Relationships with others are complicated. Whether you are four years old or forty years old it takes a lot of grace and courtesy to navigate living and working in a community with others each day. In the Primary Environment, grace and courtesy lessons are given from the very first day of school. These lessons evolve over the three-year cycle to incorporate all the many nuanced ways that we must interact with those around us. The very first lessons are as simple as "How to walk around a mat" or "How to open and close a door silently." Later, more complicated lessons like "How to join a group" or "How to invite someone to a discussion about a disagreement" can be added. Grace and courtesy lessons cover a wide range including for example, "How to blow your nose," "How to interrupt," "How to introduce yourself and others," and "How to relay a message to someone who is across the room." (Spoiler-You get up, push your chair in, walk to the person and then quietly tell them the message you needed to express.)
These lessons are given in advance of when the behavior will be expected and are often done in a dramatic way with the children getting to role play and take turns pretending to be in the situation. In this way the child has a whole toolbox of appropriate behaviors that they can pull from in various social situations and then may be spared the embarrassment of having to be told aloud by the adult what to do when the social situation arises. Each day in our class the adults and children practice being as gracious and courteous with each other as we can. Along with our grace and courtesy lessons we often read books and have discussions about what it means to be peaceful, kind, and a helper to others. We talk specifically about what this looks like in the actions of ourselves and each other.
This week I saw so many examples of the children in our class being peaceful, kind, and courteous with each other. A child was absent and came back to school to a warm welcome from friends and a surprise card drawn with crayons in her cubby. A child hurt her hand and many children came over quickly to offer tissues, a drink of water, and a cold pack. A child spilled bird seed and other children immediately stopped to help him clean up all those tiny pieces. A young child saw an older child who was sitting quietly with a few tears in her eyes and then went to get a tissue to offer her. A young child tried new work for the first time and several older children stopped by to offer encouraging words. A child bumped into another child but then paused to really look at them, help them up, and ask them if they are ok. These things were all done without prompting from adults. These are the acts of love that come from living and working in community and really beginning to care deeply about those who we spend our days with.
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