“Good Morning, how are you today?”

A significant component of Montessori education is the lessons of Grace and Courtesy. Good manners are something I have observed to be a forgotten art in our fast-paced, technology-dependent society. My childhood experience was filled with lessons on good manners, and I have always appreciated that my parents instilled these values in me. I was shown how to be respectful and show gratitude, certainly skills that have served me well throughout my lifetime. Modelling, teaching and having good manners serve to provide children with a framework for self-respect and respect for others. It also instills self-confidence and personal satisfaction.

In our Montessori classrooms, grace and courtesy set the tone for our days at school. We begin our days with a greeting, practice turn-taking and sharing, and even use it to help us learn to work through our conflicts and disagreements. Grace is the child’s ability to use their will to show comfort and respect for themselves. Courtesy allows them to show that same grace and respect toward others.

Between the ages of 3-6 years, the child becomes more socially aware of their surroundings and interactions. Supporting children and modelling how to interact with others politely and appropriately supports a child’s understanding of how to converse and engage with others appropriately. In mastering these skills, children are supported in their quest for independence.

The most basic step to teaching grace and courtesy is through modelling appropriate behaviours. The classroom guides are always consciously aware of their behaviours and actions in the presence of the children. The guides also seek opportunities to interact and model skills that the children are able to mirror. For example: as we begin the school year, a classroom guide will meet the children at the door each morning. The guide will make eye contact, greet the child with a smile and say “Good Morning”, followed by a handshake. As we progress through the year, this morning greeting role is assumed by a child in the classroom, generally starting with the oldest children. The children take great pride in assuming this responsibility.

The classroom guides also model behaviours through their actions and activities during the work cycle. Guides make an effort to never interrupt a child when they are focused and working on a task, they don’t shout across the room, and they work to maintain a quiet and gentle tone of voice. All of this sets the tone of the room and an example to the children.

Grace and Courtesy lessons are demonstrated during some of the following opportunities:

• How to greet someone
• How to welcome someone into your home
• How to introduce family, friends, and acquaintances
• How to actively listen during a conversation
• How to get the teacher’s attention without interrupting the whole class
• How to observe someone else’s work without interrupting
• How to be polite or use please and thank you
• How to follow directions
• How to resolve a disagreement
• How to do kind things for others, such as holding open doors

Grace and Courtesy is a necessary part of Montessori education because it helps children develop and refine the lifelong skills of communication and self-control. With these important lessons, children can better orient themselves in any environment and feel confident about asking questions and participating in society. Dr. Montessori often stated: “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.”