Empathy and Friendship in the Montessori Environment!

Posted on by Helena Eddings

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Recent studies show that today’s college students lack empathy.

Empathy, or the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes, to share in their feelings, to feel for them or with them, and to see and value what another person is feeling or experiencing, is considered a core skill involved in building close relationships, maintaining friendships, and developing strong communities.

This means that working to instill empathy in our children is an important and vital task.

Over the course of 72 studies completed between 1979 and 2009, results indicated that college kids today are about 40 percent less empathetic than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, according to an article in U.S. News and World Report. The result? Today’s college students are less likely to try and understand their friend’s perspectives or to feel concern for others or the less fortunate.

According to the study “compared with college students of the late 1970s, current students are less likely to agree with statements such as ‘I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective,’ and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.’

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Maria Montessori believed that it is the duty of every person to work toward and be part of something great which not only serves individual interests but those of all humanity. As a result, Montessori education teaches empathy in a variety of ways. First, teachers and parents model empathy to the students, as well as through the teacher or parent to friends and peers. Children observe empathy in this way and absorb it into their own behaviors. When empathy is repeatedly demonstrated by a teacher or parent in the classroom or home setting it helps to set the culture of the learning environment and it sets an expectation for the way one treats others.

Additionally, Montessori classrooms feature lessons in manners, grace and courtesy, often found in the Practical Life curriculum, that help to instill empathy in children. These lessons help demonstrate positive social behavior and help the young child adapt to life in a group setting and provide them the knowledge of what is socially acceptable behavior, which proves helpful both in and out of school. Lessons may include: greeting someone or introducing oneself, shaking hands, waiting, taking turns, apologizing or excusing oneself, interrupting or asking for help, speaking politely, saying please and thank you, respecting others and their space, washing hands, walking in line, taking care of materials, making friends, and being kind.

“So in the child, besides the vital impulse to create himself, and to become perfect, there must yet another purpose, a duty to fulfill in harmony, something he has to do in the service of a united whole.” ~ Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Source: Chesapeake Montessori School

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West Side Montessori is an independent, accredited Montessori school educating children 13 months through 8th grade (preschool, kindergarten, elementary and middle school) with locations at 13587 Roachton Rd in Perrysburg, Ohio, and 7115 W. Bancroft Street in Toledo, Ohio.