I talk about peace often in my classroom. Well, that’s partially true. When children talk about peace, I jump right in. They have a lot to say. We adults should listen more.
Years ago, when I first had the the good sense to listen to children, it struck me to paint a peace dove in our parking lot, right in front of the entrance to school. Janine, an artist and parent of Juliet (Starry Night post) and Audrey, was happy to do the job. Since then, she has returned many times to repaint this simple, beautiful bird. It has become a symbol to welcome all the families and visitors who come into our school. Crossing the threshold of peace.
Peace is really very simple. Children know. When asked, “What is peace?”, they pause, and pull an answer from their soul. I think the soul is a heart that has lived. “My new baby sister, dancing, dinner with my family”… true peace. That’s what children say.
It took me a while in my teaching to let go of the structure of teaching peace. I remember interviewing children when we were sitting under a Peace Portal that we had made in the classroom.
I asked, “How does peace make you feel?”
Colin answered, “It makes me feel hearty.”
“Oh… it makes you feel strong?”
“No, Jennie. It makes me feel heart-y.” Then he patted his heart.
Oh my goodness!
Colin answered with a why-are-you-asking, and a don’t-you-already-know, mindset. He was right; I did know. I was teaching peace as part of my curriculum. I realized that peace is learned by doing. I had to set the stage, be a role model, stop and talk at all the little and big things that happened in the classroom, read plenty of books aloud that open the door for both goodness and evil- oh, the conversations we have are pretty intense; from fairy tales to the more subtle, like Templeton the rat in “Charlotte’s Web”. I made sure children felt comfortable saying what they thought and asking questions.
I was right. It made a difference. Thereafter, peace became something real. Now, peace in my classroom is something children just understand. Talking about it, or making a book, or designing a quilt happens as a reflection of what they already know and feel.