“What would you do if you saw a friend getting picked on?” “What would you do if you were the one being teased?” and “What would you do if you were the one doing the teasing?” were the questions that came up during our most recent peace circle, inspired by a terrific book, One, by Kathryn Otoshi.
In the story, Blue is being bullied by Red. Blue does not know how to stand up to Red and neither do Yellow, Purple, Green and Orange, all of whom stand by and say nothing as Blue gets picked on. Red grows stronger and stronger the longer each color remains silent. Until…. One shows up. One is different, bold and confident. One stands up to Red and encourages the other colors to do the same. Each color then changes into a number 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Together, the emboldened numbers stand up to Red and put an end to his bullying ways. However, the story does not end there. As Red angrily leaves, he is called back by the others and encouraged to join them as long as he plays kindly. Red accepts and becomes 7. The book ends with the powerful statement: Sometimes it just takes one.
Maria Montessori believed that if we are to have peace in the world, we must start with the children and teach them how to be peaceful within themselves, with others, and with nature. As a Montessori teacher, it has never been clearer to me how important this responsibility is that we teachers hold. Especially at the end of our peace circle as I observed the children spontaneously putting their arms around one another; an unconscious, symbolic gesture of solidarity among the class: Together, we can help others. Together, we can be peaceful, kind friends.
“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.”