As I write this, I am finishing up my last week of community rotations. Crazy! Crazy crazy crazy. I have spent the last 9 weeks teaching children. Three days a week I have been working with K-5 students (and when I’m not there, I am at the New Hampshire Food Bank which I could write about for days but that’s another story). So here are some things I’ve learned from watching these beautiful elementary school souls:
A little goes a long way. Tell kids that they can do anything but run across a gym and you will find kids barrel-rolling, crab-walking and bear-crawling before you can even blink an eye. Give them one idea and they’ll be off runnin’.
Everyone, everyone, everyone appreciates good manners and kindness. Kindergartners appreciate it, teachers appreciate it, EVERYONE appreciates it.
No one likes condescension. Condescending people are actually the worst.
Simply telling someone “you’re doing great!” can turn their whole attitude around.
Sometimes, there will be bad attitudes and it’s not worth the power struggle to try to change them (because inevitably, you will fail). Sometimes they just need a little space, as we all do.
Once kids respect and like you, they’ll get their peers to shut up for you (saving you work and the struggle of trying to quiet a classroom down). Win over a few and they’ll fall like dominoes!
Giving kindergartners stickers for good work is like giving catnip to a rambunctious kitten.
Holidays are a very different experience for a lot of these kids- not the merry, joyous, bountiful occasion many of us associate with but instead a stressful, hungry and often lacking few weeks. But at school, they don’t have to feel this distinction nor should they have to. Holiday cheer is appreciated by all, no matter beliefs or circumstances.
The thing that struck me most though, was the delicious simplicity with which they approached life. They aren’t yet burdened by the complexities that they someday will inevitably encounter. They float over disappoint within minutes, arguments are quickly forgotten and forgiven, anger dissipates quickly. They’re still enthusiastic, full of life and fire. They haven’t been disenchanted in the way that adults tend to be, not yet cynical or distrustful. There is something indescribably beautiful about that kind of innocence.
I have always been bad at goodbyes- I don’t like them and I’m not good at them. Goodbyes are hard. I feel so many emotions and think so many thoughts that when it comes to saying goodbye to people, even seemingly arbitrary people like the teachers at the school I was in, I feel a particular kind of sadness. I often cannot express all the sentiments I feel for risk of feeling foolish or looking like an overly emotional sap so many goodbyes tend to be awkward (at least in my head) and unfulfilling. As I walk away, I usually think of exactly what I should have said (story of my life).
But kids. Kids are different. Kids can say goodbye without the full understanding that goodbye means goodbye and they will probably never see me again. Which is sad in a way, but it’s also innocent in that way that only kids can be. They’re sad I’m leaving, sure, but it’s recess time and they’ve got things to do, places to be! Although I’m happy to be a more emotionally mature being, I do envy that attitude a little bit.
I’m thankful and gracious and humbled by the hours spent with this wonderful group of children. Even though they drove me nuts sometimes, I am grateful for my last nine weeks. That being said, bring on the two-week vacation (t-26 hours but who’s counting?)