“Flower” by BF, age 2
It’s been six months since I walked away from an eight-year career in the field of early childhood education. For a number of reasons, it was time for me to make this change, yet I will always look back on that time with much fondness; my former students certainly do and will continue to occupy a very real place in my heart. In my short career I learned an incredible amount about people (both young and old) as well as myself, and those lessons will remain with me for years to come.
If you’ve read the blog before, you may have read about my beloved friend Lelis. She is many things, not the least of which is an incredible educator. Part of what makes her stye so special is the dignity with which she conducts herself and her classroom. I had the honor of teaching alongside Lelis for several months, and the experience shaped me in myriad ways. Many of the lessons you’ll see below are the product of her teaching. Chi miigwech, my friend. This post is for you.
In honor of my eight years as an early childhood educator, here are eight things I learned while teaching preschool: lessons I think we can all take to heart, no matter what we do.
1. When in doubt, dance it out—An afternoon dance party never fails to relieve tension or put a smile on your face. Children are allowed to drop everything in the middle of the day to shake their booties; why can’t grown-ups?
2. Use your manners always and everywhere—I practiced better manners when I was surrounded by toddlers than I do now working with adults. It’s a perplexing digression.
3. Societies may come and go, cities may crumble, nations may fall, but humans will always gather to make and break bread—Bread is universal, and sharing it with others brings us in touch with something larger than ourselves. Bake and share it often.
4. Everyone operates most sensibly when sufficiently rested—A break in the middle of the day allows children to reset themselves and approach their afternoon with a new sense of intensity and intention. Do you feel that way when you work through lunch?
5. A place for everything, and everything in its place—Contrary to popular belief, the early childhood classroom is never cluttered, at least not for long. Everything in it has a place, and when those things are restored to their respective homes, everyone enjoys a sense of security. Temporary chaos allows for creation and exploration; when this chaos has an overarching structure, we feel safe and at ease in our world. Do all of your things have a home? How do you feel when your space is in disarray?
6. Delight in simple pleasures—Trust me when I tell you that no achievement is too small to celebrate. Some of my proudest moments have resulted from the smallest of successes.
7. We all have our days—We cannot always be at our best, and some days we just cannot get it together. Fortunately, you will have another chance tomorrow. Try your best today, and know that you can always try again.
8. Love exists all around us—If ever you lost faith in our kind, if ever you fear what this country will become, if ever you are certain that things can be no worse, look no further than the face of someone small. There is good all around us.
To the teachers, children, parents, and other friends I made along the way, you’ll always be in my heart.