Ten Lessons I’ve Learned From Teaching

This past June marked the end of my first term as an assistant teacher. Working with thirty-one seven and eight year olds is truly an experience where no day is the same as the one following or preceding so you truly learn a lot. And could I resist a post title with three teacher-y terms in it? Nope, nope I could not.

This post is based off a prompt from Dana Fox’s book 365 Blog Topic Ideas. If you’d like to see all my posts inspired by her prompts, they are available HERE.

76. 10 lessons you’ve learned in your current career.

So in the midst of summer vacation, here’s a look at ten things I learned while working in a class full of kids.

1. Why teachers, parents, and other adults never wanted us to use pastels. When I was growing up I always looked longingly at the box of pastels that was continuously on my annual school supplies list but year after year, sat unused in my desk. The question, “Can we use pastels?” was posed after almost every art project was assigned and subsequently declined almost without fail. Flash forward a few years and I now understand all the anti-pastel sentiments. The greasy but gritty feeling it leaves on your fingers and how it never dries and transfers onto everything… fingers, other art assignments, particularly white and particularly new shirts… nothing is safe. To all my grade school teachers, I would like to formally retract all my disappointed groans whenever the pastel question was asked and declined.

2. The importance of keeping a straight face. Originally this said “how to keep a straight face”, but my poker face still breaks a bit more often than I’d like, so the lesson is still a work in progress. When dealing with tiny humans who haven’t quite honed their abilities to discern what is a taboo topic or what falls into the TMI category, it is crucial to not smile or burst out laughing. Whether the repercussions are hurting their feelings, encouraging immature behaviour, or having someone add, “EVEN A GROWN UP IS LAUGHING!” to the group hysterics (of course that never happened to me…), being able to rein the grin is an invaluable tool in situations where you’re surrounded by children. A potential lesson (2b) that I could mention, I’ve learned that I have the sense of humour of an eight year old.

3. The art of using the Royal We. Truly an art form, the Royal We is foremost in my arsenal of assisting children without sounding like a nag or too harsh. “What are we missing?”, “where are we going?”, and “we don’t do that.” sound a lot more pleasant than “why don’t you have a capital at the beginning of this sentence?”, “halt–why are you leaving the classroom in the middle of math?”, and “you aren’t allowed to do the flossing dance behind the teacher when she’s not looking.” respectively. It really inspires a sense of comradely and inclusivity…. and makes me sound like less of a jerk.

4.  The first aid room is your friend. Whether or not there actually is blood, a bump, or a bite… Band-Aids, ice, and After Bite fix everything. Let’s just hope we can make it through a full day without a nosebleed!

5. Things will happen that will not seem real or at least make you question if you’re on some candid camera reality show. Seeing two boys run at each other swinging fists and having to physically pull them apart, having the extended Fifty Shades of Grey trailer run before an educational YouTube video, and figuring out that three girls devised to simultaneously ask the three adults in the room to go to the bathroom so they could leave and hang out together. Yup, stand back and shake your head incredulously along with me.

6. Buses is spelled with one s. Also autocorrect has ruined my once spectacular, spelling-bee-winning ability to spell. Having to spell Peregrine (as in Falcon) for someone and not trusting yourself so going to check a giant dictionary at the front of the room is an extremely humbling experience. I need to find an app that is the spelling version of Sudoko.

7. How friggen dangerous Grounders is/ was. After explaining it to other adults, and actually saying “-walk around the playground with their eyes closed” out loud really gives context to that whole “underdeveloped frontal lobe” thing.

8. When in doubt, answer the question with another question. An activity that brings me back to acting classes I took many moons ago has really come in handy when I’m bombarded with inquiries:

“What do we do when we’re done?” = “What do you think you should be doing?”

“Is this right?” = “Does it look right?”

“How old are you?” = “How old do you think I am?”

It’s the one-size-fits-most technique to combatting the countless questions posed by children. Regardless of whether you don’t know the answer, want to maximize learning opportunities, or figure it wouldn’t go over well to tell them to mind their own business, it works!

9. You will have to comfort crying children. Over the term, almost every single one of the 31 kids cried at some point for some reason. I don’t know why, but I kind of expected fewer tears to come from this particular class, so now I know to be ready. When they’re not faking for attention, the reasons can range from legit to …really? These include but are not limited to:

    • they injured themselves
    • someone injured them
    • Someone did not want to play with them
    • Someone did want to play with them, but not by predetermined rules of predetermined game
    • Someone made an angry face when saying they would play said predetermined game by said predetermined rules
    • Someone thought they made an angry face but it was really just their normal face
    • Someone is not on their team
    • Someone is on someone else’s team and they’re always together
    • They got in trouble
    • They got in trouble and their dad is going to find out and take away all screens
    • They miss their mom
    • Their mom is going to California for three days
    • Their fish died
    • They missed school to go camping but don’t want their friends to know they missed school to go camping because it might hurt their feelings
    • They “just don’t know, okay?!”
    • They’re “just so tired”
    • Other (see below)

10. Being surrounded with kids and helping them learn and seeing them grow — physically, mentally, and emotionally is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine doing for a living. The amount of unconditional love I felt every day kind of blew my mind. Even if it sometimes drove me crazy too.

And a bonus, potentially related to point #2b: Little creative minds are the best. I helped a seven-year-old write a Harry Potter fanfiction and bore witness to this masterpiece that, in my opinion, rivals anything Michelangelo ever did.

Thank you so much for reading this post! Are there any lessons you’ve learned from your current job or do you have any to add to my list? I hope you enjoy the rest of summer vacation (whether or not September means back to school for you) 🙂

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