In Meeting for Worship, a first grader was moved to share the message bubbling up in her. “Every day isn't always going to be cupcakes and rainbows. Some days you have to pause and take a moment for your emotions.”
Emotions are a full-blown reality for children. Happiness, frustration, anger, joy, silliness, excitement, disappointment. They swirl around in their minds and bodies.
As educators, we know emotions are intertwined with cognition. Emotions impact how, when and what children learn, think, and remember. They can be the simple emotions, which children can name, or the more complex emotions, such as anxiety, empathy, passion, confusion. Emotions are not add-ons. They are ever-present and often in flux. The regulation and healthy expression of feelings create fertile ground for learning.
We structure our spaces, materials, and time to enhance the children's ability to articulate how they are feeling. Recess, discussions during circle time, rich literature, visual images, attentive listening, careful observations, thoughtful dialogues, patient adults – all contribute to children's recognition that their feelings are real and complex.
At Westtown School, we have one more unique structure where children can reflect on their feelings and reset themselves, priming the mind for heightened cognition – Meeting for Worship. A fourth grader told me, "Meeting for Worship helps me think about my emotions more simply so I can think clearly. It calms me."
I am constantly in awe of the children's self-knowledge, their ability to make connections and their habits of reflection.