When I heard the news about the bombing in Boston, I felt overwhelmed with the pervasive, continuing violence in American society. I want to believe that we can change this, and since I’m not a politician, I turn to what I know best: education. How can we as teachers change this culture and move away from such violence? After all, every person who commits a violent crime was once a kindergartener.
How to Reduce Violence in American Culture: The Peace Rose
What would happen if we put the same amount of effort into helping children learn social and emotional skills that we put into helping them learn academics?
Every day in our classrooms we have the opportunity to make the world a more peaceful place. We must start by teaching children how to be kind, how to care for one another, how to solve problems, and by making sure all children feel a sense of love and belonging. This is not idealistic. It can be done and it is within our control. As we change the culture of children and the culture of schools, this can have a deeper effect on the adults that our children will become.
Here’s one lovely idea that I got from Elizabeth Hickey who works at the Oak Meadow Montessori School in Massachusetts. We met at a conference of the Mindfulness in Education Network. She uses the Peace Rose method to help her preschoolers learn how to problem solve:
“The Peace Rose method of problem solving allows children to recognize and express their own feelings as well as learn respect for the other child’s feelings. A vase holding the peace rose is made available to the children at all times. The children are taught how to handle and care for the Peace Rose. When a conflict arises one child will get the Peace Rose. While holding the Peace Rose the child can express what they did not like or how they feel to the other child. When they are done they pass the rose to the other child. Respect for the other persons turn to talk is stressed. The children are encouraged to use “I” words such as “I didn’t like it when you hit me”. Abusive or unkind language is not used when holding the Peace Rose. When the two children reach a solution or simply get over their difficulty they put their hands on the rose and say, ‘we declare peace’, or ‘friends’.”
This excerpt is from Problem Solving in the Pre-Primary Montessori Classroom & The Peace Rose Methodby Maggie Natzel. I encourage you to read the full document.
Let’s take some positive action to create a more peaceful culture in the U.S. Please share in the comments any other suggestions or activities you have used successfully to help establish a peaceful culture in your classroom.