By Lisa Cox
Outside the main office of The Summit’s Montessori pre-school stands 6-year-old kindergarten student Sarai Manuel. As I enter the hallway, she looks up, takes a step a forward and with a big smile and tiny outstretched hand, she greets me. “Welcome to The Summit,” she says.
Rooted in ideas of etiquette, equality and mutual respect, hand-shaking is among the most popular expressions in leadership. Gestures of influence often start with a proper hand-shake.
But what place does hand-shaking have among 3- to 6-year-olds? “Equipping children with leadership qualities at a young age using age-appropriate tools can positively influence learning and nurture success,” says Kathy Scott, Montessori Director at The Summit Country Day School.
This is the first year the Summit’s Montessori School introduced a morning greeter practice. It is one small example of a strategic initiative to further its Character-Based Leadership curriculum across campus. The leadership curriculum dovetails well with the philosophies of Dr. Maria Montessori who developed multi-age classrooms in which older children lead younger ones. The hand-shaking activity also gives our preschoolers the opportunity to put into practice the trait of kindness, which is emphasized all year as part of The Summit’s signature Character Education Program.
Greeting one another daily, presents an organic opportunity for children to engage in formal social contact and to welcome or be welcomed by their peers into their academic environment. It’s an exercise full of spontaneous, teaching moments to demonstrate empathy for their peers who may be anxious about being separated from a parent or to embrace diversity by treating friends as equals so each child feels special.
“We’ve observed in the greeter activity that welcoming others with a friendly handshake, eye contact and a kind word grows a child’s confidence and strengthens relationships among our students,” says Mrs. Scott.
It’s evident that the children enjoy this role in the excitement they display when raising their hands to be selected. Confidently, they put on the colorful greeter aprons and take their position at the door, ready to welcome everyone, small or tall, who is entering through the Montessori school.
Once you’ve received that warm welcome from one of our Montessori students, you’ll experience first-hand that shaking hands is a great starting place for shaping the leaders of tomorrow.
Lisa Cox is a former faculty member of New York University. She is a Communications professional specializing in the area of arts, culture and heritage. She is a member of the communications team at The Summit Country Day School.