An insightful look at how emotions affect learning

An insightful look at how emotions affect learning Cover Image

Sreeja Iyer walks us through the life of a preschooler and how emotions over lost friendships, fear of the teacher or discord at home can overwhelm a child’s performance inside and outside the classroom.

Schools are generally meant to be a place where children learn the content taught to them, take the exams, be civil with each other, respect elders, obey the rules and go home. There is no place for the concept that emotions affect learning as a process, is there?

The big problem here is that emotions are an integral part of who we are and no matter how much we ignore the idea, they lurk in nooks and crannies of children’s minds and impact how they learn.

Let me show you a few examples to clarify

1. A child experiences a fight or discord at home, doesn’t know what to do with his anger or sadness, brings it to class and is in a bad mood that day. He doesn’t pay attention to what is happening around him and his ability to comprehend information has been compromised. He loses out on learning (note taking) that day and comes home and gets further scolded for his notes being incomplete. He is at a loss to explain what or why?

2. Another child misses her best friend who is either sick/has moved out of town and the uncertainty of the friend’s condition/the loss of friendship taunts the child and she is unable to calmly do her work in school. She has no way of knowing why she is upset and even if she knows, no place to express it and learn to work with the emotion knowing that it is only normal to feel this way. She tells her mom, who tells her that she will make more friends and it’s okay to move on. It confuses her further, she doesn’t know what to do. It goes on for weeks.

3. A teacher scolds one of the children and another child is frightened for life to ask any more questions or to speak up in class. Parents are wondering what happened to my bright and chirpy child from a year ago?

4. A child who scores very well in the exams and tops her class suddenly finds new subjects boring. She keeps telling herself that she needs to focus otherwise she will not get good marks but a small voice inside her says, “Boring, boring, boring”and she is not able to make peace with it. She doesn’t know how to negotiate or give it any more reasons/answers because she doesn’t know any except that, “It is important for exams and I need to score good marks so I’ll get a good job”

I could go on and on but I think we can agree that emotions are important and can affect children’s learning. It can affect it positively and negatively but when a part of you is not managed it is generally more trouble than good.

 Start developing emotional skills right at home

1. Use emotions in conversations on a daily basis to express not only how you feel about what your child did but also about how you felt at work or home when they were not around. Your child gets an opportunity to understand you better as parents and as professionals.

2. Share your struggles and not just your happy moments and achievements. When children see a range of emotions they realize that they can also have a range of emotions and how to build the capability to express it.

3. Acknowledge their emotions not the tantrums. Many a times when children throw a tantrum they are actually feeling an emotion and instead of expressing it, they are acting it out. Acknowledging the emotion empowers the child to express the emotion and even develop a sense of how you handle those emotions rather than throw a tantrum.

When children truly learn to manage their emotions you begin to see their learning improve by leaps and bounds. It’s an amazing experience to have as a parent, as a teacher and as a student – welcome to a world where learning is re-imagined the way it should be!

We, at Sparkling Mindz, as part of the school, preschool and our after-school program work with children on their emotions. It begins with awareness, moves on to managing and generating choices, expressing & sharing with others, taking perspective, learning to respond to situations, developing empathy and so on.

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