I recently made the decision to fill up the bulk of my “free time” by becoming a preschool teacher in a Montessori classroom of 3-6 year olds. It fills my heart to see the spirit of humanity, day in and day out, in what Maria Montessori would call “the embryonic stage.” And each day, if I observe carefully, I learn something new and beautiful about our human nature. For example, my colleague and guide, Andrée, pointed out that the children are naturally demonstrating the principles of restorative justice. Really? I thought to myself. The two kids who just spent the past 30 minutes disrupting the entire room from working? How? She pointed out the way that these two children then went outside and began cleaning up the bark in front of the stairway together. No one suggested it, they did it on their own.
Ok, so that might have been a coincidence?
But then today, one six-year old child expressed conscious defiance of our classroom agreements (for her own reasons, of course, and this is a longer story), and she did something similar. When she decided to finally line up after recess, on her way over, she picked up a small piece of trash she found, and showed it to me sympathetically before throwing it away. I offered her some water to drink, which she nobly took from me, not because she was thirsty, I realized, but she because was in the process of re-establishing her relationship to the group. Naturally.
Sometimes it makes my heart heavy–what if I had never noticed these subtle nonviolent acts of community re-integration these children’s hearts told them to do? Would I be less sensitive to them in the long-run? Less compassionate? And what about all of the children in the world? Do all adults realize that children are restorative by nature, and we can draw it out of them in positive ways by engaging with them respectfully in their unarticulated process? It is my urgent hope that we all discover this precious piece of knowledge about who we are. For such wisdom, we need not head out to the great universities, but simply turn to the small children around us in humility and nonviolence. Imagine the miracle of it.
Spend time observing a child in your life today with this lesson about children–and adults–in mind.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org