When I decided to make a career change to become a preschool teacher, one of my main motivations was the desire to learn something new. After working in Social Media Marketing since college, I felt like I wasn’t growing or learning any new skills, and I knew I was ready for a challenge. Since starting at my preschool in April, I have learned a lot through training courses, attending kids yoga teacher training, and an early childhood education conference. I always enjoyed school, so it’s been nice to be back in classroom-like settings to learn how I can be a better teacher.
As much as I hope I’ve been able to teach my preschoolers a thing or two over the past few months, I think I’ve learned even more from them. There’s a lot we can learn from children, and preschoolers are especially fun to learn from because they are so uninhibited by the world around them. I frequently look at my students and think “wow, I wish I was more like you!”
Here are some of the life lessons I’ve taken away from my last few months as a preschool teacher:
Don’t be afraid to share your emotions openly
Preschoolers have yet to learn about the societal pressures around pretending to be okay when you’re not. How many times have you answered with “fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” when someone asks you how you’re doing? One of my favorite things to witness is a child get upset, and when asked if they are okay, yell “No, I’m NOT OKAY!” There’s something quite refreshing about the idea of being honest with how you are truly feeling in a given moment. I teach my kids to communicate their emotions, and they remind me on a daily basis how important that is.
Forgive quickly and don’t hold grudges
It’s rare, if not impossible, to go through a single day without a fight. If you’ve never witnessed a fight between two tiny humans, it typically involves one or more of the following: Stealing a toy, screaming incoherently, pushing/hitting/pulling hair, immediately running to a teacher to tattle. It’s quite a sight to see! But what’s even better to watch is the post-fight making up, which typically involves one or more of the following: Saying “sorry” and “I forgive you”, hugging, promptly forgetting it ever happened 5 minutes later. If only adults were that quick to forgive and forget! In my experience, holding a grudge only hurts me, and learning to let go and forgive can really set you free.
Be observant and ask questions
Much like a fight, we cannot make it through a day at the preschool without being asked about a million different questions. “Ms. Shelly! Why is so-and-so sad? Ms. Shelly! What are you doing? Ms. Shelly! Why are we doing this?” As adults we tend to get so wrapped up in our own head that we forget to take a look around us and ask questions about what we’re seeing/experiencing. Sometimes the questions get excessive or intrusive, but it’s always entertaining. One of my all-time favorite (read: least favorite) moments was when I kid out of the blue asked me: “Do you have a baby in your belly?” LOL
Ask for, and go after, what you want
I’ve never heard a preschooler add qualifiers like “if it’s not too much trouble” or “if that’s okay” after asking for something they want. They just go for it! Whether it’s asking to be held, or saying they want to play with a toy, they’re straight forward and relentless when going after what they want. I often feel nervous or guilty asking for what I need from someone because I’m constantly worrying about how they will feel. I’m not saying we should all stop thinking of others, but when it comes things that are important to you, why not have the confidence of a toddler and just go for it?
Be yourself and don’t worry about what others think
Multiple times a day I look at one of my kids and think (or sometimes even say out loud) “You are SO WEIRD but I LOVE IT!” Preschoolers are at that innocent age where they don’t yet have an awareness of other people’s perceptions, so they can’t really worry about what others think. One of the things I’ve had to work on over the years is not caring so much about what other people think of me, and I feel inspired every day seeing how my preschoolers are unafraid to be their true, unique, silly selves.
Teaching preschoolers over the past few months has been a joy, and I can’t wait to learn more from them. Let’s all strive to be a bit more like a child sometimes, shall we?