In Montessori classroom, learning does not stop at academic work. School is a place where children develop their whole being. Our children are always working. At times that work means building words or doing hands-on long division problems.
At times that work means finding a quiet place to tune into what the child’s body and heart are feeling. The children have calming materials they can use at any point in their day when feelings of frustration or anxiety arise.
Teachers guide the children in practices they can use to sense their own inner levels of peace. The work of learning all about yourself - your ups and downs - is a lifelong journey, and in a Montessori school, this journey is always one towards peace.
Adults in a child’s life can support their journey towards peace by recognizing that emotions are powerful forces. A child in the midst of a big emotion like intense anger or sadness isn’t going to have the ability to listen to reason in that moment. The child needs an adult who can remain unruffled in the moment and simply take deep breaths, reflecting back that child’s feeling: “It can be really disappointing to leave when you want to stay.”
This does not mean that the child’s big emotions control the situation. As adults, we maintain the boundaries: “It is time to stay.” And we provide support: “I hear how frustrating that is. I’m right here with you.”
Let’s not pretend that this is easy work, for the child or for the adult. Adults who work with children (parenting or in the classroom) need to know themselves well and be the peaceful pillar of support when I child cannot be that for themselves. All adults who work with children need refueling, a time just for themselves.
We all need quiet space to reflect, learn to sense the stirrings of emotions within us, and build a friendship with peace inside and a sense of community and peace in the world.
Resources we recommend:
Unruffled by Janet Lansbury (Podcast) - advice for parents of young children
Sparkle Stories (Audio stories subscription) - peace-centered stories for children
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley (book) - an introduction to the brain for children