Learning to Be a Giver
Giving and sharing are natural characteristics we wish our children to exhibit. But first, becoming a socially appropriate human being is learned behavior, and we, the parents and teachers, are responsible to make sure our children learn to be kind, polite, considerate of others, truly empathetic, and mindful of our actions and how they impact others.
So to begin, we must consistently model those behaviors that we expect in our young ones. Modeling what we expect is foundational. Our children absorb through all of their senses, and they want to be just like those in their lives whom they love, those who impress them. They are watching our every move, and we should never model what we don’t want to see in them.
In the Montessori philosophy, “grace and courtesy” is a phrase commonly used to refer to the way in which we practice getting along in school, be it classroom or playground. Though it is the invisible curriculum of Montessori, our lessons on grace and courtesy are foundational for a peaceful and productive environment, be that in the classroom or eventually as adults. It entails the development of self-awareness, as well as self-control.
Grace and courtesy lessons are always brief, demonstrated, and then practiced. It only takes a few moments to show children how to cover their mouths when they sneeze, or how to give a firm handshake, and they are often delighted at learning how to do these simple acts of courtesy.
Within the classroom community, children learn to share and help others. In mixed age groups, as is practiced in Montessori schools, older children often help the younger ones, developing attitudes of consideration for others. This prepares children to start thinking beyond themselves. A natural progression is for schools and families to reach out at this time of year to the community to express their developing awareness of caring and giving.
Grace and courtesy lessons can be practiced with community service projects. Some good examples of ways to model and introduce our students to being givers include gathering new and gently used toys for pediatric cancer patients, making Valentine cards for wounded warriors, visiting a nursing home and spreading holiday cheer, collecting needed items for animal shelters and maybe even a beach clean-up service day.
It is a continuous process of new lessons, cultivated with experiences practiced throughout our lives — a process of shaping and pruning, cultivating social norms where kindness and giving become a free-flowing natural part of our everyday lives.
Cynthia Thomas founded her first Montessori school in Brevard County in 1983. She now operates five schools throughout Florida. She discovered Montessori’s unique approach when her children attended a school in Hawaii. She received her masters in education specializing in Montessori from Chaminade University in Hawaii.