Empowering Students Through Respect

Respect is a fundamental value that encompasses understanding, acceptance, and honour for oneself and others. It involves humility, vulnerability, and the willingness to grow and compromise for the sake of others. Respect is crucial in fostering healthy relationships, building trust, and taking responsibility for our actions in both personal and societal contexts.

As Montessorians, we view respect as a key value because it aligns with Dr Maria Montessori’s philosophy and approach to education. In the Montessori environment, respect is deeply ingrained in our interactions with students, the physical environment, fellow staff, and parents/carers. It goes beyond superficial gestures and reflects our commitment to understanding and meeting the developmental needs of each child.

Pre-Primary Level

In the Pre-Primary Classrooms, respect is demonstrated by intentionally creating a safe and secure environment that promotes healthy development. It involves showing regard for a child’s feelings, choices, and rights, and refraining from unnecessary interference. Grace and courtesy lessons are an integral part of the daily routine, teaching children how to lift chairs, interrupt politely, and move within the classroom. Acknowledging the needs of others in the social environment is modelled by adults, and children are only expected to do what the teachers are also prepared to do.

Respect is expressed through direct and honest interactions with children, the environment, and the community. Actively listening to children’s concerns and responding appropriately shows them that their ideas are important and valued. Validating their emotions and thoughts, even when they struggle to express them, demonstrates respect for their feelings. Allowing children to work on tasks without interference or assistance, even if it takes them longer, fosters their sense of capability and mastery through practice and self-correction.

Furthermore, respect is extended by providing children with choices, nurturing their interests, and allowing them to make decisions. This approach encourages self-directed learning, fosters curiosity, and helps children develop a sense of agency and responsibility. Respect and courtesy create a comfortable and secure environment, building trust and confidence among students, teachers, and the community.

Lower Primary Level

In the Lower Primary Classrooms, respect takes on a broader scope. It allows individuals to assert their identities and beliefs without diminishing the opinions or identities of others. It safeguards individual and collective wellbeing, promoting peace within the community. Montessori education emphasises seeing each person as complete and valuable, with rights and opinions that may differ from our own. Respect involves understanding and working to appreciate others while maintaining our own perspectives. It requires kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit, as well as the ability to forgive and show strength in navigating disagreements.

Montessori believed that children are the key to achieving a more peaceful world, and respecting the child was paramount in her approach. Montessori classrooms prioritise the voice of the child, encouraging their thoughts, choices, and actions to shape the learning community. Respect is shown by actively listening, observing, and responding to children’s needs and ideas. Children are given responsibilities and opportunities to develop their own ideas, fostering independence and self-confidence. Respect is also taught explicitly, encompassing respect for oneself, others, and the environment. Children learn to care for themselves, make choices, resolve conflicts, and take care of their surroundings.

Upper Primary Level

In the Upper Primary Classrooms, respect expands further as students develop a sense of an authentic self and engage in social interactions. Choices are provided to empower children in decision-making, and their choices are respected by others in the classroom. Noticeboards and clear communication help children make informed decisions and take responsibility for their actions. Empowerment is emphasised, allowing children to make adjustments to their behaviour and learn from their mistakes. Positive language and rational communication are used to guide children and foster respectful conduct.

Respecting the environment is another aspect of respect in the Upper Primary Classrooms. Proper equipment is provided, and children are taught how to use it correctly and responsibly. Sustainability and environmental consciousness are integrated into the curriculum, highlighting the interconnectedness of all living beings and the responsibility we have to care for the Earth.

Lower Secondary Level

At the Lower Secondary Level, respect continues to be emphasised through group work, empathy, the understanding of morals and social justice. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively, respecting each other’s ideas and contributions. The ability to empathise and understand others’ perspectives is fostered, promoting tolerance and a sense of unity. Discussions and lessons on ethics and morals provide a foundation for understanding the importance of respect in a broader societal context.

Overall, respect is not just a superficial value but a guiding principle that permeates all aspects of Montessori education. It encompasses understanding, acceptance, and honour for oneself, others, and the environment. It is nurtured through creating safe and secure environments, teaching grace and courtesy, actively listening to children, providing choices, empowering students, using positive language, and fostering a sense of responsibility for oneself and the world. By instilling respect in children from a young age, Montessori education aims to create compassionate individuals who contribute positively to their communities and work towards a more harmonious and peaceful world.

Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”

– Dr Maria Montessori