As the end of the school year fast approaches, I have been thinking about what I have learned from my pre-kindergarten students. I might be a teacher but as humans we are all perpetual students, learning from our experiences and from those around us. I learn so much from my time spent working with young children. These are some of the things I have learned that stand out in my mind:
- Life is meant to be enjoyed. Take time to do the things you love. I notice that young children naturally gravitate to the activities they enjoy and even when there might be other pressing things to do, they ask to do the things which they enjoy. Yes, we all have chores and responsibilities but I think as we get older, we need to do a better job of also making time to do the things we truly love.
- Don’t be too serious. Think about the people you like to be around. Usually they are upbeat, positive and fun. I am reminded each day by the children that these are also the kind of people they like to be around. Nothing is better than hearing a child laugh or seeing a child smile, so even though I have a tendency to be pretty serious at times (my family is always kindly reminding me to “lighten up!”), I try to keep things light and cheerful when I am in the classroom. The children love it when I am silly and although there is a proper time and place for that behavior, it is important that we have opportunities to laugh and smile throughout the day.
- Be patient. We need to be patient with those around us and exercise even more patience with children. Children have a harder time regulating their emotions than we do and we need to remember this. I always try to put myself in the child’s place when I am dealing with a challenging situation in our class or a challenging behavior in a child. So next time you are in a challenging situation with someone, just ask yourself how you would want to be treated or spoken to.
- Model the behavior you want to see. Children are like sponges. They are taking in everything we do and watching us all the time. If we want a child to speak or behave a certain way, than we need to be modeling that language and behavior. The same goes for adults around us.
- Don’t wear white when you want to play outside or do fun projects. I’m not sure why I think that if I wear white clothes to school that they will stay clean. Pre-K is messy. We do messy projects and we play outside as much as possible. My mother once told me that, “a dirty child is a happy child.” What she meant by this is that if kids get dirty playing inside or outside that’s ok. It means they are playing hard and having fun. So if you want to play hard, don’t wear white!
- Take good care of yourself. We all have good days and bad days and that’s ok. Life isn’t always easy. Some days we feel great and other days we might not feel so great. Children feel this way too and we need to remember this. But, we also need to remember that we feel our best when we get exercise, are well rested and well fed. So get moving, get good rest, eat healthy and don’t skip meals!
- Share your love and appreciation for others. I love how young children “wear their hearts on their sleeves.” They are so quick to say, “I love playing with you or you are my best friend” They also love to hug each other. As we get older, I know that we become more reserved and some of this is necessary but I have learned that it is so important to tell people you love and appreciate them. Thank those around you and take time to say a kind word. It brightens everyone’s day.