Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
--John Lennon, Imagine
This Monday, September 23rd, our school will observe the United Nations International Day of Peace (officially recognized on Saturday, September 21).
My last role previous to Stepping Stones was in banking. No one there talked about the importance of peace. In that environment, and for many adults, the concept of peace is naïve. Out of touch with reality. A dream. Impractical.
Given its dreamlike, impractical reputation, I thought I'd use this moment to explain how peace is incorporated into a Montessori school and curriculum. I'm finding it difficult to do so. Not because peace is not a part of our school, but because peace is incorporated into every aspect of what we do.
With quiet feet. With all of our children and adults (I'm still learning this one), we emphasize quiet feet. Not just walking feet. Quiet feet that move peacefully and purposefully.
With voice. Respectful voices (sometimes quite firm, but always respectful) are used throughout our school. We also create lots of space for other voices, pausing for others to have an opportunity to speak (I'm definitely still learning here).
With inner calm. We teach our youngest children about peace as a feeling and a sense of calm inside of ourselves. It is an important aspect of independence in children. The feeling of peace ties to the ability to self-regulate our bodies, to our motor skills, to our pride in our work, and to our love for ourselves.
With empathy. All of us have bad days. We teach children to be sensitive to what it feels like to have a bad day, how to make it better, and how to forget it tomorrow. We ask all of our children to look for signs of how others are feeling and give their observations words. For our youngest, "she looks sad." For our older children, "how does his face look to you?" For our adolescents, we ask them to talk about their conflicts to work it out.
With understanding. We help children understand that justice is rarely served by punishing a "wrongdoer" or inversely, by rewarding a "good doobie." Instead, we help them seek to understand why someone is doing something--or even how we contribute to the behavior.
With a global point of view. We celebrate cultural studies, science, and geography through rich stories that inspire understanding of our place in a much, much greater cosmos.
With happy accidents. We anticipate that our children will make mistakes. There is freedom and joy in allowing mistakes to happen. To learn from them. To forgive them in ourselves and in others.
With helping hands. Our children learn the joy of offering a friend an extra helping of grace. They even model this behavior for one another.
With innate responsibility. We are responsible for ourselves. We are responsible for our environment. We are responsible to one another in our community.
I could go on.
But guess what? I'm naïve. Out of touch. An impractical dreamer. Because I believe peace -even on an international scale- is possible.
Because I know exactly the people who will make it happen.
They are the confident and the competent.
The kind and the responsible.
The ones who are willing to give an extra measure of grace because someday they may need it themselves.
They know that they are part of a larger world, that they can transform it through their own actions, and that there is good in other people.
I see these people every day in front of my very eyes --they're just not adults yet.
Join me. Join us. This is an open invitation. I'm not kidding. Try believing this dream. I really do believe it is possible. I hope you do too. Even if you think I'm naïve, impractical and out of touch, ask your children how they feel about Monday's celebration. They have a pretty incredible vision for our world.
(Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School)