…and I am all the better for it.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on how much I learn being in the classroom with first, second and third graders all day. I spend more time with them than anyone else in my village. They speak slowly enough for me to (usually) understand what they want/need. We have fun together just sitting around and coloring. They teach me more than I could ever hope to teach them, and this is the precise, selfish reason that I want to be an educator for the rest of my life.
Here are some of the lessons I’ve been learning alongside my students:
- Pay close attention to what your body needs. If you’re restless, do some stretching. If you’re sleepy, take a nap. Children are very physical creatures and thus experts in owning their bodily needs and expressing them openly.
- Mimicry can be a helpful step towards better understanding. I can’t tell you how many times I have caught my students pretending to be me, teaching each other content from a previous English lesson. Yet I’ve found that even these simple acts of roleplaying show a level of interest and understanding that, when cultivated further, easily transitions in to a fuller understanding.
- Ask for help as often as you need it… As a prideful adult, I struggle with this quiet a bit. Yet every day, my students remind me of the value in asking for support by asking nonstop questions about the world.
- …and offer help when you’ve mastered a skill. The proudest moments I’ve had as a teacher almost always include a scenario in which a student understands what’s going on and voluntarily begins helping others. It’s heartwarming and beautiful and demonstrates that my students have taken ownership over their learning. I could not be more proud.
- Love whatever you love with reckless abandon. My students are all their own unique people. But I wouldn’t know them nearly as well if they weren’t so unapologetically themselves. One of my favorite first graders is super shy and never volunteers, but one day we did an activity that required dancing around. To my pleasant surprise, this student broke out in the most well-choreographed dance I’ve ever seen. The whole class broke out in applause and I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. I want to be him when I grow up, no doubt about it.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that children are endlessly capable of magic and the way that we socialize them can either foster or squash that possibility. My students are effortlessly curious, optimistic, and inventive– and this is all without anything I’ve done. They unconditionally give so much love and light to everyone around them, I am truly humbled to know a love like theirs. Why are adults so much more rigid and sad? I often find myself wishing I could be more like my students. What’s more, I wish I possessed the language to really express that sentiment to them. The best I can do is continue to love them as much as I can– it’s not much of a payment, but most days it’s often all I feel I can offer.