By Augusta Durham

When reading a recent New York Times article about Japanese fans cleaning up the stadium after a World Cup match, I was reminded of the collective care and responsibility that the children at DMS show towards their classroom environments. From our youngest toddlers to our oldest elementary students, each person is expected to pitch in on the upkeep of our school. One way that this behavior is taught and reinforced is through a central tenet of the Montessori approach called Grace and Courtesy. 

Grace and Courtesy helps to form the foundation of the classroom by teaching appropriate social norms. Grace and Courtesy lessons are collaborative and fun rather than corrective or disciplinary. Instead of using Grace and Courtesy in the moment to point out what a child has done wrong, we present the lesson at a later, neutral time when the children can practice without any sense of shame.

presenting grace & courtesy

The playful nature and role-playing elements of Grace and Courtesy lessons make them a classroom favorite. They can be presented to a couple of children, or to a larger group. To begin, the teacher usually invites an experienced child to come help them. One of my favorite lessons is “What to do when someone calls you a name.” To model, the experienced child will call the teacher a silly name (to everyone’s great amusement), and the teacher will respond calmly with: “My name is _____, and that is what you may call me.” After this demonstration, everyone involved in the lesson gets a chance to participate a pair at a time, practicing as both the name caller and the misnamed. 

The options for a Grace and Courtesy lesson are unlimited! As teachers, we observe our class to see what skills the group is working on to tailor our presentations. Some we practice at school include:
  • Observing someone who’s working
  • Pushing in your chair
  • Comforting someone who’s feeling sad
  • Inviting someone to play with you
  • Asking a teacher for help
  • Introducing yourself 
  • Blowing your nose
  • Greeting a visitor 
  • Waiting patiently for someone’s attention
Some great options to practice at home, especially around the holidays are:
  • Setting the table
  • Offering a guest a beverage
  • Chewing with your mouth closed
  • How to politely disagree
  • Making a purchase
  • Ordering at a restaurant
  • How to receive a gift
  • Saying excuse me 
  • Writing a thank you note 
  • How to hold the door open for another person
  • Offering your seat to someone who needs it

“A child who becomes a master of his acts through repeated exercises of grace and courtesy, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline.”

— Maria Montessori

How wonderful to think of our Montessori children, full of grace and kindness, taking their respect and love toward others out into the world! 

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