As I read over articles about key thinkers who advocated peace in the classroom I immediately began to examine my own practices. When was I modeling peace for my students? How could I go further? Where could I implement new strategies that kept a balance between learning, calm, and honoring the child? I still am processing all of these ideas but have found inspiration in Dewey, Freire, and Montessori.
Montessori advocated a learning environment that followed the interests of the child. In Montessori classrooms children are given choices to develop their intellect, moral sense, and fine motor skills. As a former Montessori teacher, I found that facilitating good choices is a healthy way to help children learn to self-correct behaviors. Not only is it peaceful, but it is empowering for the child. I use Montessori language in a traditional setting to help children make positive choices with phrases such as, “You may walk,” or “I’d like to remind you all to use gentle voices.”
To take this further I created a zone for peace. It contains a bulletin board with a small display beneath. At the top of the bulletin board is a poster of Dean Bernal swimming with JoJo the dolphin. In the center are three posters. One says, “What do friends do?” The second says, “What do bullies do?” The third, and most important asks, “What have I done to resolve conflicts peacefully today?” Below these posters is a small table with the Peace Cards I designed and discipline cards. Peace cards are index cards where children write and draw positive choices for conflicts. After creating the card the child has the choice of keeping it as a reminder of good choices, adding it to the class box, or sharing it with the child he/she has had a problem with.
My discipline cards also have a positive component. During the first week of school, my students write their names on the back of a 5″ by 7″ cards with drawings of those things that bring them joy. That way, whenever a child needs redirection he/she is reminded of those parts of him/her that are unique. If a child does need disciplining they fill in three columns on the opposite side: date, problem, and what to do positively next time.
I have found having Peace Cards next to discipline cards creates a place for children to feel calm. It is here that they know they are safe, respected for their individuality, and empowered to make good choices.