Grace and courtesy in a New York minute

Head of School Brenda Mizel and Associate Head Bob Reveri spoke to the Parents Association on October 4 about the importance of grace and courtesy in Metropolitan Montessori School’s culture. Here’s what Brenda had to say.

A “New York minute” is long enough to be gracious and courteous.

Associate Head Bob Reveri and I discovered last spring that we had a mutual interest in social and emotional education. I had received information about a summer conference sponsored by the Center for National School Climate Change in New York, and was thinking about going. When I met Bob at Chiaravalle last May, I was excited to learn that MMS had already assembled a team to attend.

Bob and I, along with Barb Callaghan, Wendy Reveri, Magaly Gamarra, Heidi Morrison, and Adam Bluth went to the program in July, and when the faculty returned in August, we began a school-wide dialogue to consider what we needed to do better to create a school culture where we are compassionate, and where we can work more easily and effectively in our common spaces.

The idea of “grace and courtesy” is front and center in Primary as we teach the children how to be good listeners, considerate, and aware of how our actions affect others. But as the children move into Elementary,  developmentally they begin to challenge and question as they become more social. We thought we could do more as school to create a democratic and civil community. The faculty began to talk about behavior during lunchtime, in the hallways, and on the staircases; they discussed making a concerted effort to make expectations for behavior more consistent in the classrooms, the specialist classrooms, and after-school programs. That discussion led to new, staggered arrival and dismissal times to create a more orderly and calm beginning and ending to the day.

In Elementary, the classrooms began talking about a constitution. In Lower Elementary, these documents have been written and signed by the students, and teachers talked with students about shared expectations for respect, responsibility, and integrity. In Upper Elementary, where the conversation becomes more nuanced, these documents are still underway. It’s really important that we get buy-in from students, the faculty, and parents. All of us play a role in modeling the kind of behavior that we want to see throughout our community. I’ll be telling you more about this initiative in a posting next week.