8 Life Skills I Learned from Kindergartners

Day 27 of the blogging streak! 4 more days, 4 more days, 4 more days!

 

So, I’m sure you all are sick of hearing about my time in AmeriCorps NCCC, but I unearthed another piece of writing from my year in the Corps that I just had to share. It’s cute. It’s from my third project, when I was stationed at our home base in Denver working as a teacher’s aide to a kindergarten class.

Honestly, I should print this out, or make an effort to dig it up more often. Despite learning all these things, it’s still too often that I forget and need the reminders. Enjoy!


 

8 Things Kindergarteners (and 1st Graders!) are Teaching Me

For my 3rd AmeriCorps project I have been working as a teacher’s aide in a kindergarten/1st grade class at a local Denver elementary school. I’ve been having quite an adventure interacting with the kids in my class and getting to know them every day. As I try to remember what life was like when I lived in that same little world, I’m fascinated by how they view everything around them and interact with people. The best part is that, at 24 years old, I’m learning just as much from them as they are from me. Don’t get me wrong, there are alot of things NOT to learn from kindergarten/1st graders, like the incessant tattling and throwing a fit when you don’t get your way. But as I’ve been helping them read, write, draw, and count every day, they’ve inadvertently been teaching me a thing or two about how to be a better person and live a better life.

 

Be silly in a picture – it’s funny!

So many adults (myself included) are incredibly critical and self-concious about how they look in pictures. We un-tag Facebook photos we look “ugly” in, and force our friends to take a picture over and over until every microscopic detail looks acceptable. When I’m snapping pictures of my class, however, they clamor to be in pictures and make the most silly, ridiculous faces they can. They giggle with delight when they see how goofy they look. They don’t care how they look in the picture, they’re just excited to be in it. 5 and 6-year-olds aren’t obsessive and paranoid about their appearance. It’s almost as if they know something most of us adults have forgotten: there’s no perfect pose or camera angle or picture lighting that’s going to change what you look like every day. You just look the way you look – embrace it. So why not laugh at yourself from time to time? That silly picture of you may look ridiculous, but it’s still funny!

 

What’s a “grudge”?

We grown-ups can stew over a snide remark for days, and hold grudges for months or even years over a failed relationship. In my kindergarten class one kid will say something mean to another, and then 30 seconds later, the two are playing together as if nothing happened. One might call their teacher a big meany one minute, and then run up to hug her the next. Another kid will help a a boy at his table withmath problems even though 5 minutes ago that boy was tattling on him for something stupid. As we grow older we are supposed to become wiser and more enlightened, yet we seem to lose our ability to tell what isn’t worth fuming or holding a grudge over. Little kids don’t really hold grudges and they are blessed with the ability to forgive, forget, and just let things go.

 

Tell it like it is

It’s true: kids say the darndest things. Because kids just say whatever’s on their little minds. They don’t bury their speech in euphemisms or tailor it to their audience. They tell it like it is. Kids’ speech is always true to their thoughts and feelings. It’s ironic how we adults have to disguise our speech, censor ourselves, and adapt a different persona around kids, all the while the kids are completely open, honest, and up-front with us. It’s easy to forget the importance of saying what you mean, and meaning what you say.

 

Live in the moment

Even the most zen-like adults are nowhere near as good at living in the moment as kindergarteners and 1st graders. They get so excited about little things like a Friday trip to Chuck E. Cheese after school, or an ice cream party in class, or getting to pick out a new toy when they go to the store with their parents. I even remember getting excited about little things like that as a kid. As adults, it takes something major to get us excited, let alone hold our attention. Even when we do something fun or go somewhere cool, we are texting someone or thinking about something that happened earlier or listing things we need to get done later. Our minds are always halfway in another place. But kids are completely into whatever they are doing at the moment. They don’t think about other crap or constantly check their phones. They absorb themselves in the current moment and have a blast with it, too.

 

Be happy for each other!

When one of the kids in my class has their name on the morning announcements for being the week’s “ROAR” winner, the other kids in class gasp in excitement as if they themselves had just won. If a kid in class gets praised by the teacher for good behavior, some kids will say “good job! Way to go!” Out here in the jealous, competitive adult world, when someone else is praised or accomplishes something, our first instinct is to tear them down and list all of the “they-only-won-because” excuses we can. Why can’t we be more like kindergarteners and just be happy for each other?

 

Notice everything

Kindergarteners notice every little detail about everything. They notice that you’re wearing different shoes, that your hair is pulled back instead of straight down, that you’re not wearing makeup, that there are some new worksheets in their cubbies that weren’t there before they went to art class. If they come up to ask me a question while I’m working on something, they notice what I’m doing and they want to know what it’s for. They notice a person on the sidewalk outside the classroom window, and every minor sound that comes from the janitor’s room when we’re working in the hallway. As adults, we become so wrapped up in our to-do lists and daily stresses that we really don’t take a moment to observe the little things: a co-worker’s new earrings, the way the people in the checkout lane are interacting with their children, the book that the man across from you on the train is reading. Kids have such a sharp power of observation, but as adults it seems like we’ve forgotten how to use ours. Everything that’s not “important” gets shoved aside, but why not just stop and take note of the little things around us? You’d be surprised at what you can see once you really open your eyes, and at how much of your day is spent not really paying attention to 90% of what’s around you.

 

Why be afriad of the word “No”?

When little kdis want something, they are not afraid to ask for it. Hearing “no” doesn’t stop them from asking (as many times as they can stand) for something they want. They don’t have the consuming fear of rejection that makes so many of us adults too scared to try for things we want like jobs, dates, and money.

 

We’re all just people

As we grow up, we begin to judge people or give them value they might not have earned before we really even know them. We look at their appearance, reputation, and popularity, and make judgments based on those things. We admire and fear the beautiful and popular people even though we don’t even know what they’re really like as people. We desperately seek people’s approval before we even know them. But in the kindergarten world, none of these pretensions exist yet. They don’t know popularity. They just all talk to each other and get to know the people around them based on their personalities. It’s too bad things aren’t like that anymore. Because underneath image and reputation, a person is just a person. The kids have it right: they judge each other based on their personalities and what they’re actually like as people instead of making assumptions based on that person’s image or social status.

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9 thoughts on “8 Life Skills I Learned from Kindergartners

  1. This is a list totally worth keeping around and reminding ourselves of every once in awhile. You took away a lot of good things working with them! If only this all still came naturally… haha. It’s not so easy to do!

  2. I LOVE this. I love my Kindergartners more than anything. It is seriously the best age. They are so hungry for knowledge and learning!!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I just spent a week chaperoning 7th graders and I feel like it was such a great reminder of many of these things, in part because at that age you can sort of see them transitioning away from being kids and into being more like adults. I was super nervous at first that I wouldn’t know what to do with them, but my friend told me “they’ll tell you” and it is so true. They were not shy at all about asking me to help them with things or help explain things to them.

  4. These are great lessons, and they’re one reason I love teaching. My students are significantly older than kindergarteners, but they still live in a way that only the young can. They really help put things in perspective.

  5. Love this! At 24 I am starting to work in the big law firm world where everything is skewed and it seems like priorities get very warped. In trying to keep my own mentality of balance and working to live, not the other way around, many of these kindergarten tips are wonderful 🙂

  6. MAN I needed to read this today. I am going to share this with my high school students on a day where I need an assignment but want to get out of the realm of our regular curriculum – I think they could benefit from this read! I loved the one about being happy for each other and how they gasped when someone in their class won. So freaking cute!

  7. These are great observations of kindergarteners! Boy do the little ones drive me nuts. Untied shoes, snotty noses, tattling… I am sure it doesn’t surprise you to hear it’s VERY hard for my to muster up the patience for all of that. But I think my two favorite things about them are how they live in the moment and tell it like it is! They get such joy from the simplest activities I do with them!

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