Beyond Academic Excellence: Teaching children to be emotionally aware

We all know that it can be hard to be part of a community. Most communities have rules, customs, beliefs, and make demands of us. Communities are always in progress, always changing; often inconsistent. Elementary-aged children are social creatures who are part of many communities...home, friends, school, and social groups. How do we help our children gain the skills they need to thrive in all of these different types of communities? We give them the time and tools they need to experiment and learn from the environment around them. All of our interactions are part of their social and emotional development.

Allyn Travis, AMI elementary trainer, says this about the social and emotional growth of the elementary child:

“As Montessori teachers we know that “work” will normalize the child, and so we are often focused on getting the children back to work with the materials or lessons. We, therefore, intervene much too soon, thinking that getting back to material or research or whatever will take care of the problem. Working out emotional or social issues needs to be just as much a respected part of the classroom as the activities that go on there.”

Montessori teachers are committed to this work of aiding the social-emotional life of the child and the community. As a parent, you might be wondering how we do this. What are the components of this kind of work? Here are some examples of concepts that guide our classrooms and what we are always working on - the elements of emotional intelligence:

  • Learning how to name what one is feeling

  • Learning to handle strong feelings without losing oneself

  • Employing strategies for soothing one's own anxiety, fear, and insecurities

  • Regaining balance when something pulls one off-center

  • Learning to handle changes and transitions

  • Developing empathy and the ability to take another’s perspective

  • Allowing others to change

  • Giving and receiving compliments

  • Looking inside, and accepting what you see

  • Avoiding cliques

  • Learning to appreciate people unlike oneself

  • Dealing with competition or rivalry over friends

  • Being oneself in the face of pressure to conform to others’ ideas of how or who one should be

  • Being able to set appropriate boundaries

  • Knowing how to “back down” or “lose” gracefully

  • Knowing how to create win/win situations

  • Setting realistic goals

  • Being able to accurately assess one’s abilities

  • Being “friendly” with failure (as Dr. Montessori put it)

  • Being able to admit mistakes and make amends