The best teachers wear different hats. So, they say. There are times when we are tutors, cheerleaders, and even. Sometimes, we even wear several hats at once. Although I’ve been in the classroom for over ten years, there was a time when every year continued to be a bit overwhelming. I tried to keep each hat ready to wear at a moment’s notice. However, once I took the time to tune into my awareness and focus on bonding and connecting with my students, I began to benefit from the learning experience as much as my students did.
Now, as an educator in South Korea, my pupils use their tiny hands to continue to mold me into the teacher I am today. They have shown me which hats are truly important and necessary and have taught me lessons that have equipped me with a new perspective. Here are five of those lessons:
1.) Follow Happiness- no matter what.
I spend a lot of time playing with my students. “Skin-ship,” which is basically the notion of the importance of touch being coupled with communication and building relationships, is very important in Korea. So, I tickle my students, spin them around, and even dance with them often. This is usually conducive to our classroom’s erupting into a loud box of laughter. Before long, our classroom is almost always filled with students from other classrooms, who just “find” themselves floating toward the fun. Even if they are merely bystanders, I notice that the onlookers are always smiling, enjoying the happiness of the children who are engaging in play. Kids put themselves in happy spaces. Now, I try to do the same.
2.) Things are only scary if we are taught that they are. Fear is learned.
We were running outside of a museum after a school field trip.
“Oh, look! “ I whispered, as a dragonfly rested upon a park bench.
My five-year-old students looked at with me with fear. I smiled. “That bench is so lucky. I wish the dragonfly would come to me,” I whispered.
“Is it nice, teacher?”
“Of course!” I responded.
“Of course!” another student followed.
I extended my hand toward the dragonfly, but attempt to engage the insect was interrupted by screams of a crying child.
My students watched as this child screamed and ran after her teacher who’d been startled by a dragonfly that landed on her hand.
“Why is she scary?”
“Dragonflies are so cute!”
“Don’t be scary.”
I watched two of my students as they assessed the situation amongst themselves before running off to play more.
Fear is learned. Thus, fear is also taught.
3.) Teachers are school mommies.
I stopped in my tracks. My immediate reaction to this word always incites a big laugh in my classroom. What can I say; the word makes me feel- weird.
“Hey! I’m not your mommy!” I exclaimed, with Laughter peeking around the edges of each consonant I uttered.
“You are school Mommy,” one of my students replied with a knowing look plastered across her face.
“Who told you that?”
“My mom. She said at home, she is mommy. But, at school- you are mommy.”
4.) Life is easier when you don’t delay your emotions.
My students cry often. Oftentimes, I am unsure of why they are actually crying, but usually, the answers are quite simple.
The five year olds usually cry in the morning and the situation goes a bit as follows:
“Chloe, what’s wrong?”
“I miss my mom.”
“But, why are you crying? You will see her later. Don’t worry.”
“I not worry.”
“Then, why are you crying?”
“I miss mom now. [So] I cry now.”
“But, you will see her later.”
“Later, I will not cry.”
Chloe cried for about five minutes as she drew a picture of her mom. Then, I watched her as she hugged the picture, smiled, and then went off to play with her friends. She allowed herself to feel and as I watched her hop around jovially the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but admire her. She hasn’t learned to hold back or ignore her emotions. She hasn’t been taught to appear “strong” by drying her tears in secret. Therefore,` she experienced her emotions fully. She cried full out, and then she played full out.
5.) “Geniuses” are not born. They are inspired and taught.
In Korea, I have taught five year olds to write complete paragraphs. It still astonishes me; even after I have watched my young students develop their own ideas and craft them into eight sentences year after year. They are five! I often talk to my friends back home, who are excited about their young daughter or son entering kindergarten. “She can even spell her name,” they tell me with excitement. “He can count to 100!” They utter with pride. But, the thing is, I know that their children can do much more. I have watched my five year olds play chess, discuss Socrates, and even correct their parents’ grammar. They are not geniuses. They are not exceptionally intelligent. They can do these things because they study in an environment where such is presented as “easy,” “fun,” and “doable.” One of my students told me, as she watched me correct her parent, “Please don’t write ‘great job’ teacher, I only want Excellent.” I immediately complied.
As a teacher, I have learned to focus on learning instead of teaching. I observe my students with the purpose of learning from them, and I try my best to cater my teaching methods to their learning styles. However, watching my students so closely has compelled me to take a seat in our classroom as a student as well. They inspire, guide, and teach me the secrets to life that we have forgotten. I now know that the best teachers take their hats off, focus on the moment, and play!
Originally published at medium.com