One of the goals of an educational system is to transmit the beliefs and values of a culture to their students, whether this be ABC preschool or Princeton University. Many times, this happens by accident. Parents will say to a teacher that their child is coming home with language and behavior that the parent has not seen at home. There is an expectation by the parent that a certain culture or standard of behavior will exist within a particular school and its’ classrooms.
This culture or standard will be different between countries, states, cities, homes and schools. One of the most important thing you do in choosing a school for your child, whether it be public or private, traditional or alternative is to identify the core beliefs and values that are being transmitted in that environment, and decide if that is what you are committed to providing in your child’s life. If the family’s beliefs and values are at odds with what is being transmitted in the school, partnership between home and school will be subject to difficulty and misunderstanding, with neither party being aware as to why.
At The Raritan Valley Montessori School we have very definite beliefs and values that we deliberately transmit to our children on a daily basis. These beliefs spring from and are grounded in the teachings of Maria Montessori and her vision of what it means to live in peace and global citizenship. Beginning with our Stepping Stones (16 months – 3 yrs) classrooms, these values are part of the fabric of the day and are woven into every lesson. Cleaning up after yourself, pushing in your chair, and treating each other with respect are important lessons in our classrooms. In our Primary (3-6 Years) classes we teach grace and courtesy such as shaking hands, looking people in the eye, how to serve food, set a table and many other marks of an educated and cultured person. We begin to teach appropriate greetings, and ways of handling others’ requests, needs and social boundaries. We teach children not to pick their noses in public, wash their hands, and be clean about themselves and their environment. We teach them care of self, others and their surroundings.
Once the children move into our Elementary (6-12 Years) Programs, the lessons are much more defined. We teach them the art of dinner conversation, helping a lady on with her coat, and saying excuse me when you cross in front of someone. We work on conflict resolution. We practice setting boundaries and discussing them.
In Elementary, we also have a specific class called Character Development. We look at our individual beliefs and values. We examine our responsibility, integrity and accountability. We address goals, dreams and visions. We read, role play, rehearse and discuss. The conversation goes wherever it needs to. The children gain a sense of who they really are in this world, and what they intend to become in the future.
Why should we trade approximately an hour a week of irreplaceable instructional time in pursuit of exploration and understanding of these ideals? It is our belief and our values as a Montessori school that this is what it means to educate a child, and that this is our responsibility to send these values into the future with your children.