational realities is equally matched by her big picture thinking combined with practical solutions to navigate change. Denice’s passion for Montessori education led her to undertake the AMI Introduction to Adolescents Course, to audit the AMI 6-12 Diploma, and to also currently undertake the AMI School Administration Certificate Course.

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