“If salvation and help are to come, it is through the child ; for the child is the constructor of man.”
- Maria Montessori
As a 7th year, Grace has a lot of experience with being immersed in classroom communities at GSMS. She shared a little with us about how that has shaped her feelings about participating in the various communities in which we all live.
Tell me a little about the experience of being part of a classroom community at GSMS.
I love that we begin each year creating a list of community guidelines together. Students have the chance to say what really matters to them and form our classroom culture around that. We also sign the list in the end, and that feels like a commitment by each person to cooperate together and it helps us feel united.
Our community meetings are a good chance to speak up for what is important. We have the chance to say thank yous, compliments and apologies. I think that part of the meetings builds up relationships between two people, but with the rest of the community there to be a part of it. It’s also a safe space to ask questions, especially about changes we might want to make to the way things are going for the whole group.
Let’s talk about some of the projects and events you’ve participated in with your community. Can you tell me about any experiences that stand out and the fruits of working as a community?
This year in Theology we’re going to visit a nursing home. Last week there wasn’t really an activity planned. So, someone sat down to play the piano and the rest of us sang to the residents, and it’s was so much fun! We organized around our individual talents and everyone had a role to play. It was kind of scary to walk in without a plan, so we definitely had a feeling of unity when we rallied to come up with a solution together. When we work as a community, you can see that everyone has something that they can do, and everyone can be expected to do their fair share of the work.
Also, it’s really rewarding to see the smiles on the people we visit when they know that we’re there to spend time with them. You know, you hear so much bad news that it feels great to go out and maybe not solve all those big problems on the news, but to know that you’re still making a difference in somone’s day.
In Theology, we also have been “praying the news”. People bring in articles about bad things that are happening that we read, and then we pray together for the people who are in harm’s way. It’s given us a connection to the issues and helps us know that those stories are about real people, who are going through real suffering. It’s a good chance to discuss things as a group and make a difference by giving them spiritual support, even if we can’t be on site to help those people physically.
I also have learned a lot about these kinds of things in my family, which I guess is also a kind of community. My sister and I are really passionate about environmental issues, so as a family we do things like hand back plastic straws at restaurants and reuse our plastic baggies. Also, my mom took us to experience some of her former work in Chile. One of her friends lives in real poverty, and when I went to their house it struck me that there are many people in the world who live like that. That was a time that I think the community of my family helped me see that, even if as a 13 year-old I can’t just go off to foreign countries on my own to help people, I can start looking for ways to help in light of what I DO have power over. I can start right here.
Has any of your more traditional classwork made you think more about these things?
Actually, we just read the Alchemist, and I don’t want to give the book away, but I thought the discussions we had with Mr. Garvey about personal legend were really very inspiring. It was another time that I could see that my life has already started, and I don’t have to wait around for what people think of as “real life” - which is basically being an adult. We talk about the idea of a Cosmic Task at Good Shepherd. The Alchemist helped me see that a Cosmic Task is not a build up to one big event in your life, but it’s actually the choices that you make to put together the puzzle pieces of your life that make up your task. It makes the whole idea of a Cosmic Task much less daunting because it’s just a string of many small choices and has a lot to do with having a brave attitude about trying things. It’s given me a good attitude about each choice I make and new thing I try because who knows?!
At GSMS we are very proud of the sense of Social Responsibility our students display both within and beyond our walls. The socially responsible person must know herself, be able to unite with others, value her own work, be able to assess collective work, practice sharing and cooperation, be an active listener and communicator, participate in decisions, and accept and respect others.
After spending a small amount of time in the Montessori classrooms of Good Shepherd, you can see how all of these qualities are being cultivated and encouraged in age-appropriate manners throughout the daily activities of the classroom community. The responsibility a child begins to feel in the classroom becomes the foundation for a natural interest in others, a spontaneous desire to help, and a well-developed sense of social responsibility. We believe that even the earliest stages of childhood is when socially responsible individuals and communities begin their development.