Six life lessons I've learned from six year olds
You might think that children have a lot to learn, and that’s true. I’m not talking Maths and English so much as manners, sharing and basic friendship skills (two children were reduced to tears this week when their so-called best friends decided they no longer wanted to play with them again ever– been there amirite?)
That said, I can’t help but look at these hyperactive bundles of joy from time to time and wonder if, actually, it’s them that had the right idea all along.
Here are the 6 most important things I’ve learned from six year olds this year.
1. Look after number 1.
That oxygen mask analogy (you know, sort yourself out before helping others) gets bandied about by adults all the time, but how many people really and truly live that philosophy? I’d say in the teaching world, and undoubtedly in other professions, very few.
When you’re six, that part of the brain that yearns to please others hasn’t quite developed yet: Don’t want to play with someone? Tell them. Need a quick nap in phonics? Have one. Someone in your way? Tread on them. Now I’m not advocating walking all over people (figuratively or literally) in pursuit of personal gain, but we could all do with a little more selfishness from time to time.
The world won’t stop turning if you aren’t there to prop it up on a sick day. Take time for yourself when you need it.
2. Back yourself.
When did self-confidence become a negative trait? We all refrain from boosting ourselves up out of modesty, then we’re surprised when our more brazen colleagues/classmates steam ahead of us. We could all do with a good dose of whatever this kid in my class is taking.
I needn't have feared - instead, I had Jake (not his real name) coming up to me saying ‘But Miss, how is this going to work ‘cos surely everyone will choose me because I’m the smartest?’ In reality, only one child did choose him, but he’s right, he is one of the smartest in the class, and I don’t think it will do him one ounce of damage to go forth with that knowledge in the future.
If you know you’re good at something, don’t go letting people who aren’t steal your thunder. Be confident. Be Thor. Be Jake, aged 6.
3. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The most exhausting thing about being a teacher is that children are constantly demanding things. Can I go to the toilet? Can I have a drink? Can I put my jumper in my tray? Really the joke’s on me, because I haven’t yet learned that if I say no consistently, they will probably stop asking. But you try carrying on teaching a Maths lesson with four tiny people bouncing up and down on their carpet space, grabbing their crotch with a pained expression after you’ve told them they can’t go to the toilet.
Anyway, the point is, when a child wants something, they just ask for it. Simple. We did a food tasting lesson on Friday, and at least half the class were asking for seconds before everyone had had their first taste. When someone brings treats in for their birthday, they’ll ask if they can take two, or have an extra for their baby sister (a likely story).
Children don’t walk around suffocated by social norms that prevent them from getting what they want. If you want it, you can only ask.
4. You can’t beat a good book
If I were to sum up my class in one word, it would be ‘lively’. Getting them to work quietly, sit and listen or complete straightforward tasks is a daily struggle. The one time that I can pretty much guarantee their undivided attention? Story time. Probably the highlight of my entire teaching year (except the holidays lol) was yesterday when I told the children I was going to read them a story and Lee (not his real name), notoriously difficult to engage, did a quiet ‘yesss’ to himself. If story time is for lads like Lee, it’s for everyone.
5. Everyone needs a little TLC.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in teaching? If your knee hurts, you can’t possibly be expected to sit and write. If your finger hurts, you deserve the world and more. Some days we just aren’t feeling ourselves. Rather than soldiering on, I will in future expect to be wrapped in cotton wool and soothed. There’s always tomorrow.
6. It’s the little things that count.
Two children positively melted my heart on Friday. First, one of my girls came and found me at lunchtime to tell me that she was having ice cream that evening, with the most enormous grin on her face I’d ever seen. The day before in circle time she’d been raving about the chocolate cake with fresh strawberries she was going to have for tea. Two things to note. One: I need this girl’s life. Two: Sometimes chocolate is all it takes to be happy.
The second girl was even sweeter. At the end of the day she suddenly lost it, having peered out the window to see the parents gathering to collect the children – she announced that she wasn’t going to after school club because she could see her brother outside and he’d brought BIKES. She then proceeded to literally jump for joy and sit in her carpet space trying to supress a huge grin (suppress because I was actually in the middle of telling the children off at the time – but I had to abandon it, she looked too happy).
I still remember that pure joy feeling when I’d come out of the school gates expecting to go to the childminder’s and see my Mum or Dad standing there instead. It’s similar to the feeling I get now when I see my friends and family after a tough week. The takeaway? If you’ve got your loved ones and a bar of chocolate, you’ve got an awful lot.