Social competence in a Montessori classroom & how this is relevant in life after lockdown at Aranui
In the early childhood context, social competence can be described as the ability of, and effectiveness, with which young children select, carry out and engage in interpersonal goals, interactions and activities with peers and adults - competently fostering appropriate human relationships (1).
“…we must begin our work by preparing the child for the forms of social life, and we must attract his attention to these forms.” ~ Dr Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method
At Aranui Montessori Preschool (AMP) we incorporate Grace and Courtesy lessons into every mat time, mealtime, story time and every curriculum area. From the way we greet each other in the morning, our table manners, the way we ask for help, apologise, use our emotions or function within a group setting are all talked about daily with an emphasis on slowing down, respecting others, being kind and courteous. In Montessori classrooms, children learn social competency values according to the local culture of the community, the overriding curriculum and the philosophies of the centre and the teachers (2). As we endeavour to exit the lockdown as a result of Covid-19 pandemic,there is nothing more important than the health of our tamariki (children), whanau (families) and kaiako (teachers). We support the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education with their health and safety guidelines to ensure we have a safe and healthy centre for all to enjoy. Health and Safety is a very clinical/political term, however.
AMP is guided by the Montessori philosophy as well as the current bicultural curriculum of New Zealand, Te Whāriki. We suggest rephrasing “health and safety” to “well being”. This way we can bring adherence to the imminent amplified regimented cleaning and hygiene protocols into a more holistic, child-friendly and empowered light with emphasise on social competence and creating a 'new normal'. One of the strands of Te Whāriki is Mana Atua (Well-being); where children experience a learning environment where their health is promoted, they are provided guidance and encouragement over time to become increasingly competent developing confidence, independence and a positive attitude towards self-help and self-care skills relating to food preparation, healthy eating and drinking, hygiene, toileting, resting, sleeping, washing and dressing. All the while keeping themselves and others safe from harm(3). The Mana Atua strand also introduces the Hauora concept which is a Māori view of well-being encompassing the physical, mental and emotional, social,and spiritual dimensions of health (4).
competent ‘new normal’ choices. Choices like sneezing into their elbows, use a tissue to contain a cough or wiping the table after use all in the. Also, kaiako are of course ramping up cleaning procedures and policies to ensure every effort is made to keep AMP a covid-19 free zone. Moving forward in 2020, the maintenance of a safe and healthy environment and enhancing the well being of our children is a top priority.
Age of Montessori, (2019). Seven helpful tips for teaching social skills http://ageofmontessori.org/about/
Han, H.S., Kemple, K.M. Components of Social Competence and Strategies of Support: Considering What to Teach and How. Early Childhood Educ J 34, 241–246 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-006-0139-2
Ministry of Education. (2017). Te whaariki: He whaariki maatauranga moo ngaa mokopuna o Aotearoa/Early childhood education.Wellington, New Zealand: Learning media.
Ministry of Education. (1999) Wellbeing, Hauora. https://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-HPE/Health-and-PE-in-the-NZC/Health-and-PE-in-the-NZC-1999/Underlying-concepts/Well-being-hauora