When most of us consider how our child is being educated, we often think of academics. After all, for most of us, that’s the primary reason we send our children to school. Often, however, we forget about a vital part of our children’s education: the development of their emotional intelligence.
In a Montessori classroom, the development of emotional intelligence is fostered in children in a variety of ways. Emotional intelligence can be broken down into five main areas: self-awareness, emotional control, self-motivation, empathy and relationship skills. If children are able to develop their emotional intelligence, they experience better learning, friendships, academic success and, down the road, employment. So what do these areas mean, and how will your child develop these skills throughout their school day?
Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. Students with low self-awareness tend to misunderstand the effects of their action and words on others. Montessori teachers help children to identify the emotions they are experiencing, and to be able to identify the emotions displayed by others—which is empathy. Montessori students are taught to understand the difference between “sad”, “disappointed” and “upset”, which helps them to develop appropriate strategies for each.
A students’ ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and actions is an important contributor to their overall emotional intelligence. After students learn how to identify their feelings, they are able to identify strategies that help them manage their emotions, and how they respond to the. Techniques such as positive self-talk, re-framing, and visualizations are taught and modeled to students so that they have the tools they need to manage their emotions.
Self-Motivation is at the core of Montessori philosophy. At an early age, students are taught to find their own motivations for learning and growth through freedom in the classroom balanced with responsibility. This in turn helps them develop into lifelong learners who are curious about life and those around them!
Empathy is the ability to take the perspective of another person while being non-judgmental, recognizing the emotions they are feeling, and being able to convey their perspective back to them. Once students can accurately identify the emotions they feel, they then have the ability to look at situations from other perspectives. This concept is taught and modeled daily in our Montessori classrooms though the implementation of the Peace Table. Children are taken to the Peace Table when they need to resolve conflicts that arise with their peers. Students have the opportunity to express how they feel using “I” statements (i.e. “I felt hurt”, or “I felt angry”). After exchanging their perspectives, the children then practice empathy for each other in order to come to a mutually satisfactory solution.
A variety of relationship skills are taught and modeled in Montessori classrooms as a result of our Peace Curriculum, which encourages healthy problem-solving, and strong interpersonal skills. Among these, the skill of active listening is emphasized. Active listening is a key part of helping create genuine two-way communication – and it is about far more than just paying attention. It involves genuinely following dialogue and responding to others using your own body language. While resolving conflict, students are taught to be conscious of their own body language and tone, and to give each member of the conversation an opportunity to be heard. Students are also encouraged offer thanks and praise to others. This helps them find common ground with their peers and further develop their relationships.
By partnering emotional intelligence instruction with academics, our students receive a total education, and given a foundation for not only their academic careers, but for the rest of their lives.