Issues of fairness and justice are of the utmost importance to elementary children. During these years they’re working to develop their moral compass. In Montessori School of Duluth’s elementary class children are given the opportunity to resolve issues in a respectful and positive way. Here’s how it works.
Children can take slips of paper and write down something that’s bothering them. Then they can fold it in half and place it anonymously in the basket. Once a week the class will sit on the floor in a circle. The basket will be in the middle and someone will choose a slip at random, read it aloud, and set in down in the middle of the circle. Those who have a solution to the issue will raise their hands. Each person will have the floor for as long as they need to voice their idea of how the problem can be resolved. In the end, if more than one viable solution has been given, the children will vote and the one with the most votes becomes the new rule.
The classroom is meant to be a mock society. It’s a community in which the children are expected to contribute. Putting the decision-making process into their hands gives them opportunity to play an active role in the culture of the class. They’re compelled to brainstorm on how to solve issues and develop arguments to persuade others to take on their point of view. Enforcing the rules decided on by the group themselves is also nearly effortless for the teacher, too, because they are apt to follow rules they’ve helped shape and the children also do a better job of self-governing.