“I often give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it”
-Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
I teach Kindergarten. There is immense drama when you are 5… I am my students’ sensei, learning the art of handling life at school. However, lately I’ve realized these phrases I hear myself saying daily, I should be listening to and apply in my own life .
- “Are you excited?!? You should be!”– Let’s be honest, there are some days that are flat out boring. Sitting in traffic, buying groceries, and answering emails can get tedious. In Kindergarten, we have a lot of routine, as we learn how to “do school”. In essence, we are practicing structure, rule following, and procedures, which is not always fun. To battle the potential boredom, I start every class period announcing all the events (like Library or Spanish class) we should be super excited for …we don’t proceed until my class is cheering! It’s kind of like a mini “pep rally” for everyday life. Cheesy, though it sounds, it starts my students on an incredibly positive note the very first thing in the day. They have goals and highlights to look forward to…
Grownup Application– In my classroom, I must seem like I have the energy of a caffeinated squirrel fresh off hibernation. I’m faking it. I slink out of bed each morning with less vigor than a sloth on Ambien. However, I have coffee… it’s something I look forward to every morning. I also have a wonderful husband (my barista) who makes me giggle first thing…and students who make sure I always have a humorous surprise during my day! These are some of the little things that bring me joy and motivate me through the tedium of the day. We should intentionally get overly excited about even the smallest things that bring joy to our lives.
2. “Is this a big problem or a little problem?”-We all had the tattler in our class. We all have worked with someone who makes a mountain out of molehill (or an email). I love my kids, but my desire is for them to be problem-solvers, especially in social situations. I first ask the above question. If it’s truly a big problem, of course, I’ll help… they’re 5 after all 🙂 If it’s a small problem I ask “Is it something we can fix, or something we can let go of?” When I started asking this, I was surprised at how well received it was by my class. These little guys started handling social problems more independently and even bragging to their teacher on how they fixed their mistakes on academic work! I am proud of them.
Grownup Application: The amount of time that can evaporate when I’m fixated on a problem or conflict is amazing. It’s like giving your debit card to a preteen at the mall… an hour later, you ask yourself where all your resources went! Before I expend my energy on a problem I need to ask myself if it is truly a big problem, is it fixable, or is it something I need to just let go!
3. “Focus on what you’re doing, not what your friend is doing”-Human nature, we are oddly fixated on what is going on around us, and instead of focusing on our task at hand, can find ourselves using our time distracted by the lives and activities of others. In the classroom it looks like my children turned around in their seats, examining how others are doing their classwork or utterly fixated on the next station activity coming their way. Unfortunately, many of my kids spend all their time looking into what others are doing that their own work and reward doesn’t come to fruition.
Grownup Application: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In a world of social media, Pinterest, and lightening speed internet, it is so easy to get wrapped up into how our lives compare to those portrayed around us. We could expend our hours comparing our lives rather than truly living them. God has uniquely gifted and purposed each one of our live, so they understandable will look different from one another. We need to focus on our gifts and purposes in how we are living in the present, versus using our moments to envy those around us or only look to our future plans. Be fully you and be present where God has planted you in this season of life.
4. “Use your detective eyes”– Growing up my dad would assure me, “You don’t have to have the right answer, but we need to know how to find it!” I desire my students to be independent and be able to tackle hurdles with resiliency when they come. You won’t always know the right answer, only a fool claims to be infallible. But if you know how to navigate your resources, you don’t have to be stuck!
Grownup Application– Confession: I’m still “adulting” , that seemingly never-ending stage of figuring out how to be a grownup, save for retirement, pay bills, balance work and home life, and other things “big people” do. I don’t always know how to do these adult things with perfection, but I know people and resources that I can call on for advice and consultation. Stay humble, knowing you don’t have all the answers. But be confident, knowing you can find them!
5. “We all fall down sometimes…”- Between shoes that come untied, or the fact that we only learned to walk 4 years ago, we get lots of “boo-boos” in Kindergarten. Bandaids and icepacks abound, but so does the reminder that the most important part is that we pick ourselves back up and learn from our mistakes, whether that was untied shoes or running on the icy side walk.
Grownup Application: I spill the coffee grounds out of the trash can almost weekly. The reason is clear, I wait until the filter is too dry and dump it from too high up above the container. It wasn’t until I identified what I was doing wrong, that I could fix the behavior. Yes, we make mistakes, and can be resilient when they happen. We can even get upset at our “boo-boo”, but are we learning from our mistakes so we won’t repeat them? We all fall. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learned what tripped you up so you don’t need another bandaid tomorrow!
6. “Work Hard, Play Hard!”– Seeing 20 five-year-olds chanting this is pretty amusing. How I structure my class vacillates between challenging and easy (fun) activities. My kids always have something fun to look forward to after completing their “hard work”. By setting clear goals (and timers) my kids can power through the toughest challenges with vigor, seeing the reward of their labors ahead!
Grownup Application– Work is not a punishment. You work hard in the gym, you see results; hard at work, (maybe) praise and compensation to follow; you practice a new skill, and you see improvements! Yet are positive results are rarely immediate. Stagger boring chores with fun activities. Create a small goal or reward for yourself when you reach those micro goals to make getting to the finish line more enjoyable and doable in your mind. Baby steps 🙂
7. Praise the Positive- The last one is not so much something I say as something as a teacher I do… I could expend every ounce of oxygen repeating the following phrases “Get back in line”, “Stop talking”, “Keep your fingers out of your nose….No! Don’t put them in your mouth!” all day long, and my lectures would get me nowhere. Kids would still be chatting in the hallway, boogers still be eaten. Instead of spending my energy trying to nitpick the behavior that is not up to par, I point out a student who is modeling what I want to see, even if they are just doing one thing right, and I highly praise that behavior publicly.
For example, my line may be on the verge of chaos, but instead of trying to fix all the poor behavior, I focus all my energy highlighting the positive I see. It would sound something like this, “Oooh. I like how Aly is standing on her spot…Wow, look at Eric, he’s got his hands at his side AND facing forward….Whoa, Carter is so quiet even when his neighbors are talking! Great self-control!” Sure Aly could have been chatting in her assigned spot, and Carter could’ve been quiet because he was knuckle deep in his nostril, but I watch as the whole class, eager for affirmation, starts replicating the behaviors I’m praising!
Grownup Application– Whether we are self-critical or critical of others, our nitpicking rarely leads to positive change. I think it’s safe to say, we’ve all experienced times where we are trying, but feel like only our mishaps garner attention. How much more motivated to perform for those who already view us as winners, those who acknowledge our victories (though they may be small)? And how much simpler is it to work towards a goal we can visualize by putting the focus on the ideal model behaviors, instead of walking on eggshells. Focus on the goal. Stay positive. Praise other’s small victories, encouraging steps towards success, not just awarding those who’ve already arrived at the finish line.
So there you go, my list of Kindergarten advice this teacher needs to start applying in her own life. I hope my self-reflection was helpful for you too…May you learn from my mistakes 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by,