I have had the great privilege to have worked in schools in Hong Kong over the last 9 years both as a teacher and as a play therapist. Working in schools can be intense and draining but also fun and inspiring! This is the first year I’ve not been working as part of a school and so I have some time to reflect on my experiences and celebrate the great lessons I’ve learnt from the little ones I’ve been blessed to work with!
1. Always be ready to have fun!
Sometimes I would see the children I taught as little coiled springs just waiting for their moment to spring out and bounce around! The sheer mention of the word “game” and I had at least 80% eyes on me (don’t ask what the other 20% were doing right now)! I think always being ready to have fun is a great way to live life. It brings enthusiasm, optimism and an excitement to the situation and those that are around you.
2. It's ok to cry
It happens! To girls AND boys and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Tears come and the waves of sadness pass through. It’s always touching to see the natural empathy from school mates from such a young age.
3. Relationships are hard
Teachers far and wide will recognise this one...Often times what the child is complaining about in another child is the very same thing that they do, habitually! For example, the talkative kid tattle-tailing about another for talking! We dislike in others what we dislike in ourselves.
4. Self esteem and mindset are key!
Many bright children are held back by low self belief & emotional difficulties. This realisation was a big motivator for me retraining as a play therapist. Children with better positive support networks thrive. I have seen rapid rates of learning when a child is motivated and their needs are met.
5. "Get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart."
Ok I learnt that particular line off Carole King but it does play in my head when I walk through the school gates and see their shining faces and giggles. Whenever I go to meet colleagues or friends and often strangers I try to channel that child like beam on to them! Works a charm ;) TRY IT!
6. Forgive quickly
Arguments can be dramatic at Primary school. Often I see the adults intervening and fretting. I’ve also seen children distraught that a classmate broke their favourite ruler/pencil case/watch etc. But what I also see is quick forgiveness. Like every teacher, I’ve had my moments which were far less than “Miss Honey” shall we say. When I make a mistake, I apologise to the child. I’m always so touched at how quickly they find space in their heart to forgive me. Makes me want to cry a little..
7. Sometimes you're just in the wrong environment
Change of class, teacher, subject can make the child appear completely different. Not to mention changes in their home life. Children don't have much control over their environment but we as adults do. As care takers let's try and optimise the environment so the child can shine. And for ourselves. Recognise when the environment, relationship isn't supporting your growth, and take brave steps.
8. Play deprivation makes you unhappy, unproductive & less successful in relationships FULL STOP.
9. You have to have some struggle for meaningful long lasting learning.
The things we adults do for children, the child does NOT learn. That’s when we make it too easy. Children are little scientists and naturally make hundreds of experiments each day. They love to discover new things themselves! And so do I and I guess so do you too. The thing is with “struggle” is that it requires time to think, to experiment, to get annoyed and frustrated and then finally breakthrough. I learnt that it’s important to allow myself more time and not wish my troubles away or avoid them. The children I worked with inspire me to keep present in the journey.
So those are my top 9 lessons from 9 years of working in a school! There are plenty more and I’m sure you have your own. Let me know in the comments what’s your favourite thing that a child has taught you!