What Children Teach Us

Today’s Topic:  What children teach us.

Last week ended another year of preschool for many children.  It brought me back to last year when I finished my last year of teaching after nine years.  I let my mind wander over those nine years, and what I learned.  I’m sure I learned more from the kids than they learned from me.  I taught 3 year olds.  This was their first experience with school, and for many it was their first experience away from their parents.

Our school was very diverse in cultures, backgrounds, and languages spoken.  I often wondered how a child must feel leaving mom/dad for the first time to come to an often unfamiliar place.  And if they couldn’t understand a word the teacher was saying, no matter how comforting, it must be even more scary.  But I was humbled that the parents thought enough of us to trust them with their little one.

The speech I gave the parents at the beginning of the year was that we would be teaching them life skills like how to walk in a line, be responsible for their own area, sitting and listening to a story quietly, and be respectful of others property and feelings.  We also introduced the academics through play and our daily projects.  By the end of the year, most children knew some, if not all letters, could count, could cut with scissors, and were working on writing their own name.

But some of the most important skills the children learned didn’t come from me or my assistant.  They came from each other.  They learned to tolerate each other’s differences.  Here are some examples.

One year we had two little girls, who just happened to be the smallest in our class by about a foot!  We called them little peanuts.  One little girl spoke English and the other spoke Spanish.  They couldn’t understand the other’s language.  But somehow, over the course of the year, they were able to communicate with each other through drawing, playing and other cues only they understood.  We, and the other children, had no idea what they were communicating to each other, but they did.

Another year, we had a little boy who had severe spina bifida.  He used a walker to get from class to class, but in the classroom he was able to move around without it. Although, he was a little unsteady on his feet.  The other children in the room had most likely not seen a child with a walker before.  But that didn’t matter to them.  They helped him if he needed something, got his walker if he needed it, and made sure there was nothing in his way as he moved around the room.  They wanted to make sure he didn’t fall.  He moved during Christmas break to another state, and when we all came back to school, they all wanted to know where he was because they missed him. But in the time he was in our classroom, the children all learned compassion for another who may not be like them.

One year, on the first day, we had a little boy who was having a hard time separating from his mommy.  We were trying everything we could to console him and try to take his mind off missing his mommy.  Unfortunately, there was a language barrier, so he couldn’t really understand what we were saying.  One of our little girls, who also didn’t speak his language, asked me why he was crying.  I told her he missed his mommy.  She went over to him and sat beside him.  She started rubbing his arm, and quietly told him, “it’s ok, our mommies are going to come back for us.”  She stayed there rubbing his arm until he finally fell asleep on the pillow.  Compassion at its finest.

We had two little boys in our class who both happened to be of the same skin color.  One of the boys was born here in America, but the other one had been adopted from Uganda.  They hit it right off, and played together most of the time.  One day I was putting up pictures I had taken of the children as they did different activities around the classroom.  One picture I had taken was of these two children helping each other complete a puzzle.  They looked at the picture, and then one said to the other “hey, we have the same color skin!”  They had played together for months, but it took a picture for them to realize this!

The lesson from the kids:  people are people, no matter what.  Kids get that.  Something we should all think about.

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