The Beauty of Kindness
Kindness Curriculum in our Jewish Montessori Classroom
One of the foundational ideas in Judaism and the Montessori philosophy is kindness. In today’s world of “selfies” people can become “self” absorbed and forget that there are billions of other people living on this planet. There is a huge need to teach our children to be kind, respectful, caring human beings. This type of education is of great importance at Dr. Chaim Cember Shaarei Chinuch Day School.
Kindness and caring can span many different arenas: our family, friends, home, school, community, and the world at large. The tools the children learn in their formative years will help shape them into productive, responsible, and respective members of society. On a seemingly small scale, we have the children push in their chairs when they leave the table and put away their work when they are done. The reasoning we teach for this is “making our classroom look beautiful” and “making sure that the next friend will be able to get their work also.” Everything in these interactions, from the words that we use to the actual actions teaches respect of the immediate environment and the people around us.
The little things lay ground for the larger ones. When someone gets hurt we ask if they are alright and if there is anything we can do to help. If two children bump into each other; once the teacher has assessed that no serious injury has occurred, we instruct them to ask one another if they are okay. The next step is to ask what they can do to help make it better for each other. Together they rush off to get ice for one another. Although such a seemingly small thing, this interaction allows them to shift their focus from themselves to the other child, and learn to tune in to another person’s feelings and needs. These are very necessary skills to acquire throughout life and various relationships.
Conflict is a part of life, and the classroom, as a microcosm for such, is no exception. It is our job as teachers to help the children learn to deal with negative feelings constructively. When a child feels angry, sad or frustrated we work with him/her on using their words to express what they are feeling. The teachers do not swoop in to solve the children’s disagreements; rather, we guide the children step by step through talking things out with one another. We practice key phrases such as “please stop, I don’t like it,” and “you hurt me by accident, please be careful.” Practicing these methods helps the children learn to handle their emotions in a peaceful way.
Another important skill that allows us to show kindness to others is our confidence that we will have our needs met. In our classroom we work on verbalizing what we need in a positive way. For example, initially children may stand in the middle of the room and shout “I need some more paint,” or come to a teacher and say, “there is no more paper.” We teach the children to request what they need directly, by coming over to a teacher and saying, “please can I have some more paint?” This helps them learn how to best get their needs met, a skill that will serve them well throughout their life. When one is secure in their ability to get what they need, they are more ready to share and offer help to others in turn.
These are just a few of the many ways that we teach and model kindness in our classroom, and help our children look at the world from a lens of kindness and respect. The children of today are the adults of tomorrow and their capacity for compassion and caring will help shape the world for good.
Shaarei Chinuch Day School – Daniella Adar & Mushky Kulek, Directors – www.scdayschool.com