The Optimistic Futurist: How a rose helps resolve thorny clashes
How would you feel if I came up to you and handed you a rose and said, “You have done something that upset me. I would like to discuss it with you and see if we can find a way to come to peace on this issue. If you would be willing to try to work out a solution, please hand me the rose back.”
Bet you would be both startled and intrigued. And I’ll bet you would hand the rose back. Just like the preschool kids in many Montessori schools are taught to do.
In pre-school, one of the major goals is to teach children to get along, cooperate, and share, in addition to teaching things like the alphabet and numbers.
Many of us learned these skills at home, where many of us had multiple brothers and sisters, and perhaps grandparents, living in what today would be considered small homes. You either learned the lessons of shared responsibility and cooperation willingly or unwillingly — but you learned them. Your small-home social system could not tolerate it if you did not.
Research has shown that preschool teachers spend around half of their classroom time intervening in social disputes among the kids. In order to get on with the educational process of reading, writing and arithmetic, the adults need to teach the little ones how to resolve their own disputes.
They do this by bringing an artificial thornless rose into the classroom and putting it where the little ones can reach it. It has a sign on it — “The Peace Rose.” The teachers do a little “show and tell” with another adult to demonstrate how to use this tool.
The day of the introduction of the technique, the teacher and a second adult call the kids to gather around in a circle and tell them they are going to learn a new way to get along. Role playing, one adult begins a task like assembling a puzzle, and the other one comes along and messes with the pieces. The first adult then goes to the shelf and gets the peace rose, hands it to the second adult and says, “I want to talk to you about something that just happened. You messed with my work on the puzzle, and it upset me.”.
Holding the peace rose, the second adult then explains his or her behavior from their perspective by saying something like “We only have one puzzle in the classroom, and you are hogging it” and hands the peace rose back. The first adult then offers another piece of information like “You did not ask if you could join me” or “I wish you had told me you wanted to play — we could have agreed on a way we could both do this together. Do you want to play with the puzzle?” He hands the rose back.
The second party says, “Yes, I would like to play with it. Can I just try to make the edges using all the pieces with the straight sides, and you work with the ones that look like clouds?” He hands the rose back.
Once a resolution agreeable to all has been negotiated, both parties put their hands on the rose and say, “We declare peace” or “Friends!”
The ground rules are simple. No interrupting the person holding the rose. No name calling. No verbal abuse or physical aggression.
Key to this exercise, and in order to teach the life lesson, the children are encouraged to use the peace rose without involving the teacher. Studies show that the kids do so in very impressive numbers.
You can order the book used by preschool teachers to introduce this technique to children. It is called “The Peace Rose” by Alicia Jewell. In the back of the book are instructions for teachers as to how to roll out the idea to children (or politicians). It is available from Montessoriservices.com for $16.
Maybe a group can get together and give copies to your elected officials.
After all, this is the season for peace on earth. Maybe if our expectations are made known, some changes in behavior can be brought about. If 5-year-olds can do it, surely their elders should be able to, as well.
Optimistic Futurist author Francis Koster lives in Kannapolis. To see the sources of facts in this article and learn of other successful money- and life-saving programs that can be implemented locally to create a better future for our country, visit www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org