Montessori Peace Education Practices That Encourage Safe Home and School Environments

Presenter(s): Connie Phelps

PreK-12 schools experience significant issues with bullying among all grade levels. Although school communities implement intervention programs and anti-tolerance policies, various forms of aggression continue to disrupt productive classroom environments. Moreover, aggressive behaviors that occur covertly confound their discovery and subsequent intervention practices. This workshop defines multiple forms of aggression behaviors including traditional bullying, cyberbullying, and covert aggression found among diverse gifted learners in learning communities and homes. It distinguishes gifted learners in roles as both perpetrators and victims and how aggressive behaviors affects the cognitive and affective needs of gifted learners in various settings. Given the importance of safe and secure learning environments to support talent development in schools, the workshop proposes several Montessori Peace Education practices to reduce and resolve conflict and aggression in learning communities and homes. These practices include the Montessori Peace Corner, Peace Table, and Talking Stick. Gifted resource rooms, regular education classrooms, and homes all provide ideal locations to implement peace-seeking practices advocated through Montessori curricula. For example, a Peace Corner suggests a positive alternate to time-out room to manage anger, conflict, and aggression that requires little physical space, inexpensive materials, and little maintenance. A Peace Corner requires careful consideration in its composition with emphasis on principles and practice that lead to calmness, respect for others, and reflection. Ideally, the Peace Corner location occurs as a defined yet separate space apart from activity centers in classrooms and homes. When near a window, children may connect with the outside world. The space may exist with or without corner walls. Preferred physical objects in the Peace Corner might include a comfortable sitting space on a rug or at a small table with positive images, comfortable pillow, manipulative toys, and small mirror to gain self-awareness. While a Peace Corner may calm an angered child, the Peace Table encourages dialog to resolve conflict and promote understanding. This practice requires a child-sized Peace Table with two chairs that invites willing and quiet reflection based on peace-seeking practices. Setting the Peace Table includes objects that denote respect and beauty with singularity of purpose distinct from routine or punitive practices often associated with corrective behaviors. These objects generally include a tablecloth, three-minute sand timer, and Instrument of Peace. The sand timer helps defines presence at the table and focuses attention on the falling grains of sand. An Instrument of Peace gives children a concrete presence to abstract principles of peace. A flower, stone, candle, dove or other object may represent the Instrument of Peace. Children in conflict who join each other at the Peace Table use the Instrument of Peace to take turns expressing themselves in genuine and respectful ways. They may use the Peace Rose, either real or artificial, as a beautiful representative of friendship that endures amid inevitable disagreement. As a classroom or family, individual children or family members can make a Talking Stick to promote respectful listening and peaceful speaking practices. This session demonstrates scenarios and suggests dialog for Montessori Peace Education practices for teachers, counselor, and parents.