All people are different. We are an amazing species, in that none of us are the same! We move, act and think differently. We have different belief systems and values. We also all learn differently. We acquire knowledge in different ways; have different strengths and weaknesses and function predominantly from a different set of intelligences.
A lot of recent research has been done that helps in recognising personality traits and learning styles. Some of the theories have originally been developed for the business world. The Myers-Briggs indicator is one of these and is used as a tool in creating successful teams. It specifically looks at the interpersonal intelligence and related communication style of the employee and uses the terminology: Relater, Socializer, Thinker, Director style, Indirect and Direct.
Howard Gardner developed the 8 Intelligences that indicate related learning styles that are predominant in a personality. In the healthcare industry William Sheldon’s analysis of personality traits is sometimes referred to using the terminology Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. This looks at both the physical and psychological priorities of a person, thus dividing people in three categories.
It is interesting to observe our own children and see who they really are. Within a family it is amazing to see how different children can be. And of course mum and dad are different too. In Montessori education we believe that these differences should be preserved. Feeling good about oneself is the basis of happiness. This directly links to being allowed to be the person you were meant to be!
Now who are we, using William Sheldon’s categories?
With an overemphasis on the nervous system, they are the brainy people amongst us. Ectomorphs like to be alone, they love to read and study. When presented with a problem they like to withdraw, reflect on it, or even sleep on it before finding a solution. They tend to be nervous in groups, and spend little of their time on socialisation. They often need little sleep and show little interest in food. They require less sleep and food because they do not spend a lot of physical energy during the day.
Action is the mode. Being physically active is of prime importance. These people will work themselves through an issue. When solutions need to be found, they will think best when moving. A new idea will pop up during a bike ride, a work out in the gym or while roller blading. They will go along with all kinds of activities as long as the body is involved as well. Hence they can sleep well and food is the necessary ingredient to keep going.
There is no life without others. Endomorphs are at their best within a group. They love socialising and thrive best when working in teams. Consensus is important and the acknowledgement of others is a boost to their self-esteem. When finding themselves in a difficult situation, before settling on a solution, they will discuss it thoroughly with others. Preferably with a nice meal or a chocolate snack. They can talk for the sake of talking and love all activities that involve a group. Endomorphs can generally sleep well but can worry about what others have said or done.
Do you recognise your child?
Do you recognise yourself?
In many cases the child is not part of the same basic make-up as the parent or the teacher. It is important for the adults to know who they are themselves and acknowledge that other ways of being are also ok! Becoming successful in life is about respect and adaptability. Respecting others and oneself, acknowledging the strengths and developing the ‘challenges’.
Dr. Montessori provided a lot of information on how to individualise the approach to teaching. Teacher training courses include a lot of psychology and encourage teachers to observe students, to be able to know the child’s individual temperament. Teachers learn to ‘look’ without judging; to take oneself out of the equation and to diminish preconceived ideas. With that ability one becomes in tune with the child and can give the right ‘ingredients’ for further development.
An endomorph child developing some ectomorph characteristics: Endomorph children love to talk. They can talk all the time, without finding a solution. The teacher helps by saying: “Before we meet in the group, write down for yourself three possible outcomes. Then you can meet for 10 minutes and present the answer”
A mesomorph child developing some endomorph characteristics: Whilst playing in the sandpit the mesomorph child scoops up all the sand available. Other children complain and he runs away angrily. The teacher catches up with saying: “Let’s walk over to the other house to get milk for lunch and reflect on what you could say to your friends”
An ectomorph child developing some endomorph characteristics: The ectomorph child withdraws in reading. The teacher initiates role-play-reading. Four children take turns and read the drama together.
Enjoying one’s strengths, having those acknowledged in our surroundings and simultaneously being offered the right environment with freedoms and limits that helps develop the challenges is the base for a happy personality!
Read more about Personality Traits by Dr. W. Sheldon