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The Optimistic Futurist: What if I handed you a rose?
by Francis P.
Koster Ed. D.
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 bet you
would hand the rose back. Just like the pre-school
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 we 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 teachers in pre-school spend around half of
their classroom time intervening in social disputes between 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 role model how to use this
The day of the introduction of
the technique, the teacher and a second adult call the kids to gather around in
a circle, and says that 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 their 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?", and 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?", and 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 they do so in very
You can order the book used by
pre-school teachers to introduce this technique to children. It is called "The Peace Rose", by Alicia Jewell. In the back of the book there are
instructions for teachers as to how to roll out the idea to children (or
politicians). It is available from Montessori services.com
Maybe a group can get together
and gift 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.
To see the sources of facts
used 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, go to www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org
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