Working with children is something I never imagined myself doing up until a few months ago. My mum is a teacher, so naturally, being my rebellious self I promised myself that that would be the last thing I would ever do…yet here we are. I, being the teacher and all, expected to be the one teaching my students; which of course is the case, my classes’ English levels have come on in leaps and bounds since I began teaching them (not to toot my own horn). What I didn’t expect though; is for them to teach me, to change my way of thinking, to alter my outlook on life; travelling has changed me of course but it’s my students who can take credit for my biggest alterations.
So what are these lessons you may ask?…
Now I’m not saying I’m not happy; I live in Thailand, I have little responsibilities, life is great…BUT I’m not happy like a child- I don’t believe anybody is. There’s something about their childlike innocence that’s infectious, in my classes with my younger students, I’m the happiest I’ll be all day. We’ll laugh until our bellies hurt, we’ll dance until we fall on the floor, we’ll learn, we’ll run around and I will be a child with them. They’ve taught me to let go of my worries and stresses and just smile- it’s what they’re good at.
Every day is a fresh start
My kids live every single day like it’s their last, which in turn is a lesson in itself. It’s like their little brains get wiped clean every night; when they wake up in the morning, everything they were upset or mad about the day before gets forgotten- they don’t hold grudges. Children don’t carry baggage from one day to the next and each day is a new adventure with endless opportunities; new friends need to be made, new places need to be explored and I LOVE that about them. Who cares what happened yesterday- it’s in the past.
Be utterly fearless
My students are scared of nothing (other than the various creepy-crawlies that find themselves into our classroom- come on guys you’re Thai, get a grip). They will stand in front of the entire class and make a fool of themselves no problem. They have all the confidence in the world to practice a second language on top of their mother tongue and they have no worries about mispronouncing words or getting them completely wrong. Somewhere along the way, we all as human beings lose this skill; we learn to get embarrassed, we learn to be scared of social situations, we learn to be fearful. Let’s take inspiration from the little one’s of the world- what’s the worst that can happen?
Always bounce back
Kids get told off at school (some, in my lessons especially), they fall out with their friends, they hurt themselves- it astounds me to no end their ability to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on as if nothing ever happened. Yes they’ll cry for a while, they may need a cuddle and to be told that everything is okay but this only makes them stronger. Kids hit the ground running and bounce right back up as if they were on a Pogo stick. They’ve taught me it’s okay to have a little cry, or a few moments to myself to think things through- life can be extremely difficult but as long as you have the strength to continue, that’s all that matters. Kids are so resilient- we all need to learn from them.
Children love without expecting anything in return- which is what true unconditional love is all about. Their friendships with their peers is unbelievable and their parent’s light them up like only a parent could. I didn’t expect them to welcome me with open arms into this love, but they did from day one. That’s the thing about children; they don’t judge you, they’re minds and hearts are open and they see every single person as special. I took a day off sick a few weeks back and my students were genuinely upset that I wasn’t there and constantly asked me if I was okay for weeks to come; they hug me, they kiss me, they follow me around and their faces light up every time they see me- it’s the best feeling in the world. Children aren’t born cruel, they’re born to love and that is exactly what they do- with everyone who crosses their paths. This is perhaps the biggest lesson they’ve taught me, to greet everyone I meet, no matter who they are, no matter how they may treat me- with love and kindness.
Children don’t need to know your backstory, they don’t want to inspect your baggage, they don’t take notice of the clothes you’re wearing or what you look like and they don’t care if you have a disability. Children simply don’t judge and won’t judge- it’s not in their nature. This was a tough life lesson for me; I’m ashamed that I can get rather bitchy, I can gossip and I can be dark. My students inspire me that this doesn’t have to be the way; we can accept people for who they are with no questions asked, we can just love them.
It’s okay to believe in yourself
Kids are the centre of their entire world; every story they tell, they are the protagonist, they draw pictures of themselves, they talk about themselves constantly. You know what, that’s okay! They’ve taught me it’s good to be your own cheerleader, to big yourself up sometimes, to toot your own horn- if you don’t then who will? It’s the best thing in the world when you re-learn to utterly and truly believe in yourself.
Use your imagination
I’ve always felt my imagination was en-point…until I began teaching young children. They cook up stories and pictures that I could never have dreamed in my wildest days. When we have free-time they draw; Godzilla having a tantrum because ‘Godzilla has feeling too teacher!’, they draw princesses living in a castle made of cheese because ‘all castles are secretly made of cheese’- I could go on forever. Plus, these are kids that barely speak my native language; I always wonder what they are babbling on to each other in a tongue I can’t comprehend (I only know I’m featured a lot; ‘Teacher blah blah blah, blah blah blah teacher’)!
Say what’s on your mind
Now, I’m not saying that children don’t lie- they don’t manipulate the truth if they know it will help them to avoid getting in to trouble. What I am saying is that kids speak their truth. They say what’s on their mind and they fight for what they see is right. Children stand up for themselves and won’t back down if they think they’ve been wronged, or if something is an injustice. Let’s no longer take things lying down; let’s stand up and speak our own truth; if people don’t like it, you don’t need them.
Don’t forget the little things
Children’s eyes are like magnifying glasses for inspecting their new world; they notice EVERYTHING. Joe’s students love hugging him in the morning because they adore how he smells of coffee, my kids run up to me just to feel my velvet skirt. They love feeding the fish at our school and watching how the food bobs up and down in the water for a few seconds before being gobbled by a gigantic catfish. Children find happiness in minute things that us adults wouldn’t even consider a factor into our lives; it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee (literally). Let’s all take a moment to celebrate; how blue the sky is, a refreshing breeze, a lovely sunset, the smell of freshly cut grass or how well we’re feeling today. That’s all it takes to make a child smile so we should be doing it too!
My students have had a lasting effect on me in ways I never thought possible. They not only motivate me to become a better teacher they motivate me to become a better person. I’ve found myself mourning the loss of my childlike, naivety and innocence that I no doubt lost along the path to adulthood. I admire their unbreakable spirit, their ability to love, laugh and live as if nothing else matters, and if you think about it….nothing does.