“Let us all work together to help all human beings achieve dignity and equality; to build a greener planet; and to make sure no one is left behind.”
— UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
The quote above is the United Nation Secretary-General’s message for the 2016 International Day of Peace, which took place this past Wednesday, September 21st. The genesis of this special day 71 years ago was an effort to encourage warring parties to observe a global ceasefire, but, as Ki-moon elaborated, peace is about more than disarming: “It is about building a global society in which people live free from poverty and share the benefits of prosperity. It is about growing together and supporting each other as a universal family.”
Peace Day at TNCS
The New Century School began formally honoring this day when Montessori Lead Teacher Maria Mosby joined the Primary staff in 2014. Through her ongoing engagement with the American Montessori Society (AMS), she learned about the movement to “Sing Peace Around the World,” an historical event that first took place on Peace Day in 2009, in which Montessori students from around the world came together in song to celebrate peace and have done so annually ever since.
The song, Light a Candle for Peace, starts on September 21st in New Zealand at 11:00 am precisely and is continuously sung for 24 hours by children in countries around the world until it reaches the Hawaiian Islands. This year, 150,000 participants from 65 countries sang, and TNCS was a part of it—giving voice to Light a Candle for Peace at 10:30 am EST!
Ms. Mosby says that both her and fellow Montessori Lead Teacher Lisa Reynolds were fortunate to participate in that first event back in 2009, and the TNCS community is fortunate to welcome this tradition. A TNCS parent graciously caught and shared footage of TNCS’s school-wide participation this year.
Said Ms. Mosby of this year’s event:
Everyone came together so beautifully. It was especially a treat to have Mr. [Martellies] Warren help out on such short notice and lead everyone so wonderfully. He always inspires the children and staff. I was so happy to see the whole school working together for a common goal.I was excited to have the opportunity to recreate that moment as well as teach the children about being global citizens. Primary students are studying communities this year. We are beginning with learning about ourselves and working outside to family, neighborhoods, cities, our state, and eventually the planet. They have been talking about what peace means to them, and it was wonderful to share that feeling with everyone.At the moment we were singing, children around the globe were singing at the same time, and at special designated times so that the song would be sung continuously for 24 hours, making a chain of peace! It was important to let them know that we were all part of a larger community, not just the one that we see every day.
Peace in Education
Peace Day is a not just a lovely tradition at TNCS, however. The concept of peace informs the school’s very identity and is an essential part of every TNCS student’s education. As it turns out, teaching social and emotional learning (SEL) (also known as “emotional intelligence” and “character education”) to school-age children increases their chance of future success in life far more than socioeconomic and even academic factors, according to recent studies*. SEL aims to encourage effective (and peaceful) conflict resolution, kindness, and empathy. It helps children to understand that they share responsibility for the welfare of the communities they are participating in, from the classroom on outward.
In the New York Times article “Teaching Peace in Elementary Schools,” the five goals of SEL are listed as:
- Self-awareness: The ability to reflect on one’s own feelings and thoughts
- Self-management (or self-control): The ability to control one’s own thoughts and behavior
- Social awareness: The ability to empathize with others, recognize social cues, and adapt to various situations
- Relationship skills: The ability to communicate, make friends, manage disagreements, recognize peer pressure, and cooperate
- Responsible decision making: The ability to make healthy choices about one’s own behavior while weighing consequences for others
It’s no coincidence that echoes of these goals reverberate through the recently formalized TNCS Core Values of Courage, Compassion, Respect, and Service. The school has always emphasized such “invisible curricula,” to borrow a pet phrase from Head of School Alicia Danyali. Now, even the science shows that there are plenty of reasons to take time out for peace.
*To read the studies, see “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness” and “The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysi of School-Based Universal Interventions.”