By Upper Elementary teacher Kaitlyn McElrath, March 5 newsletter
“The child in a successive process concentrates upon some work, and gradually becomes more open and acquires more and more confidence in himself. He becomes conscious of his own value. This self-evaluation is the most important thing.”—Maria Montessori, Creative Development in the Child Vol II
Maria Montessori was a person who was ahead of her time. She was the first female doctor in Italy and through careful observation created materials and founded a teaching philosophy that changed the foundation of education. Montessori knew the importance of a student recognizing their own ability and taking pride in their accomplishments.
Self-confidence was key to their success. As teachers, we see this in action every day. It’s no surprise that research backs this up. There are multiple studies that highlight the negative affect of stress on working memory. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, affecting 40 million adults. Anxiety disorders impact 25.1 percent of children between 13-18. If left untreated, those children are at a higher risk to perform poorly in school and miss out on important social experiences.
Montessori saw the value of teaching the whole child and making sure students felt capable and comfortable. In our classrooms, students learn about automatic negative thoughts (ANT) and how to prevent them. They are encouraged to persevere through challenges and complete large projects, which shows them that they’re capable of achieving big things. Students explore strategies to alleviate their anxiety or an abundance of stress, such as through mindfulness practices. They also learn about how their brain works and how it impacts their learning and day to day lives.
Yes, anxiety impacts our students. It affects all of us. Through independent exploration, individualized work, and targeted lessons, students learn how to take ownership of their learning and find ways to prevent anxiety from taking over.