Acts of Kindness
By Lisa Anderson, Lower Elementary Teacher
In a world where we are often in a hurry and rush from place to place, it is nice to see people making time in their day for others. It is even more poignant when those people are six, seven, eight, and nine years old. When a child enters Lower Elementary they have the opportunity to walk to the classroom independently. This helps them build self-esteem. Each morning, I have the great pleasure of seeing the Lower Elementary students walk down the sidewalk headed to class. I often see the smiles of the children when they meet up with a friend along the way and engage in conversation, beginning their day with these small social interactions.
In Montessori, we stress more than just academics. Often the real work is in lessons on social skills and grace and courtesy. Young children want to know what the rules and boundaries are and what is expected of them. Alfred Adler, an early leader in psychology and student of Maria Montessori, said: “the primary need of every child is to feel a sense of belonging and significance.” What better way to know that you belong in a community than for someone to take notice of you and greet you with a smile, a friendly hello, or hold the gate open as you pass. Day after day I see children walking, skipping (sometimes even running) to get to class, full of excitement ready to start their day. How many of us can say that we have a feeling like that going to work? Perhaps at MCS, children are excited because of the kind gestures of others.
Research has shown that kindness has many benefits. It is through kindness we can learn the significance of our own actions. It is our responsibility as guides to model the behaviors that we want the children to emulate. Maria Montessori said, “They (children) will imitate us in any case. Let us treat them, therefore, with all the kindness which we would wish to help develop in them.” Showing empathy for others, even those we have never met before, is a gift that is unique to our species and one that must be taught in order to build compassionate and kind human beings.
I am in awe daily at how some of our youngest community members take the time to wait for each other, holding the gate open for just a minute more for the person behind them. To see the smiles of joy, both on the face of the person that realizes someone has noticed them, as well as the smile on the face of the person holding the gate, warms my heart. These moments of genuine kindness are what excite me and make me happy to be at MCS every day.