Gratitude Is Learned In the Classroom
The culture of gratitude at Twin Parks Montessori Schools begins with every classroom’s focus on ways to master Grace and Courtesy skills. Maria Montessori emphasized this skill set with the disorderly children she began working with in the slums of San Lorenzo, Italy. Her first students were under 7 years old and left to their own devises while their parents were earning money to feed their families. In one of Montessori’s early writings, she wrote about her experience when teaching a child to blow her nose. She was amazed at the wonderment express by the other children observing and the sense of pride in the individual participating in the lesson.
Grace and Courtesy Goes Beyond Good Manners
Grace and courtesy goes beyond having good manners and saying please and thank you. It goes beyond saying “I am sorry” for a transgression. It includes being kind, helpful, empathetic and expressing kindnesses for one another. A kindness can be as small as picking up a pencil someone dropped to large like helping to clean up spilled materials from an activity, without being asked. It is seeing a need and responding with a helpful spirit. Learning to have these skills is a process, and one that we work towards daily in our schools.
Children Giving to City Harvest
Each year Twin Parks Montessori Schools children bring canned and packaged food items to school for a donation to City Harvest. The teachers also talk about people who are hungry. One parent relayed that her son observed a homeless person and asked, “Is he hungry? If he is, he should come to my school and pick up some food. My class is feeding hungry people in New York City!” City Harvest is an organization that helps feed 1.3 million New Yorkers that face hunger every year. This number includes almost 1 out of every 4 children in our city.
Our classrooms incorporate this philanthropy project into the curriculum. They sort the items by food groups, and count the number of items. My favorite part is when the children carry one can or box at a time, walking in a line together to the communal collection place. They see the stacks and boxes of food growing. They understand that their cans, when added to the contributions of all the others, really amounts to a lot of food that can make a difference to others.
Giving Thanks Together is Important
This is the time of year when most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Often this time off can be full of the hustle and bustle of life. It is a perfect time to count our blessings, demonstrate appreciation, and be thankful for our basic needs, like food, shelter, and clothing. In addition, we are thankful for the people in our lives, the love we give to and receive from those who make our lives happier, better and easier. It is important for parents and teachers to role-model grace and courtesy, and appreciation for others. Adults who practice grace and courtesy and appreciation all the time, not just in the presence of children, have the greatest impact on children. Showing gratitude is an important part of who we are as wonderful humans.
At circle time, children talk about what they are grateful for. The range in responses to the question of what they are thankful for can include; parents, siblings, ice cream, friends, Central Park, play dough, teachers, pizza, pets, new shoes or even leaves. The range of responses tells us that children understand the concept of being thankful. Enjoy this time together with your family and friends and remember to share that for which you are thankful.