R-E-S-P-E-C-T What it means at Montessori

By Vyju Kadambi
Director, Southwest Montessori Academy

Respect is one of the cornerstones of the Montessori curriculum and philosophy. What really is respect? Respect can be a very vague and abstract term. When we are treated with respect we feel valued, trusted and a sense of belonging. This in turn allows us to perform at our very best. When you walk into a quality Montessori program, this feeling permeates the room.

How do we show respect to a child? By:

  • Honoring every feeling she has and showing her how to express those feelings. No feeling is wrong.
  • Observing the pace of lessons that are right for each child and giving lessons based on this pace so students are neither bored nor over-challenged.
  • Preparing the classroom environment for each child.
  • Listening with intent to each student. When a child has our attention, we do not allow others to interrupt.
  • Allowing her to do for herself what she is capable of doing.
  • Trusting students to make good decisions (and when a child does not make good choices, it becomes an opportunity to learn).
  • Offering limited and age-appropriate choices.
  • Allowing children to contribute to the classroom community and earnestly valuing those contributions.

However, respect needs to be mutual. We as adults show respect toward the child and in return expect to be treated with respect. Children are expected to show respect by:

  • Listening to us when we speak to them.
  • “Restoring the environment” (putting things back where they belong).
  • Following through with directions when there are no choices available.
  • Learning to express negative emotions in a constructive way.
  • Using common courtesies when speaking to everyone.
  • Waiting patiently for their turn (children are taught to interrupt properly).
  • Contributing to the classroom community.

Respect is the foundation of many great organizations and communities;
Montessori classrooms/schools and homes are just examples of them.

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