There are many wonderful, important and essential skills that children learn in Montessori classrooms but one of the most fundamental is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of another. It’s something we learn, and plays a big role in a children’s social and emotional development. An empathetic child is also more likely to show compassion, and a compassionate human being will always be more motivated to help others.
Why is helping others important? Because it enables strong community and this in turn creates a healthy, cohesive society in which our children (and others) can thrive.
Montessori education, with its child-centred approach, provides an ideal setting for nurturing empathy in the early years, when habits are formed and resolved. Have look at some of the ways empathy is nurtured in Montessori classrooms:
Model empathy: As well as parents, Montessori teachers play a pivotal role as role models. They demonstrate empathy in their interactions with students and encourage children to observe and emulate these behaviours.
Mixed-Age classrooms: In a Montessori setting, students of different ages interact, which offers numerous opportunities for developing empathy. Older children learn to care for and help younger peers, while younger ones look up to and seek support from their older counterparts.
Practical life activities: Montessori’s practical life activities, such as setting a table or caring for plants and animals, instil a sense of responsibility and empathy for living beings.
Conflict resolution: Montessori classrooms encourage children to resolve conflicts independently, using effective communication and negotiation. Children are encouraged to consider others’ feelings and perspectives.
Cultural studies: Montessori incorporates lessons on different cultures and traditions, promoting tolerance and understanding of diverse perspectives.
Peace education: Montessori emphasises peace education, teaching children about conflict resolution, cooperation, and the importance of kindness. These concepts cultivate empathy and encourage children to become peacemakers in their communities.
In a Montessori classroom, the focus is on creating a nurturing environment where children are free to explore and learn about themselves and others. Through these strategies, Montessori educators can help early years students develop the empathy and compassion that will serve as a strong foundation for their future relationships and interactions with the world.