The Magnificent Seven

One foundational aspect of the curriculum at Montessori By The Sea has always been character education.  Our Virtues Program introduces students to a myriad of virtues that they can develop in themselves and help to cultivate in their communities. 

This term, our Upper Elementary classroom has started exploring the Magnificent Seven.  No, not the classic Western movie.  These are the seven character traits proven to be highly predictive of success in school and in life.  Check out the research by Dr. Martin Seligman, Dr. Chris Peterson, and Dr. Angela Duckworth, or the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program)f you’d like to know more.  The ‘Magnificent Seven’ are curiosity, social intelligence, self-control, gratitude, optimism, zest, and grit.   

Our Montessori environment is tailor-made to provide the students with opportunities to practice these character traits themselves and to encourage and recognize them in others: 

CURIOSITY is the search for information for its own sake. Active open-mindedness means exploring a wide range of relevant information when trying to draw a conclusion, including information that challenges our own initial assumptions. Our students are encouraged to ask questions and find answers.  Allowing them time to direct their own learning through elective study choices ensures that they take an active interest in learning. 

SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE refers to awareness of other people’s motives and feelings as well as using this understanding to navigate social situations appropriately. Our mixed-age grouping and large class size guarantee that students will need to interact with lots of other personalities.  Sharing the playground with Lower Elementary students twice a week provides them with situations in which they must demonstrate patience, empathy, and compassion for smaller and younger children.  They are guided in peaceful conflict resolution and gain the ability to adapt to different social situations. 

SELF-CONTROL is the capacity to regulate thoughts, feelings, or behaviors when they conflict with valued goals. Students are given the responsibility to plan their work each day, taking into account lessons they need to attend.  They are expected to come to classes prepared and have weekly agreements outlining the assignments they need to complete.  Grace and courtesy are modeled and insisted upon. Students must treat teachers and each other (and themselves) with respect at all times.   

GRATITUDE refers to an appreciation for the benefits we receive from others and the desire to reciprocate with our own positive actions. One wonderful section of our weekly council meetings is “thank-yous”.  During that part, students can recognize others with an appreciation for their help, kindness, support, and friendship.  

OPTIMISM is the expectation that the future holds positive possibilities and the confidence that, with effort, these possibilities can be realized.  Recently, we have been harnessing the power of “yet” – when students engage in negative self-talk, they are gently corrected by the addition of that important three-letter word: “I’m not good at algebra… yet.”.  Mistakes and setbacks become opportunities for deeper learning; students soon realize that it is when doing corrections that they progress from competence to excellence.  Our wide range of extracurricular offerings allows students to try new things and discover even more possibilities for their futures.   

ZEST, sometimes referred to as vitality, is an approach to a life filled with excitement and energy.  Students actively participate in lessons and follow-up work is engaging and interesting.  We continually make changes to the classroom environment to captivate them and provide new challenges.  Similar changes happen outside, too, our new “Ninja Warrior” slack-line has certainly given students a new source of challenge at recess times! (Many thanks again to Leo and his family!)

GRIT is perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Our weekly agreements help students to manage their time, effort, and attention so that they can complete longer tasks.  Bigger, collaborative projects require commitment and sustained effort.  Students feel deservedly proud when they can consistently complete their assigned tasks each week.   

It is true that we cannot “teach” character.  But we can create an environment where students will develop important character traits and a school culture that celebrates that kind of learning.   

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